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Convergence, globalisation and digitisation are disrupting and redefining business, government and society. For many industries, uncertain economic and geopolitical conditions have brought increased regulatory interventions and a fluid policy environment that can, with little notice, impact an organisation’s performance.

Government relies on business to support and deliver public policy, and for most businesses – their “licence to operate” depends on their ability to work – and comply – with government. Theirs is a complex dance – which favours those skilled in the art of stakeholder management.

It is therefore unsurprising that one of the most important relationships for our prosperity is between business and government. This is particularly so in highly regulated industries, although all businesses – from our biggest employers, to the corner milk bar – have some level of government interaction.

Trust in our institutions has eroded during the past decade, and CEOs working in sectors that rely on policy stability and consumer trust, have had their leadership tested. The very best CEO will falter if he or she cannot navigate an ambiguous public policy environment and negotiate with an everbroadening field of government stakeholders.

Increasingly, Korn Ferry’s work with boards, CEOs and C-suite leaders is informed by the need for an organisation’s most senior executives to understand, engage with and respond to government as a key stakeholder. This emphasis on government relations expertise at the top planted the seed for this report and a deeper interrogation of the sometimes fraught relationship between business and government.

How can our business leaders receive the best advice on how to forge a constructive relationship with government? Who better to advise than those with experience on ‘both sides of the fence’ – people who have worked in and with government, either at ministerial or advisor level – and who have also had careers in business? By speaking to former politicians and those whose careers have closely intersected with government in Australia and New Zealand, this report offers advice for business leaders on how they can improve their relationship with government and better serve their company, their industry and their nation. The first step is to recognise that it needs to be done.

This report examines the relationship between these two important institutions. It is a resource for boards, CEOs, executive teams, and government affairs practitioners. Those serving in government will also be interested in views captured in this report.

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