What should the priorities be for CEOs in 2024

March 13, 2024

Being the CEO is a tough job that just keeps on getting harder. The past few years have seen them cope successively with a global pandemic, broken supply chains, wars, endless geopolitical tension, climate change, stubborn inflation, and a surge in interest rates. Each one of these, taken on its own, would be enough to derail even the best CEO’s agenda. Combined, they’ve created the most difficult operating environment since WW2. So, given these challenges, where should the priorities be for CEOs in 2024

As the UK emerges from a low growth start to 2023, which ended with the economy in recession and predictions of a fairly unremarkable recovery, where should CEOs focus their attention?

Most pundits agree that inaction is simply not an option in two major areas: staff recruitment and retention. The other is a combination of digital transformation and the dizzying speed at which AI is changing the way businesses can be run.

Talent acquisition and retention

The UK has endemic labour force issues, including a shortage in overall numbers, major skills gaps, and the demographics of an ageing workforce. Sector after sector is struggling with the operational implications and skyrocketing labour rates. We recently looked at the specific problems in construction and manufacturing.

CEOs need to focus on creating a positive work culture and environment, offering competitive remuneration packages, and providing professional development opportunities. They must also place particular emphasis on attracting and keeping younger workers and those with relevant technology skills and experience.

Technology: digital transformation, AI and automation

CEOs must continue prioritising digital transformation initiatives, leveraging emerging technologies to improve efficiency, enhance customer experiences and drive innovation within their organisations. It’s no longer a case of being a little bit digital, and businesses cannot hope to survive or thrive without embracing every opportunity to extend their digital footprint.

The pace at which AI, in particular, is engulfing the commercial world is dizzying. The business world is used to technological change, but in the past, this process was measured in years. Now, AI’s capabilities are improving over months, sometimes over only a few weeks.

CEOs will need to explore opportunities to leverage AI and automation technologies to streamline processes, enhance decision-making and drive productivity across every aspect of their businesses. Alongside this, they must balance the considerable investment costs (certain, immediate and ongoing) with the operational and future benefits (uncertain and in the future), taking into account the inevitable disruption.

Other priorities

Some of the more pressing issues include:


With cyber threats increasing in frequency and sophistication, CEOs must prioritise cybersecurity to protect their company’s data, systems, and reputation. This involves implementing robust security measures, conducting regular audits, and investing in employee training.

Business continuity and disaster recovery

First, the pandemic and the increasing impact of climate change have highlighted the importance of business continuity planning. CEOs will need to prioritise implementing robust disaster recovery strategies to ensure uninterrupted operations during significant disruptions.

Customer experience

Delivering exceptional customer experiences has become an unavoidable priority for many businesses, not just in hospitality and retail, where the trend away from price as the sole differentiator started. CEOs will have to invest in the technologies required to identify, analyse and understand customer needs, develop strategies, personalise interactions and improve engagement across all points of interaction between their business and its customers and clients.

Agility and flexibility

2024 will be a challenging year but also one of opportunity for well-run, well-funded and risk-aware businesses. To take these chances, they will need clear strategies and objectives against which to measure them, a rapid response, due diligence capability to assess them thoroughly, and an adaptable management resource to take on the extra burdens.


Having effective and fast responses to internal and external communications is essential, especially when social media coverage and campaigns can distract management, disturb stakeholders and throw businesses seriously off course. It’s important to understand that ‘bottom-up’ internal communications from all staff levels to a receptive senior executive structure and back down again work far better in most organisations than the more traditional ‘top-down’ approach where executives command and staff obey.

Management bandwidth and outside help

The priorities listed above and the many more specific to particular companies and industries call for a range of skills, experience, and resources beyond the capabilities of any individual CEO and their support team. Calling in independent professionals will be essential to successfully and efficiently handle these tasks for the net benefit of the business.


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