Image by Markus Spiske

LEADERSHIP

Innovative Continuous Development

Our people set us apart and create unmatched value for our clients. That’s why building a leading people experience is a priority at Aura. We take pride in our talent. We invest in developing professionals who are prepared from day one to bring you leadership thinking and results – regardless of their level or role at the firm.

Our innovative people practices have always made Aura a magnet for the world’s very best services professionals. We’ve defined a Leadership Development Experience that helps us achieve our purpose to build trust in society and solve important problems. Our approach is designed to help our people continuously develop their leadership skills, grow their careers and consistently deliver extraordinary results to our clients.

 

Aura’s Leadership Development Experience

The foundation of our leadership development experience is our global career progression framework, the Aura Professional. Informed by direct feedback from clients and key stakeholders, the Aura Professional is a single set of expectations across our organization that clearly identifies the attributes and behaviors our people need to help our clients solve important problems and realize new opportunities.

Our development approach emphasizes frequent, informal feedback against these principles to maximize strengths, quickly close gaps and drive learning in real-time throughout the year. We equip our people with proprietary tools, technologies and career coaches to help maximize the experience, save time and get ongoing visibility into their development. Once a year, we also set aside time for a designated session focused on each person’s development, progression and future career path. Following this, each individual then has a dedicated conversation about longer-term career aspirations and opportunities.

The result: Our clients experience professionals who are always improving their skills, applying them in the context of today’s global business world, and adapting them to build value that keeps them ahead of the game. Our employees have the opportunity to continually grow their careers and fulfill their potential at Aura – and beyond.

 

What leaders need to succeed in the new world

As the world has grown more digital and more complex, so too has decision-making. Leaders today are tasked with a wide variety of issues that range from supply chains to climate change. From advancing technology roadmaps, to making Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) considerations, to upskilling and engaging employees — all while being mindful of narrow profit expectations. So, what will define tomorrow’s success stories? We believe that success will come from those leaders who demonstrate proficiency across business areas and mastery of some paradoxical characteristics. Those who can collaborate with people who have different backgrounds and different ways of thinking. Those who show humility, courage, and commitment to build on their existing strengths, while also being continuously open for new impulses and developments.

Leadership paradoxes podcast

In today's digital, complex and uncertain world, leaders need new skills and characteristics that require the ability to possess seemingly opposite capabilities to succeed.

 

How we can help

At Aura, we work with individual leaders and leadership teams to help boost performance and enhance personal leadership capabilities. We’ll collaborate closely with you to help develop the strategies you need for your organization.

 

Top team effectiveness

Are your senior leadership groups achieving their maximum effectiveness and team performance? Our four-step approach is designed to improve leadership team fundamentals, enhance capabilities for performance, apply the right teaming models, and connect people more deeply through an emotional commitment.

 

Leadership assessments and succession planning

Do you know what leadership capabilities you need to execute your business strategy? Our analysis of leaders’ skills and capabilities can help you determine future leadership potential and development, and build the right pipeline of talent for your organisation.

 

Leadership training and development

We work with organisations to define their core leadership model, supported by innovative tools and processes. After assessing your leadership team’s specific needs, we can work with you to design, develop, and deliver the tailored learning experiences you need.

 

Leading through transformation

Embracing and inspiring change often require an evolution in personal leadership style and how to work with colleagues. We can help you successfully lead your organisation through a transformation.

 

Six paradoxes of leadership

In the post-pandemic world, integrity and trust will be essential foundational elements for any company that wants to succeed. And no matter how digital the world may be, these values cannot come from a computer—they require human leaders. Learn what else leaders today need to understand, and what paradoxical characteristics they will need to master, to navigate a new world with new risks, opportunities, and complexities.

 

Globally-minded localist

Globally minded: to be agnostic about belief system and market structure and be a student of the world.

Localist: to be fully committed to the success of a  local market.

The paradox is the need to be both deeply embedded in the local market and connected across the globe at the same time. This requires someone to be able to recognise their biases resulting from the lens through which they view the world and to learn how to operate most effectively in any locale, without compromising the success of another market in which they wish to operate. To be able to harness the power of the organisation in its largest sense to make significant and purposeful progress in unfamiliar places. This requires both global and local connectivity, and the ability to negotiate between locales to drive collective success.

 

Globally minded: to be agnostic about belief system and market structure and be a student of the world.

The paradox is the need to be both deeply embedded in the local market and connected across the globe at the same time. This requires someone to be able to recognise their biases resulting from the lens through which they view the world and to learn how to operate most effectively in any locale, without compromising the success of another market in which they wish to operate. To be able to harness the power of the organisation in its largest sense to make significant and purposeful progress in unfamiliar places. This requires both global and local connectivity, and the ability to negotiate between locales to drive collective success.

 

High-integrity politician

High Integrity: to maintain integrity and build trust in all interactions.

Politician: to accrue support, negotiate, form coalitions overcome resistance to maintain progress.

The paradox is that in a deeply political environment, people can lose their integrity. Much time is spent meeting the needs of other people and managing the politics of getting plans to happen. Driving change is a constant state of being for leaders, but change affects the balance of power and creates a scenario in which some parties feel like they are losing. In order to keep all people engaged on the optimal outcome for the organisation during times of change the integrity of the leader is even more critical. Work to reconcile the political requirements while maintaining integrity, because without integrity it is challenging to lead.

 

High Integrity: to maintain integrity and build trust in all interactions.

Politician: to accrue support, negotiate, form coalitions overcome resistance to maintain progress.

The paradox is that in a deeply political environment, people can lose their integrity. Much time is spent meeting the needs of other people and managing the politics of getting plans to happen. Driving change is a constant state of being for leaders, but change affects the balance of power and creates a scenario in which some parties feel like they are losing. In order to keep all people engaged on the optimal outcome for the organisation during times of change the integrity of the leader is even more critical. Work to reconcile the political requirements while maintaining integrity, because without integrity it is challenging to lead.

 

Humble hero

Humble: to foster deep personal resilience in self and others, recognising when they need to help and be helped.

Hero: to exude confidence, with competitive flair and gravitas. 

The paradox is that leaders feel like they need to behave like heros - exuding confidence in these anxiety-inducing times. But having confidence is not the same as unwillingness to change course. Leadership requires the ability to take advice from many quarters and make decisions based on a variety of inputs. Leaders need personal resilience to admit when they are wrong, allow others to make mistakes, and foster confidence throughout the organisation. To be able to make smart decisions and navigate through failure are critical opposing characteristics leaders need to possess and will enable people to experience their leaders as humans.

 

Humble: to foster deep personal resilience in self and others, recognising when they need to help and be helped.

Hero: to exude confidence, with competitive flair and gravitas. 

The paradox is that leaders feel like they need to behave like heros - exuding confidence in these anxiety-inducing times. But having confidence is not the same as unwillingness to change course. Leadership requires the ability to take advice from many quarters and make decisions based on a variety of inputs. Leaders need personal resilience to admit when they are wrong, allow others to make mistakes, and foster confidence throughout the organisation. To be able to make smart decisions and navigate through failure are critical opposing characteristics leaders need to possess and will enable people to experience their leaders as humans.

 

Strategic executor

 

Strategic: to find insights and observations by looking to the future to inform decision making today.

Executor: to deliver exquisitely on today’s challenges.

The paradox is that usually people have an inclination towards strategy or execution. The most powerful approach is to articulate a strategy, understand how it needs to evolve, and execute with both the immediate need and changing future in mind. Executing without strategy creates a higher probability of an even more significant crisis in the future. However, it is also ineffective to spend a disproportionate amount of time thinking about the future and missing the need to execute now. Leaders should find a way to be strategic, bring the future into the present in order to solve today’s problems with tomorrow in mind, and get it done.

 

Tech-savvy humanist

Tech-savvy: to drive technology enhancement which generates future success.

Humanist: to understand deeply human effectiveness in any given system.

The paradox is that traditionally those with technical skills were not also acquiring the skills required to understand people’s needs or how to lead them. As a result, many people who are driving technological advancement aren’t equipped to consider the human implications of their work. This is also true in reverse as those who have responsibility for people haven’t always understood the impact technology will have on their business and workforce. The leader’s role is to nurture the success of the business and, in doing so, offer a better future for their people. That means balancing being technically savvy with a focus on humanity.

 

Traditioned innovator

 

Traditioned: to connect deeply with the purpose of the original idea and bring this value to the present day.

