CEOs speed up digital push and downsize offices, KPMG survey shows

LONDON (Reuters) – Companies around the world have moved more of their operations online, plan to reduce office space and have made recruiting and retaining staff their top priority since the coronavirus pandemic struck, a survey showed on Tuesday.

A survey from accounting firm KPMG showed 80% of business leaders had accelerated their digital expansion plans during the lockdown as they adjusted to staff working remotely and dealing with customers online.

There was uncertainty about the eventual scale of the shift away from shared workspaces in favour of working from home but 69% were planning to cut their office space in the short term.

“Maybe some kind of hybrid finds its way into the new everyday reality,” Bill Thomas, KPMG International’s global chairman and chief executive said.

Seventy-three percent said the shift to working from home had increased the pool of job candidates.

That could lead to teams that are more spread out globally and interact more online.

“There’s a comfort level with this that people have never had before,” Thomas said.

Talent risk – covering recruitment and retention as well as the wellbeing and health of staff – had jumped from 11th to first in a ranking of risks over the next three years for CEOs.

Following behind were risks relating to supply chains, as trade tensions grow on the back of the pandemic, and environmental and climate change risks.

The COVID-19 crisis has split CEOs over the three-year outlook for the global economy with 32% saying they are less confident than they were at the start of the 2020 and another 32% saying they are more confident.

In Britain, despite the uncertainty of trade terms with the European Union after a post-Brexit transition period ends on Dec. 31, CEOs were more bullish about their country’s economy than in all other countries apart from China and Japan.

KPMG surveyed 315 chief executives in Australia, Canada, China, France, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom and the United States between July 6 and Aug. 5 as part of its CEO Outlook, having initially spoken to 1,300 CEOs in January and February.

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