The Biggest Challenges Executives Will Face in 2019


We’re already most of a month into the new year, and by this time, the afterglow of optimism that accompanies resolutions is starting to fade. Reality is starting to set in.

Here’s the truth: 2019 can be a great year – but there are going to be challenges. 

Here are the three biggest ones that executives will need to overcome in order to thrive this year. 

1. A talent shortage

I’ve heard this echoed across a few industries: there’s a lack of high-level talent available right now, and that makes finding leaders and building teams hard. There are a few factors contributing to the situation.

First, baby boomers are hitting retirement age in waves; by some estimates, 10,000 boomers are retiring per day. Given that Baby Boomers outnumber Gen Xers by about 8 million, there’s a shortage of experienced talent to fill in the gaps behind them. 

Second, the unemployment rate has remained low (3.9% in December 2018), which fairly directly correlates to a talent shortage as there are simply fewer people to choose from. 

Here’s how this will play out in 2019:

Leaders will face increased difficulty in retaining teams full of top talent. A-players and B-players are always in high demand; when there’s a talent shortage, demand increases. That means more organizations will be competing for the top players by offering better positions and more benefits. Your best people may be willing to move out of good situations for offers they feel they can’t refuse.

Competitive packages will be important, but good leadership will be even more so. To weather the talent shortage, leaders will need to build a culture that entices A-players to stay. 

Organizations will face increased difficulty in acquiring great leaders. Again, great leaders are in higher demand this year. Competition for leadership talent will be fiercer than ever, and it will probably lead to more executive turnover (and assimilations) than in most years.

2. Mergers and acquisitions will keep speeding up.

2018 was the biggest year on record for mergers and acquisitions, with $3.3 trillion in deals reported over the first three quarters of the year. That trend only seems poised to continue into 2019.

The results: more frequent deals, a faster-than-ever process for assimilating company cultures, and more challenges than ever for executives in managing it all. 

Assimilating a new executive is a challenge, but assimilating an entire organization is even more complex.

A few words of wisdom here from an executive coaching perspective:

When considering a merger or acquisition, pay as much attention to the cultural compatibility of the prospective company as you do to its financials. Cultural impacts are almost always underestimated in these deals, and as a result, financial performance often suffers.

Focus on building a strong internal culture before acquiring. The companies that have the most success in adding resources are the ones that are built on a strong foundation.

3. The pace of technological change will keep speeding up, too.

Finally, executives will be challenged to keep pace with increasing technological changes in 2019.

Because many technological advancements increase on an exponential growth curve (see: Moore’s Law), each year promises a faster rate of change. Businesses and people don’t exist on the same curve, though – and that disconnect can be difficult to manage.

While the problem is a large one with varied ramifications in different contexts, one way to bridge the gap is to incorporate shorter feedback loops into employee engagement metrics. For example, we partner with Emplify, a solution that enables something closer to real-time monitoring of leaders, teams, and people, so that as environments change more quickly businesses can maintain an accurate perspective. 

Across organizational activities, executives will need to incorporate shorter feedback loops to ensure the pace of change doesn’t leave their companies in the dust.

Position Executives to Thrive in 2019

2019 will bring an abundance of new challenges and opportunities, and executives will play crucial roles in determining how well organizations are able to adapt and succeed.

Want to position your executives for the best chance at thriving in 2019 – and make it a great year? Executive coaching can help.

We’ve helped to position hundreds of executives for success at organizations across industries from Fortune 100 companies to rapid-growth startups. Each year brings new challenges, but coaching can equip executives with the tools to overcome them.

If you’re ready for a new approach this year, let’s talk.