The World Economic Forum meeting in Davos has been perceived as a playground for the world’s business elite to strike business deals and schmooze with the great and the good behind closed doors in an exclusive Swiss ski resort. But social media, a culture of transparency and closer financial scrutiny after the recession have changed all that.
While the night before Davos still saw a sky buzzing with private jets and helicopters, WEF 2016 did demonstrate a change in focus, with the role of business in society top of the agenda. The positive correlation between doing well and doing good was clear to see, where businesses with a genuine perspective on global issues scored the best speaking opportunities, highest value coverage and greatest share of social media.
Davos themes typically set the stage for the year ahead. On that basis the topics organisations will need to have a point of view on in 2016 are:
Youth unemployment topped the charts as one of the key WEF issues in 2015. This discussion is still there, but the focus has changed. Organisations including Deloitte, JPMorgan, Bank of America and Coca Cola all shared their challenges and potential solutions to engaging a demographic that represents a growing proportion of their employees, consumers and customers. As communicators, we need to be asking ourselves how we can develop a unique perspective to attract millennial talent and appeal to millennial purchasers.
The issue of achieving gender parity in the workplace took centre stage at the congress on Friday. ManpowerGroup’s Chairman & CEO Jonas Prising shared the stage with Sheryl Sandberg, Melinda Gates and Justin Troudeau to offer his company’s perspective and share recent research. Gender has moved from a topic discussed by small groups in the hotels surrounding the conference centre to a key feature on the WEF agenda. The number of women at Davos is still low at just 18% (sadly representative of women in senior business roles), but businesses do at least now seem to appreciate the case for change, not least the evidence that businesses with more women leaders perform better. What’s your position on accelerating equality?
The influx of migrants into Europe presents one of the greatest social crises the region has ever seen. A Davos exhibition, The Day in the Life of a Refugee, moved many visitors to tears. Businesses are stepping in to offer their support too – Ikea Foundation, MasterCard, LinkedIn, UPS Foundation and Western Union to name a few. Businesses have a duty to help, and communicators have a role to play in shaping and sharing the how and why.
Are robots taking our jobs? When will we see killer robots? How do we protect data? These and similar questions being asked in Davos left no doubt that businesses are still looking to learn from start ups and Silicon Valley success stories when it comes to speed of growth, agility and market share. But there was caution too. Sharing insights on how the digital revolution will transform the future of your business, and the lives of your customers, will continue to appeal to opinion formers and influencers in 2016.
Photo credit: Crossroads Foundation