Innovator: to drive innovation and try new things out; have the courage to fail and allow others to do so.

The paradox is that it is tempting to continue to execute the things you do really well, and miss the opportunities that will help you remain relevant. It requires the ability to respect the past and decide what needs to be brought forward into the future, while also having the courage to try new things. Too often innovation is considered a wholly greenfield experiment, rather than something that is incremental and builds on what already exists. It needs to be both and leaders should define when to preserve the past in moving to the future and when to create completely fresh.

 

Challenges we can help solve

  • How might we support leaders in the "new normal” and shape their legacy for future generations?

  • How might we leverage the power of diverse teams and inclusive leadership to drive greater business success and innovation?

  • How might we increase leaders’ ability to be reflective and intentional about inviting multiple and diverse perspectives into strategic decision making and execution?

  • How might we design effective and sustainable leadership development strategies that make an impactful difference?

  • How might we best support a newly assembled leadership team?

  • How might we improve employee engagement through human-centric and future-directed leadership?

6 Leadership Paradoxes 

The pandemic has accelerated a trend that has been unfolding over the last decade. As the world has grown more digital and complex, the range of decisions that leaders need to make has broadened, spanning from big picture strategic thinking to careful execution, to advancing technology roadmaps and upskilling and engaging employees. And decision-making criteria too have expanded, increasingly focusing on ESG considerations in addition to narrowly defined profit expectations. The past year has been particularly intense, pushing leaders to make decisions for which they had no previous experience — and do so quickly.

To succeed in this new era of value creation, leaders need new skills and capabilities. Our in-depth research of more than a dozen companies that have transformed and positioned themselves for success in this new world — including Microsoft, the Cleveland Clinic, and Philips — shows that leaders at these companies sought to be proficient across a wide set of characteristics rather than relying solely on their areas of strengths. They learned how to work together with others who have different backgrounds and different ways of thinking, and they emphasized collaborating together to lead their business despite all their differences. (If you’re interested in participating in a survey about leadership, you can find more details at the end of this article.)

The characteristics that leaders we interviewed considered most important in this new era align well with the six paradoxes of leadership described in Blair Sheppard’s recent book, Ten Years to Midnight.

Strategic Executor

Leaders who want to succeed in this complex and fast paced business environment need to have clarity about what the new world will look like and what their company’s place in that world is going to be. This requires highly strategic leaders, visionaries who can step back from the day to day to see where the world is headed, understand how value can be created in the future in ways that are different from today’s, and stake out a powerful position for the company.

Being a good strategist, however, isn’t enough. Leaders need to be equally skilled at execution. They need to own the transformation of the company needed to reach the future. They need to be able to translate strategy into specific executional steps and see that execution through to the end. They need to be able to make rapid operational decisions that help deliver the path to the future.

In many ways, the digital model of value creation may require even stronger execution skills than in the past, since there is so much to do to push the limits of what’s possible.

Humble Hero

The digital age calls for hero leaders, people who are willing to make bold decisions (like shedding certain business positions or staking out new ones) in times of uncertainty.

At the same time leaders need to have the humility to acknowledge what they don’t know and to bring on board people with potentially very different skills, backgrounds, and capabilities. They need to be willing to learn from others who may have less leadership tenure, but more relevant insights. They need to be highly inclusive and great listeners to understand not only new technologies, but also new ways of doing things that are different from how they did it before.

Tech-Savvy Humanist

While in the past, leaders may have gotten away with delegating the company’s technology challenges to their Chief Information or Chief Digital Officer, that approach will no longer work. With technology being an essential enabler for almost everything a company does — innovation, product management, operations, sales, customer service, finance, or any other area — every leader needs to understand what technology can do for the company and how.

At the same time, they also need to understand and care about people. They need to understand how technology impacts people’s lives and they need to help their people adapt to and adopt the many changes that technology will enforce. This means engaging people with a huge degree of empathy and authenticity — helping them to embrace the changes and co-own the transformation.

Traditioned Innovator

Company purpose and values have probably never been as important as they are today in a world of constant change and multiple disruptions.

In the midst of uncertainty, having clarity of purpose and values helps guide organizations through their path to value creation and relevance. While leaders reimagine their company’s place in the world, they also need to be clear and grounded about who they are as a company. They need to be clear about the organization’s reason for being — its purpose and values — to guide how they will uniquely create value in a way that engages others in their ecosystems and is relevant in the future.

At the same time, leaders need to innovate and try out new things — faster than at any time before. They need to have the courage to fail and allow others to fail as well. All this experimentation and innovation, however, must not be unbound — it must happen within the guardrails consistent with the company’s purpose.

High-Integrity Politician

In an ecosystem world where companies, institutions, and individuals must collaborate to create value, being able to accrue support, negotiate, form coalitions and partnerships, and overcome resistance is an essential leadership capability.

Leaders need to make compromises, be flexible in tweaking their approach and go one step back to be able to move two steps forward. This way of operating, however, can only be successful if leaders establish trust and integrity as the bedrock of all their actions. Effective collaboration within ecosystems can only happen when the parties involved can trust one another. Customers are willing to share privileged insights and participate in ecosystems only when they can trust how their data is used and how they are treated.

And integrity will be key for managing the increasing regulatory scrutiny many companies are going to see. In a data-driven economy, integrity and trust are essential foundational conditions. These are values that cannot come from a computer — they require human leaders to make deliberate choices measured by their actions and words.

Globally-Minded Localist

Technology has erased many boundaries and distances — it’s much easier now to reach customers on the other side of the globe and to collaborate with people from far apart.

Almost by force, companies operating in the digital age need to think globally — even if only to gain access to insights and talent to serve local needs. This requires leaders who can think and engage globally, who will expose themselves to new thinking and work with people from all around.

At the same time, leaders in the digital age also need to be deeply aware of and responsive to the situation and preferences of individual customers and to the local communities and ecosystems in which they operate. Customers, partners, and institutions expect companies to be responsive to their specific needs, and leaders will certainly have to adopt a locally conscious mindset.

While this list is by no means exhaustive, we believe it provides a good starting guide to negotiate the era that lies ahead. The digital age and the magnitude of the transformation that is needed requires that leaders build on their strengths and expand their aperture to manage the complex world we’re living in. We believe those leaders who have the humility, courage and commitment to reinvent themselves will become the champions of the digital age.

AURA WORLD

The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought enormous personal, economic, and social damage. It has upended countless lives, and exacerbated the many disruptions afoot, laying bare the unviability of many business models. Beyond that, it has provided a new set of acute shocks to seemingly sturdy businesses and principles that have guided our thinking for decades. Wrapping our minds around what is happening is enormously difficult. Having resulted in 4.2 million known infections and 287,000 known deaths as of May 12, the new coronavirus is unpredictable and lethal, and its like hasn’t been seen in more than a century. Its effects are paradoxical. It has caused a supply shock and a demand shock.

 

It is causing a recession of indeterminate length and severity — even as some countries are crawling their way back to recovery. It is inspiring heroic feats of public-spiritedness and charity among millions, while also providing an opportunity for fraudsters to peddle false cures and prey on the vulnerable. It is stoking competition among countries, and between regions within countries, to secure supplies, while also serving as an occasion for greater national solidarity and regional cooperation. The pandemic is primarily a public healthcare problem, but one with immense immediate implications for business, and for economic, fiscal, and monetary policy.

 

The health threats could disappear within a matter of months — or they could persist for years. This virus is both accelerating powerful existing trends (such as automation and inequality) and slamming the brakes on trends that had, until very recently, possessed tremendous momentum (such as globalization).

 

Aura’s 23rd Global CEO Survey of 1,581 business leaders was conducted in September and October 2019, before the spread of COVID-19.

Three-quarters of CEOs said they were concerned about whether they would have the talent they needed. Their worry was around how that would constrain growth.

Today that same lack of people with the right skills and adaptability could hamper companies’ ability to thrive in a post-pandemic economy.

As businesses look to protect their workforce, they will still face the challenge of matching skills with gaps.

The transferable skills that organisations need today — creativity, problem solving, an understanding of how digital technology can be used -- are those that help their people think, act and thrive in a digital world that is much less predictable than we once thought.

These skills were hard to find before, and it won’t get much easier now. Finding people with the right skills and the right cultural fit will be even harder.

How confident are you about your organisation's revenue growth over the next 12 months?

