How should CEOs approach modern workforce issues?

29 May 2019

Image: Connor McKenna/

We chatted to PwC’s Ger McDonough’s about his firm’s latest report and how it can inform the strategy CEOs should mount with regards to the ever-changing workforce.

Professional services firm PwC recently released its 22nd annual Global CEO survey, which revealed that, even in these uncertain economic times, it is still possible to grow so long as you handle the impending changes to the workforce with finesse.

We consulted with Ger McDonough, leader of people and organisation strategy at PwC, to hear more of the particulars.

McDonough points out that while the phrase “war for tech talent” has existed for 30 years, the modern iteration is uniquely fraught. “We’re talking about major disruption, we’re talking about big, significant technological advances in AI, in RPA, in digitisation.”

Factors such as the rise of automation are undoubtedly going to drastically alter what the working world looks like. This understandably worries employees. While CEOs can’t stem the tide of this change, there is a way they can best serve the people that work for them.

“You can’t protect jobs. You gotta protect people.” So, according to McDonough, CEOs should be asking themselves what they can do to advance the people within their organisation and help them upskill and re-skill.

McDonough notes that of course, when CEOs are looking at how to approach the skills gap, they will likely want to push their employees to gain STEM skills. Yet, neglecting soft skills, McDonough contends, would be a mistake.

“It’s really important to nurture creativity, and innovation, and emotional intelligence.”

McDonough isn’t convinced that poaching talent from other firms is the best way forward. It provides short-term relief and acts like a kind of band-aid, sure, but it’s not a good long-term strategy.

Early intervention talent pipeline strategies, such as the one leveraged by Dyson in the UK, are more effective. Dyson, presumably frustrated with the dearth of good engineering talent, founded what it calls the ‘Dyson University’, establishing a presence at third-level and catching potentially interested parties early on.

To hear more of McDonough’s insights into the PwC report and how its findings can be applied, check out the video interview in full above.

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic