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Nearly two decades after the COVID-19 epidemic, business leaders now face the Omicron variant’s strong headwinds, continuing pressure on supply chains and the looming threat of a 2022 COVID-19. Resignation of great importanceOvershadowing the labour market. TIME interviewed business leaders across the globe to find out their top tips.To share their expectations and priorities for the coming year.
Albert Bourla, CEO of Pfizer, wants to leverage the advances his pharmaceutical company has made in fighting COVID-19 to tackle other diseases, while Rosalind “Roz” Brewer, CEO of Walgreens Boots Alliance, has made improving access to healthcare one of her goals over the next year. GoFundMe CEO Tim Cadogan says building trust will be at the heart of decision-making at the crowdfunding platform—both with workers and its wider community.
Forerunner Ventures CEO Kirsten Green, and Patrick P. Gelsinger (Intel CEO) are both innovators. And Rothy’s CEO Stephen Hawthornthwaite was joined by Kent Masters Albemarle CEO and Gene Seroka executive director of Port of Los Angeles. They shared their thoughts on how policymakers and companies can address the persistent problems in supply chains.
Continue reading to find out how the top business leaders see the next year.
These answers were condensed for clarity.
Which are your biggest challenges and opportunities for the coming year?
Albert Bourla, Chief Executive Officer of Pfizer Pfizer, along with others, have made it possible to use scientific breakthroughs over the past year to fight the worst pandemics in human history. But, unfortunately, we don’t see everyone using them. Concerning the lack of infrastructure and resources available in poor countries, I worry about how they manage to provide COVID-19 vaccinations for their citizens. Some countries requested that we suspend our delivery of COVID-19 vaccines, while they tackle these problems. Although I’m proud of Pfizer’s efforts to provide vaccines to countries with low and middle incomes over the last year, there are new opportunities to help the World Health Organization in their work with governments and NGOs to fix these infrastructure problems.
Over the next year I’d like us to help find solutions to issues like the shortage of medical professionals, vaccine hesitancy due to limited educational campaigns, lack of equipment and even roads to allow timely delivery of vaccines. We have all been reminded, throughout this entire pandemic, of the value of innovation and collaboration. These health inequalities must be addressed so people all over the world are not exposed to the virus.
Pat Gelsinger CEO, Intel Throughout the history of technology, we’ve seen the pendulum swinging between centralized and decentralized computing. Edge computing offers tremendous potential as it brings greater intelligence to devices like sensors and cameras, in every aspect of our lives from cars to smart grids to manufacturing. Edge computing will not replace cloud; we’re swinging back to where decentralized compute becomes the primary growth for new workloads because the inference and AI analysis will take place at the edge.
Intel is a leader in technology that can improve every human’s lives. Our goal is to be the leader in every area in which we compete.
Roz Brewer CEO, Walgreens Walgreens was recognized as an important neighborhood destination for helping patients and customers manage their health after the pandemic. Our communities receive essential health care, which includes administering over 50 million COVID-19 vaccinations by December 2021. The opportunity ahead of us at Walgreens Health—our new segment launched this past fall—is to create better outcomes for both consumers and partners, while lowering costs across the care continuum. A year from now I want to look back on this time as an inflection point and a moment in time where real, lasting change happened—that we will all have collectively banded together to get through the pandemic and at the same time delivered real change toward improving accessible and affordable healthcare. I feel inspired and hopeful that some good will come out of this very difficult time in our country and the world’s history.
Tim Cadogan is the CEO of GoFundMe We’re going to see continued disruption in the world and the workplace in 2022—this will require more people to come together to help each other. This is our chance to share and empower others to improve their lives in every aspect. It can be hard to ask for help, but it is worth the effort. Helping each other in any way you can is one of life’s most valuable and fulfilling activities. We are continuously improving our product to make it easier for more people to both ask for and give help, whether it’s helping an individual fulfill a dream, working on a global cause like climate change, or supporting a family during a difficult time.