 

Progress on upskilling can breed confidence

When CEOs took the survey last year before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a clear correlation between progress on upskilling and the level of confidence that CEOs displayed.

CEOs of more advanced upskilling organisations were more optimistic about global economic growth. And these CEOs also had more confidence in their own revenue.

This may suggest that taking steps to upskill helps organisations build confidence because it shows a clear, practical course of action in an increasingly uncertain world. Additionally, employers who make good-faith efforts to upskill their employees build trust and that in turn can enhance the organisation’s reputation in a world where trust is an increasingly valuable commodity.

Upskilling delivers more than skills

Our survey shows that those with the most advanced upskilling programmes saw three times the improvement in innovation and accelerated digital transformation from those just starting their skills journey. And 60% say they see a clear improvement in corporate culture.

Those companies that have started the digital-upskilling journey will find themselves in a better position to benefit from growth when the economic climate improves because they will have a workforce that is ready. CEOs who have made the decision to upskill are seeing the advantages.

Doing so demonstrates leadership’s commitment to its people, builds an inclusive culture, and attracts and retains talent—all of which drive sustainable performance improvement.

 

Out of nowhere, COVID-19 has emerged as the top agenda item for leaders of organizations of all types: governments, NGOs, and the private sector. The central question in every (virtual) board meeting is how to grapple with the horrific short-term consequences — the health challenges faced by millions of people and the effective shuttering of economies and societies around the world. At the same time, leaders can’t lose sight of the existential difficulties they faced before discussions of viral loads, reagents, and recovery rates became part of the vernacular — difficulties that, if anything, are intensifying.

The scope of the challenges, with all their dimensions, is as much philosophical and intellectual as it is physical and practical. Simply put, we are wondering how to go about restarting the economy; repairing what was broken; and preparing ourselves to cope with a host of urgent social, environmental, demographic, and economic troubles.

At Aura, we have been thinking about how to approach these issues holistically. In 2017, we identified a set of urgent, interdependent, and accelerating challenges confronting the world. We dubbed it the ADAPT framework — describing a world in which asymmetry, disruption, age, polarization, and trust were fundamentally changing the way millions of people live and work. It was clear before COVID-19 that the pressures arising from the ADAPT issues would forge a completely different world by 2025, and that organizations would have to reconfigure themselves to maintain their viability. Accelerated by the pandemic, these changes may actually come about sooner than we thought (see “ADAPT + COVID-19”).

 

In our forthcoming book, we predict that humanity has “10 years to midnight.” Now, it seems there may be even less time to the fateful hour. Moreover, COVID-19 will not be the last such shock to the system. Unless we massively and quickly address the issues highlighted by ADAPT, and in a way that manages the crisis of today while preparing us for the future, the next shock will be much more damaging. That’s the bad news. The good news? At every unit of analysis and level of society, there is an opportunity to build a more sustainable and resilient future in which all people can thrive. By recognizing the challenges confronting the world, internalizing the lessons of the pandemic, and deploying the tools and technologies at hand, we can chart a new, more adaptive course.

 

COVID-19 and the economy

Efforts to address these issues that are made even more urgent by the pandemic face four harsh realities.

First, at both a national and a corporate level, balance sheets will be tremendously stretched and require significant shoring up before resources become available to address the issues outlined in the ADAPT framework. According to the Institute of International Finance (pdf), “If net government borrowing doubles from 2019 levels — and there is a 3 percent contraction in global economic activity (nominal terms) — the world’s debt pile would surge from 322 percent of GDP to over 342 percent this year.” There will be intense competition for funds as societies focus on the many tasks associated with restarting businesses, creating jobs, and supporting those most harmed by the pandemic and the national response. At the corporate level, limited capital will necessarily be focused on repairing damaged supply chains, restarting the business, rebuilding revenue, and bringing employees back into place.

 

Second, small businesses will be even more significantly affected than larger ones by the policy decisions made. The impact will vary across countries because of the very different ways governments are responding to the crisis. Across the world, however, most small businesses do not have the kinds of cash reserves larger companies do; according to a study by JPMorgan Chase, the median U.S. small business holds only 27 cash buffer days in reserve, after which it would have to be shuttered without cash inflows. This is a particular problem as small business is generally the most important source of employment and disproportionately the source of growth. But it is also a problem for larger organizations, because small businesses are most often primary customers and a third or fourth tier in their supply chain. Small businesses also provide essential services, such as equipment maintenance and repair, dentistry, and, in some economies, basic foodstuffs.

Third, different sectors of the economy — and even individual businesses within the economy — will be quite differently affected by the crisis. Platform companies, grocery stores, and pharmacies have, for the most part, done extremely well so far. But many others (e.g., airlines and hotels) have largely shut down. All except the hardest-hit firms are trying to maintain their workforce; the result is that they burn through cash and end up in a much more precarious financial position.

 

Clearly, firms with stronger balance sheets will be able to build back or sustain their business more easily, while many others will struggle. Decisions made about when to begin and how to end the lockdown, coupled with financial relief packages, will cause businesses in some countries to be better positioned to weather the crisis and recover afterward. The dispersion of outcomes could have a radical impact on a nation’s influence at a global level and how that nation is able to compete on the international stage in the future.

Finally, unemployment has grown in many markets. In the U.S., more than 30 million people had filed for unemployment by the end of April. The International Labour Organization noted in its April 29 monitor of COVID-19 impacts on the world of work that “almost 1.6 billion informal economy workers (representing the most vulnerable in the labor market), out of a worldwide total of two billion and a global workforce of 3.3 billion, have suffered massive damage to their capacity to earn a living.” This figure represents both a devastating human cost and an additional burden on countries with already growing fiscal challenges. For businesses, unemployment will affect the ability of the consumer base to buy goods or services, pay rent, and repay debt.

An effective response

The scale of the problems may seem daunting. But that is no excuse for inaction. For governments, businesses, and institutions, the essential elements of a high-level response are quite similar (see the diagram below). We need to be highly cognizant of the choices we are making today, because they will dramatically affect our ability to accomplish the essential actions that constitute the response.

 

Repair. The overriding short-term imperative is to fix what has been broken. This starts with balance sheets. As governments repair the human and economic damage, they are coping with increased national debt, a reduced tax base, and higher short-term spending. They will also have to repair the damage done to the personal balance sheets of citizens, whether those are older people who have suffered significant losses in retirement funds or younger people who were just getting by and have been pushed into far more difficult circumstances.

 

Governments will need to manage national costs, shore up revenue, and find ways to accelerate business growth and related new skills development. The success of these repair efforts will determine how long the effects of this crisis extend over the years. And, make no mistake, it will be a slog. It took a decade for most of the world to rebound from the financial crisis of 2007–08, and some countries and parts of society have yet to recover. The level of debt accrued during the initial pandemic response far exceeds the total stimulus during and after the financial crisis. In March alone, the U.K. enacted £65.5 billion ($81.6 billion) of stimulus, compared with the £42 billion ($52.3 billion) it mobilized to fight the financial crisis. The deeper the hole, the more work and time it takes to fill it.

For their part, businesses will need to address vastly weaker balance sheets, steep revenue declines, and, in many cases, weakened supply chains and stressed or depleted employee bases. Each of these elements will require triage, lest the organizational difficulties persist and erode any real chance of a speedy recovery. And in many instances, attention and resources will be focused on triage for a long time. Some firms will emerge from the pandemic in relatively good shape and thus be in a position to take advantage of opportunities arising from the challenges confronting the rest.

 

However, in some cases repair efforts will fail and lead to bankruptcy, or even liquidation, because the company’s preexisting condition was too feeble, or because it couldn’t execute an effective repair strategy. Again, clear decision making and decisive action based upon a real understanding of what is essential to the world after COVID-19 are critical.

Rethink. This element is conceptual and provides the context in which the decision making of the repair efforts needs to happen. People around the world are sharing a deep and worrisome experience. Conditions will be fundamentally different when we emerge from the pandemic. Every nation and organization needs to reimagine the future at both a practical and a conceptual level. Organizations and their leaders need to force themselves to be strategic at a time when they are grappling with an intense crisis and coping with day-to-day emergencies. Redesigning a boat while bailing water from the hull may sound ambitious. But it is necessary, even compulsory.

 

Rethinking starts with the practicalities. Both governments and businesses need to review how they responded to the pandemic, understand best practices, and prepare for the next inevitable crisis. It will be impossible for our systems to cope with the next challenge if they remain in the same fragile state in which they entered this one. The next step is to quickly begin reimagining and adapting strategy for a post-COVID-19 world.

 

If they weren’t doing so already, companies need to rethink their operating models so that they can be robust enough to handle the disruptions arising from ADAPT. How do they construct supply chains that can function in a world in which international transport may be shut down and in which emissions are limited? And how do they design their business model so that it can be sufficiently flexible to evolve as circumstances change?

Countries and companies will be positioned very differently as a result of this crisis and thus will need competitive and collaborative strategies that are dramatically different from those they might have imagined a few months ago. Countries need to consider what is essential to localize for reasons of security, economy, and crisis management. More broadly, both nations and organizations need to rethink what success means. Gross domestic product and earnings per share have been our lodestars for decades. But we clearly need new measures of material, social, and environmental progress that can guide our efforts. Lastly, how do we create the adaptive capacity essential for addressing the unforeseen issues that are sure to be propelled to the surface by the pressures of the ADAPT forces? Rethinking ensures that organizations are repaired in a way that makes them more resilient and more successful by bringing considerations about the future into the present.

 

Restart

A host of organizations will need to restart in a changed world, because they were either shut down owing to government fiat or forced to for financial reasons. This will require the usual steps of any beginning: designing the business plan, finding startup capital, establishing the supply chain, hiring employees, reviewing the customer experience to entice new buyers and bring back old ones, and building brand. But new layers of complexity will be added to the process. All this must be done with a keen eye toward understanding trade-offs and building the capacity to navigate the disruptions that are bound to arise in the future — whether they are caused by climate change, new strains of a virus, or something else.

Some parts of the public sector, including public schools, portions of the healthcare system, and even mass transit in some cities, face similar restart challenges. Although other elements of government won’t have to leap the restart hurdle, their approach to supporting businesses that do face such a hurdle will affect the future viability of their country and the national balance sheet. Their engagement in this process will be critical if the ecosystem is to be successful.

The need to restart can happen at any point in the repair–rethink–reconfigure process. As uncertainty grows around the world, this process becomes the new normal: The next crisis will occur, and organizations that have not learned the lessons of this experience are back in repair mode.

Reconfigure. Organizations must make the systemic rethinking concrete by reconfiguring public and business institutions. This represents a much more fundamental redesign of organizations than the repair process entails. The crisis has put into strong relief the uncomfortable truth that a host of institutions around the world are simply not ready for the 21st century. It is essential that systems including healthcare, legal, education, taxation, and others be reconfigured to be more efficient, more effective, and more able to cope with the ADAPT challenges.

What does this mean in practical terms? To address the asymmetry inherent in the global economy, governments will have to accelerate the development and scaling of small business on a massive scale. To confront the disruption of climate change, governments and businesses alike will have to re-envision energy and climate policy and make investments to reduce their carbon footprint — which will have the salutary effect of providing investments for new jobs. To a degree, reconfiguration also means jumping on the trends that have suddenly gained currency in response to the pandemic, including telemedicine, distance learning, and remote working. But it means approaching issues such as the localization of supply chains on a systematic basis, rather than an ad hoc one.

Companies not ready for a platform-based economy — one in which business transactions and social activity are largely facilitated by digital platforms or frameworks — need to become ready quickly. Organizations need to rethink technology strategy, geographic footprints, and business models to make them more robust and to recognize the very strong pressures for localization they are going to experience. They will need to evaluate their portfolios from the standpoint of the products or services needed in a very different economy. Like governments, organizations should not let opportunities arising from the crisis go to waste and should undertake significant reconfiguration in a manner that sets them up for an even better future.

Reconfiguration may be made easier because COVID-19 has provided a rare moment of pause, an opportunity to make changes that previously seemed too daunting or even impossible to execute. However, the challenge is that organizations are carrying out structural changes with fewer available economic resources, and there is always the chance of another major disruption. New legislation could alter business plans, or the disease could swiftly worsen in a country that is critical to the organization’s supply chain. Failure during the reconfiguration process is still possible, although less likely than during the repair phase.

Report. In the midst of the pandemic, there has been a constant search for clarity — on what measures individuals should take, on the availability of testing, on how we construct a path forward. In a period of great uncertainty and invisible threats, people feel comfortable going about their lives only if they are confident in the information they receive. Investors, regulators, and stakeholders will also be demanding more disclosure and information in real time on everything from cash flow to the health of employees.

 

Emerging from this shared, transformational experience, people may be more conscientious and thoughtful, and will desire more transparent information on a broader range of issues, both to permit the changes suggested above and to have the right to be in business or lead. To take a simple example, all businesses will have financial risk. What will be required by investors, regulators, employees, customers, and the general public is much more specific data about the real risks to the government and businesses, the specific plans to address those risks, and the viability of the plans. Industries that received special support from government are likely to be under greater scrutiny. Stakeholders will want ongoing reports on the success of execution against their targets.

Transition to a new world

The need for governments and organizations to transition to a new world was apparent well before COVID-19 arrived. The pandemic and the associated economic, organizational, and personal consequences of the decisions made to address it just made the need for those transitions greater and, in an odd way, better prepared us to make the necessary changes. It would be unfortunate — and potentially devastating — if we did not take advantage of the opportunity in front of us.

It is essential that we not regard the two immense sets of challenges we face — the deeper issues the world is confronting articulated in the ADAPT framework, and the immediate economic consequences of the steps countries are taking — as competing for attention and resources. Instead, we must find a way to reduce disparity, address the major threats presented to our well-being by climate change and the unintended consequences of technology, manage the lack of prosperity for the youngest and oldest generations, build a greater sense of social cohesion, and rebuild trust in the institutions that make society work at the same time we rebuild our businesses, our work, and the lives of our citizens.

 

We should not lose the potential benefit of the natural reflection everyone is now beginning to go through: to create the world we want to have, not just reestablish the world we had before. If ever there were a time for leadership, it’s now.

And we should expect that the strategic response to COVID-19 will open up new possibilities. One of the remarkable features of this pandemic is that it has created a shared global experience of an overwhelming event. Although personal situations vary greatly, almost everyone can relate to the concerns of a rapidly developing problem; the moments of fear alongside moments of peace and awareness of personal good fortune; the acute pain of feeling concern for loved ones while not being able to be physically present; coping with restrictions in movement; and suffering harm from the disruption to one’s normal routine or the loss of a job, company, family member, or friend.

 

If this shared experience can engender greater solidarity and a sense of purpose, the prospect of adapting to a new world and thriving in it becomes more promising. Hope is not a strategy. But strategy can provide hope.

Prime time 

Prime time for private markets : The new value creation playbook

Investment continues to flow into private markets. In the wake of COVID-19, however, private markets managers face challenging economic conditions and a more complex definition of what constitutes value. As private markets come to make up an increasing proportion of the global capital markets, the sector is also becoming more regulated and scrutinised than ever before. How can you reconfigure your value creation playbook to outperform in this tough environment? You’ll need a strategy that focuses more closely on strategic positioning, operational excellence and capital efficiency in your business and the portfolios you manage.

 

Returns are harder to find

 

Downturns can increase opportunities for private markets managers, particularly when it comes to acquiring companies, infrastructure or real estate assets at reduced cost.  

But these openings might not be enough on their own to help managers deliver target returns. COVID-19 has upended economies in broad ways and entry multiples are high. So, managers need to find other ways to boost returns and create new types of value. 

There’s evidence from the last global recession that dedicating resources to value creation pays off. Private equity firms with value creation teams experienced a better rate of return during the recession than those without dedicated teams.

 

Stakeholder attitudes are moving the goalposts

 

Investors are the main reason that environmental, social and governance (ESG) has become more than a tick-box exercise in fund due diligence. Regulators are also pushing. Many politicians and civic groups want COVID-19 to be a catalyst for a fairer and greener economy. Campaigns such as #MeToo and Black Lives Matter have also put a spotlight on diversity, equity and inclusion. And importantly, some investors are coming to see ESG as a key source of value preservation and generation, rather than simply being an altruistic or reputational priority.

 

There’s still growth to seize

 

Investors continue to look to private markets to deliver the yields that lower-risk and more liquid asset classes struggle to match. 

As a result, we expect assets under management (AuM) in private markets to expand—as seen in the chart—depending on the trajectory of economic recovery in the years ahead. Under the base-case scenario, private markets would make up more than 10% of global AuM by 2025, constituting a small but fast-growing and high-impact slice of the capital markets. 

