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When the history of 2020 is written, it is likely to mark a turning point for business in many different ways. So much has changed—and while it is probably too soon to know which changes will last, a consensus is starting to emerge—as was evident yesterday at a series of CEO Leadership Roundtables Fortune held, in partnership with Genpact, Salesforce and Zuora.
Digital transformation has greatly accelerated. I’ve written this before, but I can’t write it enough. The most-heard line among CEOs across industries is some version of this comment yesterday from Genpact CEO Tiger Tyagarajan: “Our clients have done things in the last five or six months that they thought would take five or six years.”
Increased focus on employees, their health and well-being, and their racial diversity and inclusion, have become the new normal. “I’ve had more virtual fireside chats than I ever could have had in person,” says Mass Mutual CEO Roger Crandall. “Transparency is a huge lesson from the pandemic. Empathy is another.” “We talk about empathy a lot,” agrees Mark Hoplamazian, CEO of Hyatt. “Empathy has never been more important because everyone’s experience of COVID is so different.”
Climate change has risen on the priority list. The business interest in sustainability was on the rise before the pandemic hit, but it has only grown since. “We’ve seen an acceleration of concern around sustainability,” said Annette Clayton, CEO of Schneider Electric North America. “It’s driven by COVID, but not only COVID. We have had nine named hurricanes this year. We expect six more… We’ve seen customers who have to change their mindset when it comes to energy.”
The future of work is still under debate. Many people want to continue working from home, at least part time. But leaders like EY CEO Carmine di Sibio say, “we need to get our people back together. It creates innovation…for younger people in particular. Younger people want to network. People in their fifties already have their networks.”
The challenge of reskilling is front of mind. “One of the great things coming out of the pandemic,” says Tyagarajan, “is a much stronger desire to do reskilling with technology that is readily available.” “We are all taking a look at our job requirements and asking what is really needed,” rather than just requiring a college degree. “That is opening up so many opportunities for so many different people.”
And finally, all the above point to the conclusion that stakeholder capitalism is on the rise. The increased attention to employees, to climate, and to creating better opportunities for workers who’ve been left behind by the technology revolution, are all signs that companies continue to move towards a broader view of their responsibilities to society.
Separately, go here for the inside skinny on Airbnb’s IPO, now likely next month. And if you are having heart problems—which still kills more people than COVID—check out Fortune and IBM Watson Health’s new list of the Top 50 Cardiovascular Hospitals. Other news below.