Kirsten GreForerunner Ventures’ founder and managing partnership, en Nearly two years have passed since the outbreak, but it continues. It is time to embrace the new norm and find ways that we can make this reality work for ourselves, our customers, and our employees. We often witness innovation emerge from these times of uncertainty and change. At the same time, it’s hard to come to terms with the fact that the world has evolved, and it is still important to understand that the ‘reset’ button just got hit for a lot of people. We as society must reevaluate and rebuild our core values, goals and core needs.
Gene Seroka is executive director of Port of Los Angeles Our industry is required to support the American recovery from the COVID-19 epidemic. Moving goods to American customers and creating more flexible supply chains are the top priorities. The trade imbalance is also a problem. While imports remain at an all-time high, U.S. trade has fallen nearly 40% in the last three years. American farmers and manufacturers must be supported. Products to international markets. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was passed by our team. We are now working to obtain our fair share to speed up projects that improve railway infrastructure, local highways, and support facilities. The Port of Los Angeles is the nation’s primary trade gateway, yet east and gulf coast ports have received most of the federal funding in the past decade. Los Angeles has the highest return on investment in port infrastructure, as the cargo we move reaches every part of the country.
Kent Masters is the CEO of Albemarle Challenges will likely continue to include competition for top talent, supply chain disruptions due to possible pandemic impacts to raw material availability and logistics, and potential inflation impacts to material and freight costs, all of which we’re monitoring closely so we can respond quickly.
We have a great opportunity in the years ahead, as the global EV market is growing quickly. Next year, we’ll advance our lithium business through new capacity ramp-ups in Chile, Australia and China, and restart The MARBL Lithium Wodgina Australia has a large hard rock resource that can be used to supply our conversion assets with the right resources. We’re also keenly focused on organizational goal alignment and continuous improvement to drive greater productivity through our global workforce next year.
Do you think supply chains will change in 2022, or what do they expect?
Gelsinger: The unprecedented global demand for semiconductors—combined with the impact of the global pandemic—has led to an industry-wide shortage, which is impacting technology providers across the industry. Intel has been aggressive in addressing these issues to build more supply capacity across the globe. This will allow for more stable and balanced supplies. But it will take some time and strong partnerships between public and private sectors to reach this goal.
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Brewer: The past two years have taught us a lot and many companies are making investments to increase their capacity, resilience and agility in supply chain management around the globe. We’ll continue to find creative solutions for increasing our manufacturing and shipping capabilities. To reduce dependence on single suppliers, manufacturers will keep expanding their capacity and diversifying their supplier base. To increase resilience, companies will invest in expanded inventories, longer planning periods and lead-times as well as increased manufacturing and logistic capabilities. We must adapt to changes in the market and be flexible. Investments in technology, such as real time supply chain visibility and predictive/prescriptive analytics, will enable companies to deliver the speed and precision expected by today’s consumer.
Seroka: The products and goods that are sold will reach the market. The maritime logistics industry needs to raise standards in order to provide better service for our export and import customers. The second quarter will see retailers replenish their inventory. And by summer, several months earlier than usual, we’ll see savvy retailers bringing in products for back to school, fall fashion and the winter holidays. Retail sales reached new heights in 2021, despite the difficulties.
Supply chain partners must work together to increase fluidity, reliability and collaboration.
Stephen Hawthornthwaite, CEO of Rothy’s: Consumer pressure for transparency in manufacturing will drive businesses to reduce their supply chains, and make it more efficient, according to pandemic knowledges. I also predict that more brands will test make-to-demand models to better weather demand volatility and avoid supply surpluses—a benefit for businesses, consumers and the planet. For brands that wish to respond to post-pandemic demands, innovation and flexibility will be key. At Rothy’s, we’ve built a vertically integrated model and wholly-owned factory, enabling us to better navigate the challenges that production and logistics present and unlock the full potential of sustainability and circularity.
Green: The pandemic crystallized what a lot of us knew to be true, but hadn’t yet evaluated: There’s not nearly as much innovation in the supply chain as a flexible world is going to need. What we’re seeing now is a giant wake-up call to the entire commerce ecosystem. This is more than a rallying cry; it’s a mandate to reevaluate how we’re managing our production processes, and 2022 will be the start of change. You can expect a major overhaul to the system and more investments in innovation, efficiency and sustainability within the supply chain.
