This is what businesses need to be focusing on in 2024, according to top leaders

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See how your priorities align with these top leaders. Image: Unsplash/Pedro Lastra

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  • The World Economic Forum’s Meet the Leader podcast spoke to the heads of several top companies about their priorities for 2024.
  • Questions included: where do you see yourself and your team a year from now? and what impacts will small decisions now have in 5 to 10 years?
  • Here are some of the tips and insights shared, such as taking time out to plan, spending at least some of your budget on experimentation and offering flexibility to your workers.

If you’re a leader, setting priorities for 2024 will anchor your direction of travel, but in a constantly shifting landscape, knowing where to start can be challenging.

During this episode of the World Economic Forum’s Meet the Leader podcast, Linda Lacina, Digital Editor, asked the heads of several top companies what they will be focusing on in the months ahead.


Who do you want to be 10 years from now?

Sander van 't Noordende, Chief Executive Officer of Randstad, a global recruitment firm based in the Netherlands, says taking time out to plan is vital.

“A very important habit that I have is taking some time for myself,” he says. “Taking a blank sheet of paper. What do we need to do as an organization in the next three, six, nine months? Or maybe in the next two to three years?”

Write this down and then consult with your team about what's next on the agenda and what the business needs to do now, he suggests.

Knowing who you want to be as a business five to 10 years down the line is also really important to set the overall vision.

You can then “complement this with specific strategies for your customers, for your talents, for how you deliver, for your technology, and for how you want to shape your own team”, van 't Noordende adds.


How much of your budget are you allocating to experimentation?

About 10% of your budget should be dedicated to experimentation, says Fidelma Russo, Chief Technology Officer at IT company Hewlett Packard Enterprise.

“That seems like a lot,” Russo admits. “But there's always money in everybody's budget that's being spent on what I would call sedimentation, you know, down at the bottom.”

One question she would encourage every leader to ask, is: How do I find that money?

“Because if you don't find that money and use it to do things that may be a little bit of a moonshot or a little bit of a crazy idea, then you're not allowing your team to think outside the box enough – and you're going to miss an opportunity,” Russo adds.


What is the Forum doing about keeping workers well?

What big impacts could come from small choices now?

Daphne Koller is the Founder of Insitro, a drug discovery and development company that uses machine learning. She says current technological advances present huge opportunities – and these have to be thought through carefully, including the potential of secondary consequences down the line.

Koller describes 2023 as an “amazing inflection point” in humanity’s technological journey.

“At a time like this where you are on this exponential curve, small actions can have large downstream consequences because they get amplified over time,” she says.

“So I would encourage people to be really thoughtful in how they're deploying technology, to optimize it for the maximum benefit to humanity.”

Petra Jenner, the senior vice president and general manager for big data specialist Splunk, agrees, advising businesses to be explicit about their use of these technologies from the earliest stage.

“This has to happen now, because the further we emerge and leverage these technologies, it is probably too late to do this afterwards. So we have to think, how does an organization leverage these technologies and set boundaries and also clear rules and guiding principles?” she says.

Human-machine frontier
Technology is shaping how business leaders plan for the future. Image: World Economic Forum

Choose to look at issues as a whole, not in isolation

Leaders also need to consider how different issues cross over each other, Olajumoke Adekeye, Founder of the Young Business Agency, a youth employment accelerator in Nigeria, pointed out.

“There are so many projects, initiatives, coalitions, commitments that are being made. It's going to be important to centre that on human beings. Because when we think about the statistics and numbers, we can lose sight of the importance of health or well-being.

“Second to that would be recognizing the impact these different initiatives have on climate and the intersection of climate and health and environments. It's going to be very important for us to not just focus solely on the singular issues we're trying to tackle, but to recognize the intersectionality of all these issues that centre around progress for humanity.”

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How are you strengthening trust?

Valuing workers who have families by offering flexible working is essential, says Reshma Saujani, Founder of Moms First, a movement to get paid leave for childcare in as many places as possible.

“The thing that families are going to care about, especially this millennial generation, is how you treat their families,” Saujani says. “Valuing me means valuing my family and my family responsibilities, and not forcing me to choose between those identities.”

This means recognizing there are life moments when people need flexibility, for example, to care for a sick child.

Christy Hoffman is the General Secretary of UNI Global Union, a global network of unions in 150 countries. She believes employers can strengthen trust by considering the impact of new technologies such as generative artificial intelligence on their workers.

“When employers want to implement new technologies, there's a whole suite of digital impacts that workers are experiencing,” Hoffman explains. “[Employers] need to sit down and negotiate with unions on how they can do that in a way that benefits everyone.

“We need discussion about what the impacts are, whether it's health and safety or job security, or any other range of things so that we can work together to implement AI sustainably, but also in a way that benefits both [employers and workers].”

Keep to your word

Technology brings positives, but can also erode trust if not used properly, according to Jagan Chapagain, Chief Executive Officer and Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. This is a humanitarian network with almost 17 million volunteers in 191 countries.

He believes lack of trust has been an underlying issue in many crises the world is facing: “Building trust means doing what you say and saying what you mean. And if enough leaders do that, [we can start to] recreate trust in the world.”

This fundamental level of trust needs to be in place before practical solutions to problems can work, Chapagain concludes.

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