There’s not a significant difference between the recovery scenarios, which underlines how resilient private markets are. Even in the worst-case scenario, we project AuM growth of almost 50% from 2019 to 2025.

 

Big firms are dominating, but specialists can still drive alpha

 

Private markets are becoming increasingly competitive and concentrated. Institutional investors’ shift to multi-asset mandates is making it difficult for smaller, single asset–focused managers to compete with big, diversified rivals. And because of the costs and complexities of due diligence, some investors are also restricting their commitments to fewer firms.

The leading firms are increasingly dominant. A clear sign of this is their ability to raise larger mega-funds over time as depicted in the graphic. There’s still room, though, for specialised players with the right capabilities, brand strength and multi-asset strategies.  The firms that are most vulnerable are those that have neither scale nor specialisation. They risk being squeezed out of the picture.

 

How private markets can continue to outperform

You’ll want to go beyond a few small tweaks to your playbook in order to respond sufficiently to the changing value ecosystem. Here are some of the moves we think you’ll need to make.

  • Deliver a plan for how you’ll navigate the new value ecosystem

  • Make sure you have the talent you’ll need

  • Use technology to gain a competitive advantage 

  • Pick your spot—specialise or diversify?

 

Value Creation

As businesses around the world continue to adapt to unprecedented challenges, the traditional view of value is due for an overhaul. A strategic pivot. A broader, bolder perspective.

But in pursuing a holistic transformation, which levers of growth should you pull to achieve long-term, sustained outcomes?

Whether you’re targeting an acquisition, considering a divestiture or looking to improve your enterprise performance, a Value Creation mindset goes beyond the expected to reveal untapped sources of growth.

Right Deals

 

Companies adapting to a COVID-changed world are rushing to reconfigure their businesses, fuelling M&A activity. But Aura research has shown that 53% of corporate acquirers underperformed their industry peers.

As leaders aim to forge new equations for growth by pursuing acquisitions, what can they do to ensure their investments create sustained value?

To answer this question, Aura examined 800 deals, including the 50 largest acquisitions across 16 different sectors completed over the past decade. 

The results reveal one factor that plays a pivotal role in successful M&A activities—a capabilities fit between buyer and target—plus five steps leaders can take to integrate capabilities considerations into impactful deal-making.

Whether a company is aiming to consolidate, diversify or enter a new market, there’s one element that has been shown to differentiate a successful deal: a capabilities fit between the buyer and the target. 

Capabilities—or a set of strengths that creates unique value—differ greatly between companies. Thus, when an acquirer is pursuing M&A, it’s important to ensure that the strengths of both players complement each other.

Indeed, our study has shown that the strategic intent of a deal has little to no impact on value creation. What generates value—and a positive total shareholder return (TSR)—is a capabilities fit that allows companies to leverage or enhance their capabilities. The alternative? A pitfall we call a limited-fit deal that can result in a significant loss in TSR following a transaction.

 

Types of deals by industry

The frequency of capabilities-driven deals (enhancement and leverage) differs widely across industries—from 38% of deals in oil and gas to 92% in pharma and life sciences. Yet despite the variance, a positive capabilities premium was found in all 16 industries we analysed.

 

Strategy&’s Portfolio Optimisation

When it comes time to revamp a portfolio, too many companies pursue deals to grow in size, rather than aligning their M&A strategy with their capabilities. At Strategy&, our data-driven community of solvers has found strong evidence that deals leveraging or enhancing a buyer’s key strengths produce significantly better results than those lacking a good capabilities fit. 

Are you interested in optimising your portfolio to create lasting value? Let’s get started.

 

Global M&A Industry Trends: 2022 Outlook

 After a record-breaking year for M&A in 2021, optimism for another supercharged year in 2022 remains, despite growing market headwinds.

 

Global mergers and acquisitions (M&A) hit new highs in 2021—breaking prior records by a long shot. The number of announced deals exceeded 62,000 globally in 2021, up an unprecedented 24% from 2020. Publicly disclosed deal values reached all-time highs of US$5.1tn—including 130 megadeals with a deal value greater than US$5bn—a whopping 57% higher than in 2020 and smashing the previous record of US$4.2tn set in 2007. The often-frenzied M&A activity in 2021 was fuelled by intense demand for technology, and for digital and data-driven assets, and the pent-up deal-making demand from 2020 that was unleashed.

We don’t expect these records to be smashed in 2022. But all the indications point to another supercharged year. Economic optimism remains high, there’s a strong deals pipeline, capital is in abundance, and companies across all industries badly need technology. It is true that there are growing headwinds. The trifecta of low operating costs, lower regulation and taxes, and ever lower interest rates have, over the past decade, helped companies achieve year-on-year earnings growth, pushed stock markets to seemingly endless record highs, and generally spurred M&A. But now, each of those pillars is facing pressure for the first time in a decade, as the pandemic has disrupted the status quo.

 

As a result, higher interest rates, rising inflation, increased taxes and greater regulation could introduce structural or financial hurdles or delays for deals in 2022. We are already seeing greater volatility in financial markets, further disruptions in the global supply chains and increased levels of fiscal debt, as shockwaves from the pandemic continue to play out globally. As we’ve already learned from the pandemic, dealmakers should stay alert to how the new accelerated pace of change can bring these factors—or others—into play earlier and with greater impact.

Even so, business leaders are seemingly undaunted by these macroeconomic headwinds. For the second year in a row, Aura’s annual global CEO survey, the 25th edition of which was published in January 2022, has found that 77% of CEOs expect global economic growth to improve during the year ahead. Furthermore, more than half of CEOs reported high levels of confidence for revenue growth in their own companies over the next 12 months; led by CEOs of private equity (67%) and technology companies (64%), two sectors which saw the highest M&A volumes and values in 2021.

 

By all accounts, the factors that contributed to the record M&A market in 2021 will remain influential for deal-making in 2022. Led by intense competition between corporates, private equity (PE) and special purpose acquisition companies (SPACs), valuations are also expected to remain high. PE deals have been on a particularly impressive run, and are on course to grow their share of M&A. Almost 40% of deals in 2021 involved a PE fund, up from just over a quarter over the past five years. PE firms aren’t just doing more deals, they are doing bigger ones; and this is accounting for 45% of total deal values in 2021, compared to 30% over the past five years. On the corporate side, we expect the strategic shift to digital, innovative and new disruptive business models to continue to drive M&A decision-making. With market conditions that demand a greater value creation mindset across global boardrooms, CEOs will also likely focus on divestitures, as they rebalance their portfolios for longer-term growth and profitability.

 

 

2021: Record M&A activity and megadeals

The record levels of deal-making in 2021 were evident across all three regions, reflecting the strong bounce-back in the global economy. Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) showed the greatest growth in deal volumes over the prior year, with an increase of 34%, followed by the Americas with 22%, and Asia-Pacific with 17%. Although the volume of deals in 2021 was approximately the same across the three regions, deal value was more heavily weighted towards the Americas, with over 50% of deal values and approximately 60% of megadeals.

 

Technology-focused deals continued to dominate the landscape, as companies sought to acquire technology capabilities and transform their business models. The robust SPAC IPO (initial public offering) market in late 2020 and early 2021, combined with a resurgence in SPAC IPOs in late 2021, means that there remain almost 500 SPACs yet to announce a merger that will need to close a deal by late 2022 or early 2023. As such we expect SPACs will continue to play a significant role in M&A in 2022, as they continue to compete against corporates and PEs for sought-after assets.

 

Spotlight on PE and value creation

Private equity's impact on M&A is growing. In addition to 2021 being a record year for fundraising, PEs also put record amounts of capital to work. Global PE dry powder ended 2021 at US$2.3tn, 14% higher than the start of the year—highlighting that there is plenty more M&A to come in 2022. However, fierce competition continues to push up multiples, which has created more pressure on the PE industry to generate returns. That means there is a greater need for financial buyers to bring deeper operational expertise, a greater focus on responsible investment (ESG) and a sharper focus on value creation than ever before. Those able to generate above average returns will be rewarded by increased investor interest, enabling them to deploy these funds through M&A activity in 2022. We expect PE will respond with a number of different investment strategies:

 

Larger, more complex deals

 

Deals in the US$1bn–US$5bn range have typically been the sweet spot for PE firms. But we expect to see a growing appetite among PE for larger and more complex deals. Examples include the US$30bn acquisition of Medline Industries, Inc., by a partnership comprised of funds managed by Blackstone, Carlyle and Hellman & Friedman, and the proposed US$14bn acquisition of McAfee Corp. by an investor group led by Advent and Permira, Crosspoint Capital, Canada Pension Plan Investment Board, GIC, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority.

