Businesses need to foster flexibility to weather challenging times

Rising inflation, increased geopolitical risks and talent shortages all form part of the perfect storm facing business over the next 12 months. Business leaders must maintain a dual focus on short-term priorities to survive, and longer-term priorities to thrive, according to HLB’s annual Survey of Business Leaders 2023. 

This year’s research explored how businesses across the world are grappling with a series of ‘low-probability, high-impact’ events. HLB surveyed 575 business leaders from over 60 countries to understand critical leadership behaviours needed during a crisis, the type of actions CEOs should prioritise for 2023, and the benefits of longer-term thinking for future success.

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Commenting on the findings, Marco Donzelli, HLB’s Global CEO, said: “The pandemic coupled with the knock-on effects of the War in Ukraine has challenged the resilience and agility of companies, with many having to swiftly adapt their strategy, business model and ways of working. What is clear from the research is that stakeholders demand that a company guides the way forward with a flexible mindset based on a clearly defined purpose and a strong emphasis on ESG matters”.

Key findings include:

  • 82% see inflation as the top risk to business with 35% naming talent acquisition as the primary weakness they need to improve this year.
  • Almost half (48%) of business leaders are focusing on operational efficiencies while at the same time investing to innovate and grow.
  • Flexibility is seen as the top leadership behaviour in times of crisis, followed by integrity and accountability.
  • 51% are rethinking their ESG responsibilities but there is still a way to go for business leaders to embrace the opportunities of effective ESG.
  • 52% plan to accelerate new technology adoption to improve workforce productivity.
  • Respondents identified AI (50%), cloud (47%), and renewable energy technologies (40%) as the most important for businesses over the next 5 years.

About HLB
HLB International is a global network of independent advisory and accounting firms. Formed in 1969, we service clients through our member firms in 157 countries, with 38,732 partners and staff in 1,030 offices worldwide. Learn more about us and tell us what matters to you by visiting

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About the research – HLB Survey of Business Leaders 2023
Between September and November 2022, HLB collected 575 survey responses from business leaders across 60 countries and a range of industry backgrounds. Responses were collected via an online survey tool or telephone interview. The research sample was selected and controlled via HLB firms with their CRM data. In addition to the quantitative data, six in- depth expert interviews were conducted via video calls. Download the 2023 report