Magnet CEO and founder Megan Cunningham had a busy itinerary in Davos. She still found time to give us a thorough dispatch of her highlights and action items from the World Economic Forum.
No matter what you think about the annual gathering of world leaders and thinkers in Davos, Switzerland—and strong sentiments were shared this week—there's no denying that important conversations are had on the stages and in the backrooms at this exclusive enclave in the Alps. Because of the players present, these discussions can influence global policies, industry practices, and leadership behaviors.
With real-world implications in mind, Magnet's founder highlighted five areas where the decision-makers at Davos came together to have meaningful conversations that will shape decisions on the ground.
There were many conversations around inclusion, including at the World Woman Agenda house, where Megan Cunningham joined host Adrianne Smith for the Power of Inclusion and Equality Moonshot panel (you can watch it here). Although doors are opening to more POC and women to attend the summit, panelist Claudia Romo Edelman, founder & executive chairwoman of We Are All Human, remarked that it was incumbent on women and minorities to bring their own table to events like WEF. Advocates for inclusion must bring their messages to those with the power, like those changemakers at Davos, to have their stories and missions woven into an international agenda.
This year, Ellis was also issued a white badge, the designation for CEOs and government officials with unlimited access to all Davos sessions and after-hours parties. Cunningham mentions that a paltry number of women and POC receive "white badges," and that the process for being issued one continues to be opaque.
The war in Ukraine is the "only thing that matters" according to Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan CEO, and other leaders who attended Davos. Their message—like Zelenskyy's moving speech to Congress at the start of the year—centered aroundpowerful storytelling that places this foreign conflict at the center of all our lives by depicting its relevance to global security. "Learn from our stories, challenges and lessons," was the rallying cry to the worldwide community.
“We don’t know when the war ends, but Ukraine has to win. I don’t see another choice,” said Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin.
To emphasize the centrality of the issue, on January 18, the day's lineup included Ukrainian First Lady Olena Zelenska in conversation with the WEF’s Mirek Dušek, then German Chancellor Olaf Scholz followed by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
Over video, Zelenskyy asked the world for more munitions. “The supplying of Ukraine with air defense systems must outpace Russia’s next missile attacks," he said to the Davos audience. "The supplies of Western tanks must outpace another invasion of Russian tanks.” A week later the US and Germany committed to send advanced tanks to the country to support their battle with Russia. Coincidence of timing? Probably. World leaders are rarely swayed by the Davos agenda, however, with talks to up the artillery assistance to Ukraine in the works for a year, it didn't hurt to have added eyes and pressure on Germany and the US all at once.
This winter Europe experienced a record heatwave. Ski areas like Davos, Switzerland were exemplary of this extreme weather, and so a fitting location to discuss climate change and global action. Leaders who shared innovative solutions for climate change contextualized it as being "irrelevant" if not adopted globally. A global energy crisis spurred by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine exposed the interconnectedness of energy supply chains. Western sanctions mean Moscow can sell its oil to far fewer places than before. Remaining buyers can purchase it at much lower prices—like India who is buying 33 times as much Russian oil now than last year. Naturally, buying Russian oil fuels Russia's war efforts, so it's a vicious cycle impacting many global policies.
Similar calls for connection addressing the global economy, pandemic prevention measures (vaccine distribution and access to healthcare), and digital transformation shone a light on the impact of globalization as well as solutions being deployed in particular regions that could be embraced by all.
4. RECESSION and THE LABOR MARKET
While there was a lot of conversation around a pending recession, there were many who felt there may not be one in the US in 2023 at all. Nevertheless, no one—especially no one at the World Economic Forum—wants to be caught off guard, so precautionary measures and prudence were the order of the day at Davos.
"The current high inflation, low growth, high debt and high fragmentation environment reduces incentives for the investments needed to get back to growth and raise living standards for the world's most vulnerable," WEF managing director Saadia Zahidi said in a statement that reflected the reverberations of a financial downturn.
And despite a wave of layoffs at the world's largest tech companies, the labor market in the US is still tight enough that a labor shortage is top of mind for all companies. One unique trend mentioned among companies who are cutting jobs is a simultaneous investment in benefits for employees who remained. Mental health support was top among them.
"There’s actually been this great awakening where people are realizing, boards are realizing, 'Wow, the mental health of our workforce is the greatest driver of performance of this organization,' and that’s new," said Alexi Robichaux, BetterUp founder and CEO.
5. HYBRID WORKFORCE
COVID accelerated our digital transformation to a hybrid work environment, forever altering the way we work and live. McKinsey & Company chief people officer Katy George reflected on this at Axios House. "There really is a happy medium in terms of balancing the objectives of flexibility," she said. "COVID accelerated a lot of things, digitization, use of technology, but also workforce expectations in general, including for flexibility of all kinds." Businesses must prioritize and capitalize on this growing trend toward worker choice. "We’re now, as I said, starting to see real data that supports a hybrid model is the best to allow you to develop on those," George said.
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