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Masters: We expect that global supply chain problems will continue to exist in 2022 as the pandemic spreads with new versions. It is still unknown how much, but I expect some impacts on raw materials and freight costs as well as energy prices. We are able to fulfill our customers’ obligations because we have a vertically integrated capability. This is a good thing. Our ability to integrate vertically allows us to continue being a reliable source for lithium as well as bromine. Global logistics are an issue, but they play a marginal role in the supply equation when it comes to the key factor of the ability. ConvertFeedstock is used to produce and strengthen the supply chain. Our active lithium conversion units are currently at their full potential. We are adding more capacity (La Negra III/IV and Kemerton I/II), Silver Peak expansion and our TianyuanIt will strengthen the global supply chain by allowing for more efficient utilization of feedstocks and acquisition in China.
Which changes are expected in the future and how does the labor market develop?
Brewer: In 2022, the labor market will remain competitive. I often say to my team: as an employer, it’s not about the products we make, it’s not about our brand. It’s about how are we going to motivate team members to feel good about themselves, fulfilled and passionate about their work, to contribute at their highest level of performance. How do we create a culture that means Walgreens Boots Alliance is the best place to work—so our team members say, “Yes, pay me for the work that I do, but help me love my job.”We will observe that in the next year, and throughout the entire market, managers will be more compassionate and will listen to team members more attentively. The workers will come to expect their bosses and employers to accept them as they are, professionally and personally.
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Gelsinger: Our employees are our future and our most important asset, and we’ve already announced a significant investment in our people for next year. As I’ve said, sometimes it takes a decade to make a week of progress; sometimes a week gives you a decade of progress. When I think about 2022 and navigate a company at center of many pandemic related challenges, it is important to carefully evaluate what shifts are taking place as well as what new changes will be. It will continue to be a competitive market and I expect you’ll continue to see companies establish unique benefits and incentives to attract and retain talent. We expect the “hybrid” mode that’s developed over the past years to become the standard working model going forward.
Bourla: Our workforce has been challenged in unexpected ways over the past two years. Companies have asked employees to demonstrate exceptional flexibility, commitment, courage and ingenuity over the past two years—and they have risen to the challenge. I predict that we are likely to see an increase in salaries in the coming year due to inflation—and I believe this is a good thing for workers, as it will help close the gap in income inequality. However, employees are not satisfied with just financial benefits.
More people are seeking to work in a company that has a clear culture and serves a specific purpose. Companies will have to create a work environment where employees are valued and respected for what they do. They also need to promote the company’s purpose. Companies that can create this culture not only attract top talent but maximize engagement, creativity, and productivity by giving their employees the opportunity to be their best.
Green: For many years, Forerunner has been saying, “It’s good to be a consumer. Consumers want what they want, when they want it, how they want it, and they’re getting it.” That same evolution of thought has now moved into the labor market: It’s a worker’s market, not a company’s market, and the relationship between the worker and the employer needs to evolve because of that. Workers should expect to get more flexibility, respect, benefits, and pay in some cases—but they still need to show up and deliver impact at work. It’s a two-way street, and we need to tap into a broader cultural work ethic. We as a society need to think holistically about meeting the needs of both workers and companies.
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Seroka: There’s a need for more truck drivers and warehouse workers in southern California. President Biden’s new Trucking Action Plan funds trucker apprentice programs and recruit U.S. military veterans. It’s an important step forward to attract, recruit and retain workers. The private sector should look into improving compensation and benefits both for truckers as well as warehouse workers. workers. These jobs need pride and professionalism. On the docks, the contract between longshore workers and the employer’s association expires June 30. Each side will work hard to reach an agreement with the other. This would benefit both the worker and employer, and keep cargo moving for the American economy.
Masters: It is likely that there will continue to be competition for talent in the next year. It’s a tight labor market overall and Covid-19 restrictions are a challenge in some regions. Albemarle’s growth story is very appealing, particularly for those who are interested in contributing to the clean energy transition and combating climate change. As other companies have done, we are adopting a flexible workplace and updating some benefits in order to be an employer of choice for attracting and keeping the top talent on our journey. And, of course, we should all expect pandemic protocols to continue next year to ensure everyone’s health and safety.
