CEO's Dilemma – Shift to the Digital World


A Co-creation Journey

“Will we have robots on our payrolls?”
“Will automation take away my job?”
“Will an app replace my business?”

The world is fast changing. Technology is not just enabling, but also empowering a virtual workforce. Artificial intelligence is not just powering operational efficiencies, but also delivering hyper-personalized business insights. Disruptive market forces are further magnifying the rate at which businesses evolve, become obsolete or redefine themselves.

Welcome to the Future. Welcome to the New World of Work.

An exciting, fast-changing era that has been defined by The Economist as the Third Industrial Revolution. We are already witnessing parts of this trend with uberization of cabs, fintech making waves in financial services, ecommerce changing the playing field for retail. And many more.

Makes one pause and wonder. Will everything change? Will something be the same?

The question is not whether my organization will change, the question is to what degree and in what ways?

None of us have all the answers. But all of us have many questions.

At Aon Hewitt, we are looking to surf a new wave into the future. This adventure promises uncertainty and demands geared-up organizations. Join us as we work with leading industry players to imagine the future of work and engineer for the challenges and opportunities that will come our collective way.

Let’s co-create the journey map for this adventure #ImagineeringTomorrow



Over the past few months, Aon Hewitt’s India leaders have been conducting co-creation workshops with industry leaders and pioneers. We present below the first in a series of articles basis the insights and outcomes from these sessions. This article series was originally published in Business Insider India.

CEO's Dilemma – Shift to the Digital World

To start with,

  • At USD 68 billion valuation, Uber is more valuable than major car companies GM, Ford and Honda (Sources: Forbes; Business Insider)
  • Amazon at USD 355.5 billion market cap is worth more than Walmart, Target & Costco combined (Source: Yahoo Finance)
  • Netflix’s market cap at over USD 56 billion is at par with media giants such as Time Warner, owner of top premium cable network HBO, other popular cable channels like TBS, TNT and CNN , and one of the major Hollywood studios (Warner Brothers) (Source: The Motley Fool)
  • With USD 45.6 billion market capitalization, Paypal has become the fourth largest payment company after Visa, MasterCard and American Express (Source: Digital Transactions) Increasing number of CEOs are facing the heat of business disruption across multiple channels of their value chain. Customer relationships are rapidly evolving on the back of integrating digital and analog worlds.


In the context of these changes, CEOs highlight the following top 5 talent risks to their business:

1. Rising salaries
2. Critical skills shortage
3. Inability to retain talent
4. Inadequate leadership pipeline
5. Low employee productivity


Their new competitors from the digital world are worsening the impact of these challenges by having singular focus on talent with digital skills, attracting them with an aggressive rewards philosophy, and creating a culture that thrives on higher productivity expectations (madness at startups.)

Traditional business’ CEOs have to thus wage a battle both at an external and internal front.

And It Has Never Been Fiercer Than Today!

As they invest in newer digital capabilities with eyes on the vast future potential, multiple decision points face them, namely:

  1. Assimilation of “digital” leaders into an older environment
  2. Perceptible culture gap between “optimization” and “expansive” mindsets
  3. Misaligned organization structures and decision channels against the future business strategy
  4. Lack of pay and performance measurement parity between old and new worlds
  5. Fear of driving employees too hard during this period of change

And time is not on anyone’s side. Bit by bit, all parts of the value chain are being opened and re-assembled, much like Lego blocks. Block chain is yet another example of a change that will disrupt multiple industries (financial, logistics, supply chain and many more.)

So What Can CEOs Do to Be Better Prepared?

During one of my recent meetings with the CEO of a technology services organization based in the US, he commented “We are engineers; we are used to fixing problems. In the past, inordinate focus has been on tangibles with visible outcomes; we haven’t focused on the inspirational.” That to me is the fundamental difference in managing today’s environment.

Leaders Need to Answer the Question – Why?

For years, organizations have defined their purpose through vision & mission statements, which were mostly a quick job between CEOs, few senior leaders and the marketing/communication team. New-age leaders aren’t writing fancy lines on company walls – they are living them in their day-to-day behaviors.

Elon Musk articulates his life's mission as “making humankind inter-galactic” and he backs it up by investing, failing and re-investing into the same purpose. He attracts talent of the future by inspiring them with a grand vision and showing his personal commitment, drive and passion towards it.

Beyond purpose and passion, leaders need to encourage “why” across all parts of business. Curiosity, agility and willingness to learn are the most critical skills required to disrupt one’s value chain before competition does (none of these are traditional “left brain” problemsolving approaches at work.)

And, Last But Not the Least...

Empathy drives business performance. It is fundamental to design-thinking approach for solving customer problems and co-creating solutions. Steve Jobs may not have had high empathy for his employees; however, his deep understanding of customers’ unstated “desires” created products that became the bedrock of today’s digital brigade.

Beyond people, an organization represents itself as the culmination of systems, policies and processes. These are equally important to provide employees structure, predictability and a sense of comfort. Understanding this duality of existence and managing the inherent creative tension will be the prime differentiator in evolving the digital culture.


Tarandeep Singh Pahwa
Partner, Talent & Performance,
Aon Hewitt Consulting
Twitter @tspahwa


For more information, please write to us at talentscapes@aonhewitt.com
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