If your company
is to survive,
your C-suite
must change

Adapt or die. It’s true in nature, and it’s true in business. In today’s climate of disruption, transforming your business isn’t a suggestion, it’s a mandate. And the C-suite is no exception.

As businesses reimagine themselves from the ground up, leadership models must evolve to meet the next generation of challenges, like increased cybersecurity risk, shifting customer expectations, and workforce automation. The risks are great, but the opportunities are greater. And the most agile businesses are finding new ways to build a future-fit leadership team.

Bring new skills to the table

When asked, the large majority of CEOs, boards, and investors from the world’s largest organizations don’t think the current C-suite model can meet the demands of the next decade. They face increasingly complex dynamics, signaling the need for specialized skills and expertise to take a seat at the table.

Look to the rise of direct-to-consumer companies, where hyper-personalized experiences are the norm and consumers expect brands to adapt with their every tap, touch, and click. Their efficacy requires someone who knows how to accumulate and filter data, prompting new roles like the chief customer officer and chief data officer. These leaders also empower their workforce to act on data-driven insights to power innovation and achieve their own goals.

For companies to grow over the next 5-10 years, these are the skills
say they need.

Source: EY CEO Imperative Study

47% of CEOs believe attracting top talent is the biggest growth opportunity for acting on global challenges.

Source: EY CEO Imperative Study

Answer the culture question

It’s an employee’s market, and organizations have to work harder to attract talent and curb turnover. In this hiring climate, every business should ask what kind of culture it wants to have, and that begins in the C-suite.

One answer is opening the door to new executives, like the chief experience officer or chief culture officer. You should implement processes like ethical uses of AI to automate dated modes of operation—not to eliminate employees, but to help them dedicate themselves to the most complex, satisfying, human aspects of their jobs.

But the most important thing is to live the values you want to see reflected in your business. Not only does it affirm and reinforce the culture you want, it also helps attracts top talent whose interests and values align with those of your organization.

Rise to meet global challenges

There were nearly 2 billion data breaches in 2017. Data security is not just a corporate challenge, it’s a global one. And it’s one of many: From climate change to income inequality, the issues reshaping our society and government are also those transforming the C-suite.

Customers, shareholders, and employees are all demanding C-suite action in addressing global challenges, while 60% of institutional investors support corporate action even at the risk of short-term losses.

There’s a clear business case behind the sustainability movement, for instance, with the opportunity for substantial cost reductions. But when a staggering 98% of investors say the ability to take a step—or even a stance—on key issues now plays a role in investment decisions, the C-suite can no longer afford to sit still on the defining challenges of our time.

Take the quiz

What is the global challenge CEOs, boards, and investors are most worried about?

Top global issue + DRAG HERE Source: EY CEO Imperative Study
Take the quiz

82% of CEOs said they’ve added
C-suite members in the last five years. Which do you think were added the most?

Arrange these five positions in order, with “1” being the most added and “5” the least.

DRAG AND DROP Source: EY CEO Imperative Study

Think security-first

The evolution of organizational culture is also responsible for another now-common phenomenon: the remote-friendly workplace. In fact, routine telecommuters have grown by 159% since 2005, nearly 11 times faster than the rest of the workforce. Paired with the regular use of mobile devices in day-to-day work, the new normal means that sensitive, even critical data travels beyond the office walls.

One side effect: National and corporate cybersecurity is now rated the number-one challenge facing CEOs. To protect their customers, employees, and other stakeholders, businesses are hiring chief information security officers (or CISOs) and putting cybersecurity at the heart of their growth strategy. But when roles as varied as the CMO and CFO commonly find themselves using the same data sets, the entire C-suite needs to adopt a defensive stance.

Ask the right questions

The most successful businesses will be the ones that reinvent their C-suite as an agile, adaptable unit that’s not afraid to disrupt itself. It could mean incorporating new executive roles anchored by in-demand skills or aspiring to a more flexible version of leadership where each member of the C-suite works cross-functionally.

Embracing new technology. Reimagining the customer journey. Creating cultural coherency. The main drivers of business transformation all begin in the C-suite—and to come up with the right answers, you need to first ask the right questions. Here are a few of them:


Are you relying on past assumptions that are no longer applicable in today’s business environment?

Digital Mindset

Does your leadership have the mindset of not just doing digital, but being digital?

Diverse Culture

Does your C-suite reflect the kind of diverse, innovative culture you’d like to see across your business?

Crucial Skills

Are crucial skills in digital transformation, innovation, AI, cybersecurity, or data science present in the C-suite?

Human-Centric Mindset

Does your organization have the right behavioral science capabilities to address customer, employees and leadership challenges?