Which role do you foresee your leader’s role evolving in the year ahead?
Bourla: The convergence of biology and technology is bringing us into a new era in scientific discovery. These advances must be used by the industry to bring about disruptive change in how we develop, discover and deliver new medicines to patients. Pfizer’s CEO since then has worked to reinvent the entire process. Pfizer is now more agile and science-driven than ever, with a focus on real breakthroughs in patient care across all six therapeutic areas. In the past few years, we have demonstrated our ability to deliver on this promise of bringing true scientific breakthroughs through our colleagues’ tireless work in COVID-19.
But there is more work to be done to address the unmet need in other disease areas—and now is the time to do it. My leadership team will continue working together to leverage these advances in biology and technology as well as lessons from COVID-19’s vaccine development program. This will allow us to keep pushing this scientific Renaissance forward. We must do this important work for the benefit of patients around the globe who suffer from devastating illnesses that don’t have treatment.
Gelsinger: Digital acceleration is at its fastest rate in human history. We are currently in the middle of a digital Renaissance. There are huge opportunities for us to have a long-lasting impact on the world’s future through technology and innovation. Humans create technology to define what’s possible. We ask “if” something can be done, we understand “why,” then we ask “how.” In 2022, I must inspire and ensure our global team of over 110,000 executes and continues to drive forward innovation and leadership on our mission to enrich the lives of every person on earth.
Brewer: My purpose has been the driving force of my career to this point. Walgreens Boots Alliance was my first choice for CEO. It offered me a unique opportunity to stop the pandemic in its wake and to help rebuild local health and wellness. Seven months later, we launched the company’s new purpose, vision, values and strategic priorities. My role as CEO now and in 2022 is to lead with our company’s purpose—more joyful lives through better health—at the center of all we do for our customers, patients and team members. I’m particularly focused on affordable, accessible healthcare for all, including in traditionally medically underserved communities. All communities need equal access to healthcare. Healthcare is an intrinsically local issue.
Cadogan: In the last two years, a pandemic in Asia and other social and political issues dominated. This will be reflected into 2022. In this uncertain and new environment, leaders will have to be able to offer value to customers while also helping their employees navigate the increasingly complicated world. Trust will be at the center of every decision we make around product development and platform policies—do the decisions we are making align with our mission to help people help each other and do they build trust with our community and our employees?
Green: All of life is moving faster than ever before. Leadership requires that you have a set of consistent values, but also be open to opportunities. Arguably, the pandemic has been the most disruptive time in decades—a generational disruption on par with the Depression or WWII. People’s North Stars are in the process of transforming, and leaders need to figure out what that means for their companies, their cultures, and their work processes. What does it take for leaders to change their business priorities?
Masters:My style of leadership is dialogue and debate. Teams should be open to new perspectives and be unconventional, as well as actively discussing, making decisions, and acting. I wasn’t sure how well we could do this from a strictly remote work approach during the pandemic, but watching our teams thrive despite the challenge changed my mind.
The people we worked with were flexible and adaptable, allowing us to grow our company. We’ve worked so well that we’re integrating more flexibility into our work environment in 2022. Leaders, including myself, will need to help employees manage their productivity and keep teams focused and engaged with our core objectives. We’re facing rapid growth ahead, so our culture is vital to our success. I’ll continue to encourage our teams to live our values, seek diverse viewpoints, be decisive, and execute critical work to advance our strategy.
Seroka: Overseeing the nation’s busiest container port comes with an outsized responsibility to help our nation—not just the Port of Los Angeles—address the challenges brought about by the unprecedented surge in consumer demand. This means that you must take the initiative on important fronts like digital technology, policy, and operational logistics. Our industry must use data more effectively to increase the predictability and reliability of the supply chain. The policy work will be focused on infrastructure investments, job training, and advocacy for a national trade plan that promotes fair trade and American jobs. Operationally, we’ll look for new ways to improve cargo velocity and efficiency.