Digitisation, innovation and labour market are most important strategic themes for CEOs in 2019

Published on 28 March 2019

Outcomes of 2019 Berenschot Strategy Trends survey

The strong economic growth and rapid technological developments in recent years have demanded a lot from Dutch companies and their managers. That is why, in 2019, digitisation, innovation and the labour market form the most important strategic themes in Dutch boardrooms. And that is justified, because investing in people, innovation and technology pays off: companies that do this grow faster and generate higher returns from their new products. These are just a few important outcomes of the 2019 Berenschot Strategy Trends survey, the eleventh edition of the strategic survey by Berenschot advice agency in which 750 organisations took part this time.

In the area of technology, Dutch CEOs expect the greatest impact from big data and data analytics, which is also the reason for them to invest mainly in these technologies. This applies to almost every sector. As well as digitisation and innovation, the employment market this year is - not surprisingly - the third theme that has a high impact on organisations’ strategies. The swift economic growth, combined with demographic developments such as ageing, have resulted in a significant shortage of personnel in almost every sector.

War for talent

The ‘war for talent’ is also in full flow and Dutch companies are noticing this. More and more organisations are trying to differentiate themselves on the labour market with a strong positioning and good employment conditions. Companies are also focusing more on digitisation and innovation in order to resolve the shortage of qualified staff in a smart way. “We see that companies with ‘digital vision’ offer employees the space to experiment with new technologies”, stated Onno Ponfoort – Senior Managing Consultant at Berenschot. The digitisation and application of new technologies also result in a transformation of work. “In the future there will be a greater need for more highly and technologically trained staff. The so-called ‘21st century skills’ are also becoming more important. Employees are increasingly being offered the opportunity to focus on the more complex, creative and customer-oriented activities that deliver more added value.”

Strong riser: sustainability and CSR

Sustainability and corporate social responsibility (CSR) are a fast-growing trend for Dutch companies’ strategic agenda. These themes have developed into topics with an action perspective. “For a long time, sustainability and CSR were seen as something you had to do. Good for public visibility but not anything of strategic value”, explained Bas Trommelen, former consultant at Berenschot. “This has really changed. These days we’re seeing more and more companies that are trying to distinguish themselves from the competition using sustainability.” Almost all respondents (89%) to the 2019 Berenschot Strategy Trends survey, indicated that sustainability and CSR are discussed regularly these days. A considerable increase compared with 2016 (57%) and 2013 (12%). In addition, sustainability and CSR came third this year, after quality and innovation, as the most important part of organisations’ differentiating capability (2016: seventh place).

Over 750 organisations from ten sectors

The Berenschot Strategy Trends survey was carried out for the eleventh time this year. In total 765 respondents participated in the survey. This included entrepreneurs and administrators who are particularly active in the Dutch private sector, but also Executive Board members from the semi-public sector. Together, they represent around 1 million employees in the Netherlands; some 15% of the Dutch professional population. Respondents were divided across seven sectors (Industry, Business Services, Financial Services, Education, Research & Government, Energy & Utilities, Transport & Logistics, Agri & Food, Trade & Retail and Construction). The size of the companies varies from small and medium-sized enterprises (up to 250 employees) to large companies (> 1,000 employees).

Paul Pietersma

Paul Pietersma

Managing director