Key Takeaways from the 2019 Worldcom Confidence Index Report

Published on 11th November 2019

The 2019 Confidence Index report is here, and the results are striking: The confidence of global business leaders plummeted in 2019.

The report includes an analysis of online content from more than 58,000 chief executive and chief marketing officers from 15 countries. Using AI technology, researchers were able to examine data directly produced by business leaders, showing how their opinions and intentions have changed over time.

Overall, confidence amongst global CEOs and CMOs is down more than 20 percent, with the most significant decline in the United States (51 percent) and China (21 percent). Japan bucked the trend, moving from last to first in the Confidence Index, with a rise of 74 percent.

“High levels of uncertainty globally, including talk of trade wars between the United States and China, have not helped assuage the fears of business leaders, and our research shows that global trade agreements and tariffs are undermining confidence,” said Roger Hurni, chairman of the Worldcom Public Relations Group. “Since our last Confidence Index in 2018, leaders have also encountered Brexit, protests in Hong Kong, the proliferation of global warming, famine, and the re-emergence of diseases such as measles. This combination of factors may help explain why confidence levels have fallen so dramatically over the past year.”

Along with global confidence, the report measures the importance of reaching specific audiences and the confidence levels that C-suite executives have in reaching those audiences. In 2018, CEOs were most concerned with reaching customers, but respondents in the 2019 research report are most concerned with influencers, which grew 160 percent from 2018 to 2019, followed by customers and employees.

“Influencers were an audience in decline in 2018 but leaped to the front of the pack in this year’s report,” said Hurni. “The growth of this audience could suggest that leaders feel they need the support of influencers to help them navigate their way through turbulent times.”

However, CEO confidence in reaching influencers remains quite low. Leaders are more confident in their abilities to reach shareholders, customers, suppliers, and even government officials.

Groundbreaking AI Research Methodology

This year, Worldcom engaged Advanced Symbolics Inc., a market research firm that uses artificial intelligence to track and interpret publicly available social media content. Their patented research method builds representative samples and then captures information with their AI tool.

“We are delighted to be the first organization to use AI in this way and on this scale,” said Hurni. “It’s further proof of the way Worldcom partners around the world use innovative solutions to deliver immediate results and lasting solutions for clients. We chose ASI’s approach because it’s proven to be incredibly accurate. Only last month, they were the only research firm to accurately predict the outcome of the Canadian elections by using their AI tool. We will be adding to this research over the coming months to deliver invaluable insight to our clients in particular and business leaders in general.”

Upskilling Now a Major Focus in Battle for Employee Engagement and Retention 

Another issue CEOs and CMOs are managing is the retention of current employees. Leaders have low confidence in their abilities to retain talent. Firms in the United Kingdom and the United States rank last and second-to-last respectively, in their confidence to retain employees.

Employee retention is just one of five employee-related issues that feature in the top six topics discussed globally. Economic migration is a cause for concern globally – most notably in the U.S., which had the lowest Confidence Index score. The number one topic aired by leaders is upskilling and reskilling employees. The U.K. had the lowest score for this topic, and Japan the highest. Improving skills is just one of many areas leaders are exploring to keep employees loyal and engaged.

“Just like last year, what is keeping CEOs up at night is retaining top talent. This year they also want to ensure employees have the right skills in an evolving and dynamic workplace,” said Hurni. “What’s also clear from the report is that employment benefits need to be a part of a retention and attraction strategy.”

The Worldcom Confidence 10

The Worldcom Confidence Index highlights concerns/confidence across 23 topics and six audiences. We have outlined the top 10 findings in what we call, “The Worldcom Confidence 10.”

  1. Confidence levels implode – down 21 percent

The United States is the biggest faller (down 51 percent) and Japan the biggest riser

  1. Influencers become #1 audience for leader attention

Despite earning the highest level of attention, influencers have the second-lowest Confidence Index score amongst leaders. The impact and role of the media has the lowest CI score.

  1. Employee related topics dominate leaders’ agenda

Overall, employee-related topics take five out of the top six topic places, with upskilling and reskilling the most discussed topics. Additionally, the Worldcom Confidence Index score for employees is the lowest of all audiences.

  1. Leaders have concerns about their corporate image and brand reputation

More specifically, their ability to protect it during a crisis.

  1. Global trade agreements and tariffs undermine confidence

  2. Confidence declines in the ability to satisfy customers

This finding is especially in the U.S. but remains higher than other business topics.

  1. Global events trigger varying reactions

Global Worldcom Confidence Index scores show that events that affect us all, like global warming, trigger very different reactions in our leaders.

  1. Government and legislators getting much more attention

Changes amongst these entities are a cause for concern for leaders.

  1. A marked shift in attitude to the impact of the way political leaders communicate on social media

  2. Cybercrime no longer a global cause for concern

However, this topic remains a big issue for South American leaders.

The full report and other media assets can be downloaded here.

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