Inflation is a fast-growing worry among CEOs. A survey of 900 CEOs and nearly 700 other C-suite executives in North America, Latin America, Asia and Europe by The Conference Board, found it ranked at No. 2 on their list of concerns—behind only the pandemic. At the beginning of 2021, it was No. 22. The survey also found that most CEOs (55%) expect that inflation will stick around for a while, lasting into 2023 or longer.

“Less than 40% of CEOs believe their organization is well prepared for an inflation-related crisis,” says Dana Peterson, chief economist at The Conference Board. “Many are running organizations with workforces that have never experienced inflation’s broad influence on operations and, above all, on wages. It’s why they’re prioritizing strategies like agile teamwork to move their organizations up the learning curve.”

Another big shift The Conference Board’s latest survey identified is in regard to remote work. Now, a third of CEOs globally expect a remote-heavy workforce after the pandemic subsides, nearly double the percentage of CEOs who said they had remote workforces in 2019. CEOs in the United States (53%) are the most likely to expect remote-heavy workforces post-pandemic.

U.S. CEOs identified labor shortages as the No. 1 external threat to their businesses in 2022. Globally, it ranks at No. 3, falling behind rising inflation and COVID-19 disruptions. CEOs in all regions ranked attracting and retaining talent as their top focus for 2022. While a large share of CEOs expect remote work to be part of the landscape going forward, they are not blind to its detriments. While more CEOs expect productivity to increase than decrease in a hybrid model, a large share (46%) of CEOs expect to corporate culture to suffer—more so in the U.S., where 51% of CEOs have this expectation.

“Sixty-one percent of CEOs globally believe a significant shift in corporate culture will be required for hybrid work to be successful,” says Rebecca Ray, Ph.D., executive vice president, human capital, at The Conference Board. “To develop and sustain a thriving corporate culture—an environment in which companies attract and retain talent—organizations must prioritize aligning employees to the company’s mission and purpose. Ask for their help in building the future, encourage a ‘speak up’ culture, and develop empathetic managers who ensure that all employees, regardless of where or how they work, have opportunities for growth and impact. Companies can also offer, where possible, greater flexibility.

“At a time when not all staff are in the office, taking and communicating these steps can be all the more challenging, but absolutely critical to maintaining an inclusive culture that allows for productivity and engagement.”

Globally, No. 2 on CEOs list of internal challenges and plans for 2022 is to accelerate the pace of digital transformation. This slips to No. 8 among U.S. and Chinese CEOs but rises to No. 2 among CEOs in Europe and No. 3 in Japan.

“COVID-19 drove a decade’s worth of digital transformation,” says Ataman Ozyildirim, Ph.D., senior director of economics at The Conference Board. “The stepped-up pace will continue in 2022: CEOs globally say it’s their second-highest priority among the issues within their control. Leaders recognize that investment in technology is only a piece of the digital transformation puzzle. Indeed, executives around the world cite talent as their top focus.”

Paul Washington, executive director of the ESG Center at The Conference Board, says, “Both public and private companies are grappling with tectonic shifts in the business landscape. These include a greater focus on sustainability—ranked as the seventh internal priority of CEOs globally—and evolving stakeholder expectations about a company’s role in society—ranked as the 11th external pressure facing U.S. CEOs. CEOs across the globe need to have candid and ongoing discussions with their boards and C-suite colleagues about what these changes mean for their business strategy, operations, talent and governance—not just to reduce risk, but to create and seize growth opportunities.”