A healthy Canadian economy and opportunities outside of North America are keeping Canadian chief executive officers (CEOs) positive about the future.
According to PwC Canada’s 21st CEO Survey, 72 per cent of Canadian CEOs are confident the global economy will improve over the next year, while 88 per cent are confident in the growth prospects of their businesses.
This optimism extends to the view of business threats. Compared to 60 per cent of CEOs globally, only 30 per cent of Canadian CEOs are concerned about the lack of trust in their businesses. Canadian CEOs are also less worried about the availability of specific skills, such as digital acumen.
It is important for government executives to understand the issues that are top of mind for CEOs. This helps to ensure that program and policy decisions speak to the needs of Canadian businesses. At the same time, public sector organizations face many of the same challenges as businesses — from how to encourage innovation to how best to embrace disruptive technologies. By integrating private and public sector perspectives, government leaders can make decisions that support Canada as a whole.
The findings of this year’s CEO Survey highlight four lessons government executives should consider to help Canada excel.
- Use disruptive technologies to improve services
In today’s world, new technologies like blockchain and artificial intelligence are reshaping how work is conducted. More than 65 per cent of Canadian CEOs believe such technologies will disrupt their operations over the next five years.
This disruption won’t be limited to the private sector. Technologies that improve services and customer responsiveness could also radically shift public sector operations. Government executives need to evaluate how best to use these disruptive technologies.
For example, the British Columbia Ministry of Attorney General has been a pioneer in digital transformation since 2013. As part of its Tribunal Transformation Initiative, it has used cloud-based applications to lower barriers to justice, decrease paper-based processes and reduce processing times and costs. Activities like these can improve citizen interactions while improving efficiencies.
- Plant seeds for innovation excellence
While Canadian CEOs recognize the transformative power of technology, only 28 per cent know how to use them effectively. Public sector institutions can play a key role in sharing knowledge across the public and private sector, building momentum across the board.
The federal government’s Superclusters Initiative, announced in February 2018, is a big step in this regard. This $950-million program aims to grow Canadian innovation clusters similar to Silicon Valley in order to spur innovation, job creation and GDP growth.
- Build trust with stakeholders
Trust is an essential component of the long-term success of the Canadian economy, yet more than 20 per cent of CEOs believe trust between their organization and the government is declining. For public sector organizations, trust is also critical — particularly when it comes to hard-to-reach and at-risk populations. Public sector institutions need to assess trust erosion so they can find better ways to engage with citizens and provide more benefits to society as a whole.
In our recent Policing in a networked world report, we examined how police departments across Canada are using technology to provide more proactive community services in order to build trust and better engage with stakeholders.
- Manage the future skills gap
The availability of critical skills will continue to be important to both Canadian businesses and public sector organizations in the future. More than 60 per cent of Canadian CEOs are particularly concerned about the availability of digital skills.
Federal and provincial governments need to take steps now to understand and mitigate potential skills shortages. By being proactive, governments can avert potential gaps before they start to impact Canadian productivity. In tandem with this, public sector organizations that have pioneered digital advancement to date should consider developing strategies to address the talent drain that could result from the private sector luring talent away.
Fostering a bright future
While the short-term outlook for Canada is positive, it’s important that government executives recognize the issues concerning CEOs are relevant beyond the private sector. By using these issues to assess the value of existing activities and to develop new ones, public sector organizations can help foster a bright future for everyone.
Owen Taylor is the National Public Sector Leader with PwC Canada. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.