Global Leaders Expect Challenges of Retaining, Attracting and Developing Top Talent Will Persist Over Next Decade, Protiviti-NC State University Survey Finds

Press Release


The ‘Great Resignation’ and a disruptive business environment point to a critical reality:

Talent wins now and in the future


MENLO PARK, Calif., December 9, 2021 – According to a new survey from Protiviti and NC State University, pandemic-related regulation and market conditions due to COVID-19 remain top concerns for 2022 for board members and C-suite executives. Looking ahead to 2031, business leaders cite workforce and talent-related issues as their primary concern, indicating that the impact of the ‘Great Resignation’ will persist as their organisations struggle to fill the talent requirements supporting their strategies. Disruptive innovations and the adoption of transformative technologies requiring many organisations to upskill and reskill their workforces, as well as to attract and retain top talent, bolster talent as a chief concern over the coming decade.

The 10th annual survey, this year titled “Executive Perspectives on Top Risks for 2022 and 2031,” was conducted by global consulting firm Protiviti and NC State University Poole College of Management's Enterprise Risk Management (ERM) Initiative during September and October of 2021. The study surveyed 1,453 board members and C-suite executives from organisations in a variety of industries and regions globally.

“The results of our joint survey are noteworthy for business leaders the world over,” said Pat Scott, EVP, Global Industry, Client Programmes and Marketing, Protiviti. “We thank the global participants who shared their views and made this year’s survey possible. While current and future business challenges may seem daunting, utilising the insights and recommendations in our study can provide a roadmap to managing change and disruption successfully.”

The Top Risks for 2022

Survey respondents were asked to rate 36 macroeconomic, strategic and operational risks. The top five risks identified for 2022 are:

  1. Pandemic-related government policies and regulation impact business performance
  2. Succession challenges, ability to attract and retain top talent
  3. Pandemic-related market conditions reduce customer demand
  4. Adoption of digital technologies requires significant efforts to upskill/reskill existing employees
  5. Economic conditions, including inflationary pressures, constrain growth opportunities

“The tectonic plates of traditional workforce models and talent retention have shifted dramatically as a result of the global pandemic and digital transformation, a dynamic which isn’t expected to go away any time soon, according to global leaders,” said Jim DeLoach, a Protiviti managing director and co-author of the report. “Looking forward, businesses need to shift their focus to adapting to the ‘new nimble’ rather than searching for a ‘new normal.”

In the survey findings for 2022, succession issues and the ability to attract and retain top talent jumped from number eight in last year’s survey to number two. Notably, the ability to effectively manage and keep pace with shifting perspectives and expectations about social issues and priorities surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion ranked on the top 10 risks for the first time in the survey’s history.

Dr. Mark Beasley, professor and director of NC State University's ERM Initiative and co-author of the report, said: “It’s clear that business leaders expected a faster return to normalcy and stability, but talent issues and macroeconomic conditions are continuing to contribute to volatility. Nearly all organisations we surveyed are facing talent challenges and shortages, coupled with the need to invest in technology infrastructure and capabilities to effectively engage remote employees, manage dispersed workforces and serve customers on their terms.”

The Top Risks Through 2031

Survey respondents also rated the expected impact of the same 36 risks for 2031 to assess how the risk landscape might shift over the coming decade. According to survey respondents, concerns about the future of work are at the forefront, as the survey identified the following as the top five risks for 2031:

  1. Adoption of digital technologies requires new skills or significant efforts to upskill/reskill existing employees
  2. Succession challenges, ability to attract and retain top talent
  3. Rapid speed of disruptive innovation outpaces our ability to compete
  4. Substitute products or services arise that affect our business model
  5. Economic conditions, including inflationary pressures, constrain growth opportunities

The survey results also reveal increasing impacts of ESG-related risks. Business leaders were asked to rank the risk of climate change and related regulations and policies affecting their strategies and business models. Respondents representing industries not dependent on fossil fuels indicated that they are less concerned with climate risk in the year ahead than over the course of the next decade, ranking it 29th in terms of risk priorities for 2022 and 19th for 2031. “Whether this perspective in prioritising the impact of climate considerations on the business is sustainable in view of global events - for example, the recent COP26 summit ‑‑ remains to be seen,” added DeLoach.

Resources Available

The "Executive Perspectives on Top Risks for 2022 and 2031" report from Protiviti and NC State University provides respondent details broken out by company type, size, industry and geographic region as well as executive role. The report, along with an infographic and a podcast about the survey results, is available for complimentary download at www.protiviti.com/toprisks. Additionally, Protiviti will host a complimentary one-hour webinar on December 9 at 10:00 a.m. PST to discuss the survey findings moderated by Scott and featuring DeLoach, Dr. Beasley, and Protiviti Managing Directors and practice leaders Joan Smith (Digital) and Fran Maxwell (Workforce and Organisational Transformation). Register for the webinar here.

About Protiviti Inc.

Protiviti (www.protiviti.com) is a global consulting firm that delivers deep expertise, objective insights, a tailored approach and unparalleled collaboration to help leaders confidently face the future. Protiviti and our independent and locally owned Member Firms provide clients with consulting and managed solutions in finance, technology, operations, data, analytics, governance, risk and internal audit through our network of more than 85 offices in over 25 countries.

Named to the 2020 Fortune 100 Best Companies to Work For® list, Protiviti has served more than 60 percent of Fortune 1000 and 35 percent of Fortune Global 500 companies. The firm also works with smaller, growing companies, including those looking to go public, as well as with government agencies. Protiviti is a wholly owned subsidiary of Robert Half (NYSE: RHI). Founded in 1948, Robert Half is a member of the S&P 500 index.

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