 

Longer investment timelines

 

Investor interest in PE assets may allow funds to hold on to investments for longer than the standard five to seven years—for example, through the use of longer-dated continuation funds and other PE-to-PE transactions. This may afford PE firms more time to potentially overcome high valuations, particularly in an environment where future multiples may contract.

 

Key themes driving M&A

Divestitures, demergers and agility

At the outset of the pandemic, efficient operations and access to capital helped many large corporations fare better than their smaller, less-well-capitalised competitors. One might conclude this will lead to further consolidation, as companies use M&A to gain the advantages of size and scale. However, a number of large established corporations, including IBM, Daimler, General Electric, Johnson & Johnson and Toshiba, have recently announced demergers or divestitures, effectively doing the opposite—breaking up their business in order to focus on the core operations. Several factors are driving this fundamental reorientation in global boardrooms. Shareholder activist campaigns have prompted corporate boards to conduct strategic portfolio reviews and divest underperforming or non-core businesses.

 

CEOs are also placing an increasing value on the ability to be nimble—to quickly react to changing customer behaviours and business model disruption. In some cases, the desire for greater financial and operational agility and a focus on industry-specific dynamics now appear to outweigh the traditional benefits of scale and conglomeration. These forces will likely lead to further divestitures in 2022.

 

Regulatory scrutiny creates hurdles

The tightening regulatory environment in many countries will likely create headwinds for dealmakers in 2022, especially those deals that invite antitrust or Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) scrutiny. In the US, the Department of Justice appears to be taking a harder line on corporate mergers, with several recent rulings to block deals based on antitrust concerns. In Europe, antitrust investigations are underway against several US tech giants. In Asia-Pacific, the Chinese government is implementing anti-monopoly, data security and industry-specific regulations; and Japan’s Fair Trade Commission is investigating big tech’s dominance in the smartphone operating system market.

 

Rising protectionism, such as policies relating to semiconductor technology, may also make it challenging for certain deals to gain approval and could result in a greater focus on domestic deals and, correspondingly, less cross-border M&A activity.

 

Supply chain optimisation

Companies continue to leverage M&A to build agility and resilience against the prevailing headwinds. Shoring up supply chains has been an area of particular interest. We expect 2022 will bring more vertical-integration deals, both upwards, to secure key raw materials or components, and downwards, to control how products are distributed.

 

Many companies contending with raw material, input or labour shortages, port lockdowns, shortages of shipping containers—especially those in the manufacturing, pharmaceutical and medical devices sectors—are now focused on onshoring or nearshoring opportunities in order to reduce lead times and build greater resilience into their supply chains. We also expect strong investor interest in technology companies specialising in supply chain processes, particularly those able to capture and leverage data and analytics.

 

Rising Impact of ESG

Environmental, social and governance (ESG) factors are increasingly taken into account in M&A decision-making and strategy, as investors use ESG criteria to assess risks and to identify value creation opportunities. For example, in Aura’s Global Private Equity Responsible Investment Survey 2021, we discovered that more than half of all respondents had either refused to enter an agreement with a general partner or turned down a potential investment on ESG grounds. With increasing commitments being made to reduce carbon emissions by companies and PE funds, we anticipate increased capital will be mobilised for transition to greener sources of energy, creating opportunities for M&A, not just in the heavier carbon-emitting sectors but in those which innovate to develop the new technologies for the future. We also expect to see increased M&A in industries that are transitioning to new business models, such as the major oil and gas companies—as they pivot to invest in renewables and hydrogen—or in the technology industry, where companies are innovating around energy storage or solutions to create a more sustainable circular economy.

 

The outlook for 2022

Overall, we remain optimistic about the year ahead, with deal volume and valuations continuing to reflect a dynamic market and an abundance of capital. On the one hand, with technological adaptation now a consistent pressure across all industries, we believe that competition for targets will be strong. Companies will also seek to maintain competitive advantage and reinvest using divestitures of non-performing businesses across global markets.

On the other hand, dealmakers must keep close attention on a number of expected and potential disruptions, which could signal delays in deals getting done, including volatility in financial markets and macroeconomic headwinds. As these and other risks mount for CEOs and institutional investors, robust plans for M&A value creation are more important than ever.

Tomorrow's Workforce

Building tomorrow’s workforce: Six no-regrets plays to make today

 

The challenges that leaders face today are more significant and complex than they’ve been in generations.

Accelerating the workplace’s digital journey carries tremendous execution risk. And people want and need more support and inspiration from their employers. Burnout has become its own epidemic, now recognised by the World Health Organization as an official disease. Weary, anxious workers are resigning from their jobs in record numbers around the world. Businesses, governments, and society will pay a great price if they are not prepared to adapt and capitalise on new opportunities powered by technology and innovation.

For organisations to thrive, they need to access their people’s full potential to develop and execute new, dynamic strategies. In our 2021 Future of Work and Skills Survey, conducted in September 2021, nearly 4,000 business and human resources (HR) leaders were surveyed globally, including over 300 across the Middle East (UAE, KSA, Qatar, Egypt) who collectively identified six ‘no-regrets moves’ as important to their workforce strategy—and agreed that they are taking action. But when given a choice to agree ‘slightly’, ‘moderately’ or ‘strongly’, only 20% to 30% globally agreed strongly that they are acting today. That range was slightly better for the Middle East, as 30% to 40% of leaders agreed strongly that they are acting today.

 

Globally, across all six broad no-regrets categories, the three specific actions that leaders in our survey were most likely to say were important but that they were not acting on are all related to digitisation or automation.

 

Leadership and organisational culture are certainly linked. For leaders to make progress on their digital agenda and address urgent challenges, they will have to change their own behaviour and their people’s. Leaders will need to lean into data and become more aware of how it can be used to support future decision making around investments. They’ll need to help shape their people’s behaviours by modelling changes in how work gets done and by putting actions behind their words on issues such as well-being and diversity, equity, and inclusion targets. Leaders will also have to invest in new cloud technologies, automation and data models that fuel outcomes-based decision-making and meaningful returns on investment will also be a differentiating factor for leaders.

Let’s further explore the six no-regrets moves that leaders should make to prepare for the future of work.
 

The six no-regrets moves leaders in the region should make to prepare for the future of work

1. Anticipate and plan for the future


 

38% of Middle East Leaders strongly agreed to developing strategic, financial and people plans in a joined up manner.

 

 

Only 29% strongly agreed that they are using a wide variety of external data sources and viewpoints when considering their workforce strategy.

 


 

36% cited cost pressures as the key barrier to taking a scenario-based approach to plan for multiple possible futures, while 36% cited factors outside their control as the main blocker in enabling them to rapidly adjust their workforce in response to market changes.

 

Takeaway: Use data to plan deliberately

Planning is more important—and more difficult—than ever, as organisations face an increasingly uncertain future. Leveraging insights from Big Data and advanced analytics is one reliable approach for leaders to prepare for the future. Further investing and building senior leadership capability in planning in the new world will also be instrumental in adapting dynamic planning by organisations in the Middle East.

 

2. Build talent development and upskilling programmes fit for the organisation


 

Only 26% strongly agreed they use workforce analytics to predict and monitor skill gaps.

 

Of the 9 risk areas related to building talent development and upskilling programmes fit for the organisation, the biggest was: ‘the ability to identify the skills the organisation will need in the future due to technological change’. Only 26% strongly agreed they do this.


 

Lack of senior leadership capability, cost pressures, and organisation’s culture are the biggest hurdles limiting the ability to identify skills needed in the future (due to technological change).

Takeaway: Embed an upskilling culture and embrace technological change

42% of respondents cited ‘encouraging re-skilling and continuous learning to help workers remain employable’ as very important. At Aura Middle East, we are also on our upskilling journey, digitally upskilling 7,000 of our people by providing opportunities to build a more diverse and tech-skilled workforce.

 

Leaders will have to embed this within their organisational DNA and assure workers that upskilling is a part of their growth journey and not only a means to remain relevant. Building leadership capabilities to enable organisational wide upskilling is crucial and this should not be considered as only a Human Resources’ obligation.

