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“CEOs must have 360-degree responsibility”: Steve Gray, CEO of Nuffield Health

“CEOs must have 360-degree responsibility”

Steve Gray
CEO of Nuffield Health

“You’ve got two types of business leader out there,” says Steve Gray, CEO of Nuffield Health. “Those who lead a business by looking at the future and those who lead a business by looking at the past.”

Gray is discussing what CEOs need to do in order to address a confluence of significant challenges including the pandemic, a scarcity of key skills, growing pressure to address climate change and the evolving expectations of employees, customers and investors.

“You’ve got progressive organisations, and you’ve got incremental organisations. Incremental organisations just keep doing what they’re doing, bound by in-year profitability and seeking incremental growth. And then you’ve got organisations that are really progressive, willing to take bolder steps and a leap of faith. They are usually purpose-led organisations, looking at how the world is changing, what they do and where they make their investments.”

Gray says less progressive organisations will face growing challenges in areas such as employee and customer satisfaction, and the recruitment and retention of key skills if they do not adapt and take bolder, more purposeful steps on issues such as climate change.

Setting meaningful sustainability goals

Gray admits his organisation was one that needed to start making significant steps, rather than iterative improvements.

“If I’m honest, we’ve probably been a little behind the curve, along with the rest of the sector,” says Gray, speaking to PwC for the 25th Annual CEO Survey. “But over the last couple of years we have really stepped up our efforts on sustainability.”

Those steps are based on clearly stated goals, including the intention of reaching carbon net zero by 2030.

“We’ve done an awful lot of work around whether it’s achievable rather than just plucking out a date and a target. But you have to make sure you’ve got goals, they’re real, they’re meaningful, they’re achievable, but they’re also aspirational.

“We’ve worked through exactly what needs to happen. We think it is achievable, but we have to change a number of things and the amount of investment we’re putting into sustainability activities this year is growing significantly.”

All of Nuffield Health’s KPIs, including metrics around sustainability and other purposeful commitments such as social return on investment, are independently audited and published. Gray believes such openness is essential.

“It is vital for organisations to be transparent about their journey to net zero, to ensure the change is meaningful and measurable and to unite the organisation in delivering that change.”

Looking after people

Another area where Gray believes organisations need to look to the future and be prepared to make significant changes is in how they look after their people and how they are responding to the changing expectations of employees for greater flexibility.

“At the start of the pandemic we set ourselves three guiding principles. In order, they were: we must look after our people; we must look after all of our beneficiaries, customers, members, patients; and we must ensure the long-term sustainability of the charity.”

“Those three principles stood us in really good stead,” he says.

“Word has got out there that through the pandemic we looked after our people, whether it was topping up people’s salaries or providing mental health services and support for all of our people.”

Gray cites a recent example of opening a hospital on the St Bartholomew's Hospital campus in London and believes purpose and culture played a significant role in attracting in-demand staff needed for launch.

“We had to recruit a whole team, some clinical, some admin, all different types of roles, who could have pretty much chosen where they went. Many had three or four or five different choices, but when we spoke about why they have come to Nuffield Health, yes there were some pragmatic reasons - ‘you’re in the City of London’ and ‘you’ve got a brand new hospital’ - but there was also ‘you’re a purpose-led organisation’, and they knew of the culture.”

The rise of a purpose-driven CEO

Through the work Nuffield Health does, providing large corporate customers with health, fitness and workplace wellbeing services, Gray sees more organisations investing in the care of their people.

This reflects what Gray believes is an evolution in the role of the CEO and one which is starting to gather momentum as CEOs become more accountable, not just for the financial performance of their organisation but for its purpose, its culture and non-financial outcomes.

“CEOs must have 360-degree responsibility, not just to the board, the shareholders, the City analysts. CEOs have a responsibility to everyone and everything that goes on within an organisation.”

“We are just at the start with this trend. It’s going to grow faster and faster,” he says. “The CEO of the future - in 10 years’ time - will be quite a different animal. They will have had a different career trajectory, with different skills. A lot of really smart people will struggle to be an effective CEO in the future if they don’t have emotional intelligence and understand that 360-degree responsibility.”

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Marco Amitrano

Marco Amitrano

Head of Clients and Markets, PwC United Kingdom

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