How well have CEOs performed during the coronavirus pandemic?

And the 10 most common questions staff want their employers to answer.

by Stephen Jones
Last Updated: 27 May 2020

It’s been an incredibly tough couple of months for business leaders around the world.

While a few notable exceptions have attracted headlines for a profiteering or inhumane response to the coronavirus plight, generally UK CEOs have drawn praise in the press for their measured and compassionate response. But what do their employees think?

A new survey published by research and analytics company Karian and Box asked 76,000 employees working for large businesses across banking, financial services, insurance, retail, telecomms, energy, FMCG, manufacturing, energy and mining to rate the performance of their own management team throughout the crisis, and offer insight into their general wellbeing.

While the reality on the ground will differ business to business, it offers a fascinating glimpse into what UK bosses have got right, and where they need to improve.

So how well have CEOs performed?

Generally, staff are satisfied with their company’s response: 68 per cent said they had confidence in their CEO, while 87 per cent believed their boss had kept them well informed as to the impact the pandemic is having on their working lives.

In particular there were three factors likely to influence an employee’s satisfaction. The visibility of the CEO, in that they were seen to care and listen to the concerns of their staff; the level of practical and proactive wellbeing support provided by the organisation; and the extent to which the CEO engaged in community action by donating time and resources to social causes during the pandemic.

Warning signs

While eight in 10 respondents felt that their firm was supporting them generally, there are concerns over the ability of companies to build fit-for-purpose solutions needed to navigate a sustained period of remote working - which could see engagement and wellbeing decline over time.

Already 30 per cent of respondents said they felt vulnerable, while 29 per cent said they were struggling to find a healthy balance between work and home life.

Questions remain over long-term strategy

Respondents were also asked to list the questions they still wanted their leaders to answer.

From the 300,000 collective comments and queries, these were the most common:

1) What are the plans for returning to normal ways of working?
2) Are there future possibilities for working from home?
3) What’s our strategy at this time to deal with coronavirus?
4) Should we be expecting redundancies?
5) How is our business performance being affected by the current situation?
6) Can we have more support while working from home?
7) Can we have more advice for employees with families?
8) Are pay and benefits safe?
9) How can we support colleagues’ wellbeing and mental health?
10) How do we ensure employee safety after lockdown?

“The crisis has created an unprecedented leadership challenge,” says James Tarbit, managing director at Karian and Box.

“While we should definitely acknowledge the work being done to communicate and conduct business remotely, employers need to ensure they keep the needs of their workforce front of mind. By listening to their employees, leaders can ensure their teams enter this next phase focused, energised and determined to help their businesses through the recovery.”

Image credit: shomos uddin via Getty Images

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