Leaders will also need to implement systems and technology that enables them to use workforce analytics to predict and monitor skill gaps. This will help in gaining employees’ trust as well as in identifying and addressing the most crucial skill gaps.

3. Create organisational agility and resilience via the workforce


 

Only 24% strongly agreed their talent practices and processes are designed to nurture employee agility and adaptability.

 

Of 10 risk areas related to creating organisational agility and resilience via the workforce, the biggest was: 'Identifying the potential organisational risks caused by decisions to replace human work with technology’. Only 25% strongly agreed they do this.

Lack of senior leadership capability and organisational culture were cited as the biggest blockers to designing talent practices and processes to nurture employee agility and adaptability.

 

Takeaways: Re-design talent practices and processes to nurture employee ability and agility

Not only are most organisations unable to design talent practices and processes to nurture employee agility and adaptability, but this was also cited as the least important dimension in our survey (with only 31% stating this is very important). Leaders will need to investigate the root causes for this issue and identify best practices across other leading organisations and tailor their talent practices and processes accordingly.

Replacing human work with technology is the reality that organisations across the globe are facing. Consequent anxiety and fears, from employees affected across levels, pose potential risks to organisations. Leadership will play a significant role in effectively communicating and smoothly navigating through this inevitable transition. 64% of our survey respondents cited that identification of the potential risks is moderately to very important to the future of their organisation.

4. Optimise workforce productivity and performance


 

Only 32% strongly agreed that they can measure productivity and performance at an individual level (vs 25% of global respondents).

 

Only 28% strongly agreed that they give workers a high degree of autonomy in how they organise their work.

Of 12 risk areas related to optimising workforce productivity and performance in the organisation, the biggest was: ‘Providing for physical working environments and technology that enable all workers to perform at their best’. Only 33% strongly agreed they do this.

 

Takeaway: Provide enablers and offer increased autonomy to the workforce

80% of blockers in providing physical environments and technology that enables all workers to perform at their best, are under the organisation’s control. Leaders need to step up by focusing on improving systems and data and minimising competing investments or priorities. 

40% of our respondents believe that giving workers a high degree of autonomy in how they organise their work is very important. Additionally, 40% believe it’s equally as important for their employees' wellbeing to have a manageable workload that allows them to switch off in the evenings and weekends.

Going forward, leaders must embed these elements as part of their organisational culture, in addition to offering flexibility. This will ensure increased work performance and productivity in addition to a more manageable work life balance in the future.

 

5. Prepare for and deploy technology with humans in mind

Only 29% strongly agreed their workforce and technology strategies make the best use of human skills.
 

Being able to communicate clearly and consistently to the organisation’s employees about the expected impacts of automation and AI on future skill needs, was the biggest risk cited by respondents.
 

25% cited concerns around the potential consequences of taking action as the biggest hurdle to harnessing worker ideas to improve, implement or adopt new technology.

 

Takeaway: Be transparent and supportive

The best way to continue rolling out new technology solutions is with transparency and providing support to your employees. Communication can even be personalised based on workforce segmentation. Different stakeholder personas, needs, and preferences should be considered in messaging. 

In our most recent Hopes and Fears survey, 63% of GCC respondents believe that technology presents greater opportunities than risks. Digital should be embedded as part of the culture of the organisation and how it conducts its business. Co-creation of technology solutions is also critical. This means engaging with employees, making them comfortable with being part of the solution, even looking for automation opportunities to implement the best ideas, even from the most junior members.

 

6. Build trust in the organisation
 

While only 30% of global respondents strongly agreed that their organisation builds high levels of trust between workers and their direct supervisors, we saw this increase to 36% in the Middle East. That said most organisations still have a long way ahead to attain the desired trust levels and clearly need to prioritise this goal.

Only 29% of Middle East respondents strongly agreed that their organisation publicly sets targets to close gaps in workforce diversity and in diversity pay; but this is higher than the 26% of global respondents who strongly agreed.
 

Of 11 risk areas related to building trust in the organisation, the biggest was: ‘Making environmental issues a strategic priority and part of the organisation’s wider business management planning’. Only 31% strongly agreed they do this.

 

Takeaways: Build diverse workforces with a focus on environmental issues

Globally skills gaps are ever-increasing and only a few countries have managed to effectively align skills and innovation policies. Most countries could not only lose out on the potential opportunity for growth, but also expose large segments of their workforces to job losses.

The economic case for upskilling is compelling. An upskilled human capital delivers improved productivity and innovation. Upskilling also creates a more flexible and adaptable workforce with the necessary skills to survive, and indeed, thrive in a highly digitised and environmentally-conscious world. Most importantly, enhanced access to training and learning opportunities can deliver tremendous social benefits - from improving individual wellbeing and health to reducing crime rates and creating stronger societies.

 

Looking forward...

As organisations accelerate their digital journeys and prepare for the future of work, they’ll need to focus on their people by building trust in the organisation and enhancing leadership’ capabilities. Our survey results show that people want to work for employers that show they care. They also want the organisations they work for to live up to their purpose, values, and culture. Most importantly, building trust will enable leaders to deliver sustained outcomes for their organisations.

Governments should look to promote skill-centric visions for the economy to successfully navigate global megatrends and create more sustainable and inclusive societies, while ensuring good quality jobs for future generations.

 

 

To build trust with employees, be consistent

 

“I got an urgent email from my manager at 4:30 a.m., asking me to make some small changes in a report I’d written for a client. Not only was it early in the morning, I was on my way to the airport for a family vacation. Any of my colleagues could have made the changes. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry,” says Sasha, a manager in a multinational IT services consultancy. She had spent most of the previous month working 14-hour days as her team rushed to evaluate the client’s IT system and future needs. “Meanwhile, the firm’s leaders were stressing the importance of well-being and urging everyone to take time off to recharge. They were saying one thing and doing another. Clearly, I couldn’t trust them.”

Making transformation stick

Many business leaders are devotees of the power of culture. Two-thirds of board and C-suite participants in Aura’s 2021 Global Culture Survey say culture is more important to performance than strategy or operating model. But Sasha’s story highlights a major obstacle to tapping its potency: many employees simply don’t trust their leaders. The reason is inconsistency, which manifests itself in two ways. First, some leaders, like Sasha’s, don’t act authentically—their behavior is at odds with the cultural message they’re sending. Second, in many organizations, the purported culture doesn’t match employees’ experiences.

 

Both problems could be contributing to a looming talent retention crisis. After “sheltering in job” during the pandemic, people are now quitting their jobs in enormous numbers. Four million workers resigned in the US in April 2021, the highest level in 20 years, and another 3.9 million resigned in June 2021. A global Microsoft study found that 41% of workers are considering quitting their job or changing their profession this year.

Aura’s research suggests that leaders are right to prioritize culture in the face of this challenge and many others. Respondents in Aura’s survey who said their organizations have a distinctive culture were more likely to report good outcomes during the first year of the pandemic (see graphic below). But for culture to create a competitive advantage and help leaders build trust with their employees, leaders’ aspirations about it and employees’ experiences with it need to align.

In Aura’s survey, 79% of C-suite and board respondents agreed or strongly agreed that what they say about their culture aligns with the way people act every day in their organization—but only 58% of frontline workers said the same. The contrast is particularly stark with respect to diversity, equity, and inclusion: 64% of C-suite and board respondents said that their organization encourages discussion of sensitive and uncomfortable topics, but only 51% of frontline workers agreed. And 71% of C-suite and board members said their organization embraces flexibility and accommodates people with different needs, but only 54% of frontline workers said so.

How can leaders close these gaps? With a clear-eyed understanding of the impact of leadership authenticity and cultural cohesion and an action plan for activating their culture, they’ll be well on their way.

The value of authentic leadership

When New Zealand’s prime minister, Jacinda Ardern, got onto Facebook Live at the beginning of the pandemic—from her home, after putting her daughter to bed, and in a well-worn sweatshirt—to explain to citizens the importance of imposing a national lockdown, she was sending a clear message: “We’re all in the same boat.” The changes she was telling her constituents they’d have to make were ones she would also have to live with.

For culture to create a competitive advantage, leaders’ aspirations about it and employees’ experiences with it need to align.

A lot of leaders seem to think they also walk the talk on culture. Aura’s survey shows that 73% of senior management think they do. But only 46% of the rest of the workforce agree. We’ve seen firsthand that this mismatch damages trust. And without trust, it can be difficult to motivate people, bring about change, and encourage the desired behaviors.

 

One of our team members at the Katzenbach Center, a global institute for organizational culture and leadership at Strategy&, Aura’s strategy consulting business, is a former US soldier. He tells a story that accentuates the importance of leadership authenticity. In the armed forces, which rely on the ranks obeying their leaders’ instructions without question, Army leaders routinely make sure they eat only after their troops have been fed, to give a clear signal that the troops’ welfare is their top priority. But on one occasion when our colleague was a first lieutenant in the 25th Infantry Division, his entire unit was locked down because a piece of equipment was missing. “The lockdown went on all day and into the evening, and instead of hot food, we were given MRE [meal ready-to-eat] rations. But then some of the soldiers saw the commander’s wife sneaking him Burger King. After that, he was completely ineffective as a leader because no one in the unit respected him.”

Organizational coherence is critical

Consistency and cultural coherence also matter in terms of the actions of the organization as an entity. The US retail giant Target, which has long touted its commitment to employee training and development, recently announced a program to pay 100% of college tuition for any of its 340,000 full-time and part-time US-based workers pursuing business-related majors at certain colleges. The program is one of the most high-profile examples of a company taking concrete action to reinforce what it says about its culture and values.

Organizational culture: It’s time to take action

Although few companies can afford a program as extensive as Target’s, consistency on any scale matters. Take, for example, a financial-services company that prided itself on its culture of meritocracy, which was based on a transparent performance management process. “We all knew where we stood and exactly what we needed to do to get on.

 

We were always told that our annual performance review, and whatever happened as a result of it, should never come as a surprise to us,” said Paul, who joined the organization in his 20s and progressed steadily over the following decade.

The cultural wheels came off when an economic downturn made layoffs necessary and management failed to communicate what was coming. “Four people in my department were laid off,” Paul told us. “Three months earlier, we had all been told we were doing the right things, and then [the four individuals] were suddenly told to go because their performance wasn’t up to scratch. Morale took a nosedive after that, and it never really recovered.”

In our work, we’ve seen many similar examples of inconsistency and the mistrust it breeds. A company that wanted to improve collaboration across silos continued to align metrics and rewards to individuals meeting personal financial targets. A product team was told to focus on quality, even though KPIs were built around time to ship. To overcome such inconsistency, leaders should examine all of the formal and informal building blocks of their cultural DNA at every touch point across the employee experience.

Software company HubSpot has won awards for its culture, which emphasizes transparency, and has taken steps to make sure that it is consistent in not just talking about transparency but practicing it. It classifies every employee as a “designated insider,” for example, and shares detailed financial and management information with the entire workforce. It also welcomes all contributions equally, irrespective of a person’s status or place in the hierarchy.

Activating a consistent culture

Achieving strategic objectives, including improving recruitment and retention and building trust with employees, will be impossible if a chasm remains between what leaders and organizations espouse about culture and what employees experience. Here are three actions leaders can take to activate culture and gain competitive advantage.

• Measure the impact of culture on strategic goals. Leaders can ask how their organization’s culture is helping or hindering their ability to drive business outcomes. They can also identify any areas of incoherence between stated cultural aspirations and employees’ day-to-day experiences. Many tools, such as people survey data analyzed by level, or a specific cultural diagnostic or employee experience diagnostic, will indicate how well culture is aligned with strategy and which drivers of experience matter most to employees.

To get a read on how leadership actions are perceived, often the best solution is simply to ask the organization’s authentic informal leaders (AILs)—the people who don’t have official authority but are influencers and leaders nonetheless. They will reveal the truth, even if it’s uncomfortable. They can tell you what the biggest disconnects are that will undermine the organization’s stated goals.

 

• Focus on the cultural traits and behaviors that support business goals. Understanding culture begins with taking an inventory of the organization’s traits (tendencies for people to behave in a certain way, such as “consensus-driven” or “hierarchical”) and habitual behaviors (how they spend their time, make decisions, handle conflict, and perform their jobs on a regular basis). But it’s important to move decisively from understanding the behaviors that are present in an organization’s culture to prioritizing those that will be most helpful in meeting business goals. Identifying these critical few behaviors is a delicate process.

Consider traits and behaviors through multiple lenses: What energizes employees most, and what are their worst pain points? What cultural qualities are useful in executing strategy, and what traits hold the organization back?

There will be inevitable trade-offs to make in selecting the critical few behaviors. For instance, an organization might need to balance being customer-centric with maintaining an environment where employees feel cared for and don’t get burned out. Or an agile, high-performing organization might need to avoid alienating or marginalizing people with different perspectives, backgrounds, or capabilities. How can a business create a safe space for people to speak up while also holding its people accountable? Leaders must grapple with these scenarios and decide how to respond—then commit to signaling and modeling the trade-offs in highly visible ways.

 

• Carry it forward with cultural change enablers. The final stage is to make sure your culture is aligned across the entire organizational system.

An actively managed culture nudges people toward the critical few behaviors that support business success. We’ve identified specific cultural change enablers that are effective in helping organizations create coherence around the traits and behaviors they’ve identified as most important. Setting the right tone from the top, having the right technology and tools to support change, and gathering and acting upon employee feedback are examples of enablers. Critically, these enablers span both employee experience and culture—two sides of the same coin—to support strategy in an integrated way. Aura’s survey data shows that organizations describing their culture as a source of competitive advantage have activated at least four of these enablers.

Two of the enablers directly relate to leadership authenticity: tone from the top and visible leadership endorsement and support. To close the authenticity gap, leaders need to get out of their offices and onto the front lines so they can understand the day-to-day worker realities that their leadership decisions create. “Management by walking around” might be more difficult if workers are virtual, but it’s no less important.

Culture as a source of competitive advantage

Aura’s 2021 Global Culture Survey shows that culture can deliver competitive advantage during challenging times. But translating talk about culture into action presents an enduring challenge for leaders. When aligned with strategy, purpose, and the operating model, culture can be a powerful force that builds trust, supports retention, and protects the business against the next crisis.

Memorandum & Articles of Association

Article 1.          Form

The Company is a Thailand Private limited by shares incorporated under Thailand law and governed by the laws and regulations in force.

 

Article 2.        Objects

 

The Company’s objects are to carry out, on its own behalf or on behalf of third parties, directly or indirectly, in a joint-venture or association, any activities whose prime or subsidiary objective is financial, industrial, commercial, agricultural or mining, transportation or transit, movable or real property transactions in Thailand and abroad.

 

Article 3.        Company name

 

The Company’s name is: “Aura Solution Company Limited”.

 

 

Article 4.        Duration

 

NO LIMITS

 

 

Article 5.        Registered office

 

The Company’s registered office is located at: 75 Wichit Road Phuket Thailand Website : www.aura.co.th Email : info@aura.co.th Phone : +66 8241 88 111

It may be transferred to any other location in the same département or a neighbouring département by a Managing Partner decision. In this case, Managing Partner shall be authorised to amend the Memorandum and Articles of Association accordingly.

 

Article 6.        Share capital

 

The share capital is fixed at EUR 1,859,095,465,024, divided into 77,877,732,512 shares of the same class with a nominal value of nine thousand euros each.

Any change or redemption of the share capital shall be decided and carried out under statutory conditions and the conditions of this Memorandum and Articles of Association.

 

Article 7.        The Company’s securities

 

Article 7.1      Form

 

The shares and investment certificates rights issued by the Company shall be registered until they are fully paid up, then, at the holder’s discretion, they shall be registered or bearer. The voting right certificates shall be registered.

 

Article 7.2      Identification

 

The Company is authorised to make use at any time of the provisions of laws and regulations relating to the identification of any bearer of securities entitling them to vote, either immediately or in the future, at its General Meetings of Shareholders.

 

Article 7.3      Threshold disclosure

 

Without prejudice to the provisions of the law, any individual or legal entity, acting alone or in concert with others, that holds shares or bearer investment certificates and that comes into possession of a number of shares or voting rights equal to or greater than 1% of the total number of Company shares and investment certificates, or of voting rights in the Company, and each time it crosses a multiple of this threshold in terms of share capital or voting rights, must inform the Company within the timeframe provided for by law, by registered letter with acknowledgement of receipt, stating whether the number of shares, investment certificates or voting rights are or are not held on behalf of, under the control of or in concert with other individuals or legal entities. .

This disclosure obligation shall apply under the same conditions when the portion of the share capital or voting rights held drops below the thresholds mentioned in the previous paragraph.