– 27% leap in the number of CEOs who consider a focus on company culture as ‘vital’.
– One in 20 CEOs admit their company culture ‘hindered’ their response to the pandemic.
– 95% of CEOs plan to increase their focus on leadership effectiveness post-crisis, with ‘empathy, emotion and care for teams’ the key focus.
– Two-thirds of CEOs plan to increase investment in internal communications.
– 91% will increase investment in remote working – but the ‘death of the office’ is overstated.
The COVID-19 crisis will radically reform the way top companies operate, as CEOs review both leadership style and company culture, a new report reveals. The in-depth study from leading consultancy Coode Associates found just 12% of firms ‘thrived’ during the crisis, with 81% admitting to being under severe stress.
A quarter of companies confessed that their internal culture did not provide significant support during the global pandemic, with one in 20 (five per cent) even confessing their company culture was a ‘hindrance’.
The international ‘CEO Culture Barometer’ study quizzed 44 CEOS of leading companies across eight countries and 14 industries, representing a total combined workforce of 250,000 employees. It provides the clearest picture yet of how company culture is changing internationally as a result of the crisis.
The study shows there has been a huge leap in the number of CEOs who now view company culture as integral to their organisation’s success. Whilst 72 per cent of CEOs focused on this area prior to the crisis, the pandemic has resulted in 95 per cent of all CEOs now planning to focus on culture as we emerge from the crisis, an increase of 27 per cent.
Most significantly, 95% of CEOs plan to increase their focus on leadership effectiveness post-crisis, with ‘empathy, emotion and care for teams’ the key focus.
Charlie Coode, from Coode Associates said: “For leaders, being empathetic whilst at the same time as providing context and clarity is a delicate balancing act that many will be unused to. However, the pandemic has made many top directors realise how vital it is to put the humanity back into leadership.
“Leaders can be both supportive and strong, so it’s hugely encouraging to see so many CEOs recognising the impact this can have, particular at such troubled times. The challenge will be retaining these behaviours as the moment of crisis passes.”
The fall-out from the global pandemic means leaders will also now place an even greater emphasis on communicating with – not just to – their staff. The Culture Barometer revealed two-thirds plan to increase investment in internal communications, over half plan to increase investment in employee wellbeing, and 45% in employee engagement, to create a culture where staff feel valued and ‘looked after’.
Nearly 40% plan to place further emphasis on their organisational purpose and external stakeholder engagement respectively, ensuring consistency of messaging for customers and suppliers within the company ecosystem.
Whilst nine in ten CEOs will increase investment in remote working, many commented that the much-touted ‘death of the office’ remains premature, with many teams still preferring human contact and physically working together for optimum results.
Charlie Coode added: “There’s no doubt that the Covid-19 crisis has presented CEOs with a complex and confusing picture and this will be demanding high levels of flexibility from leaders and their organisations. As we have seen from the report, effective decision-making and prioritisation will be critical for success, particularly with cost challenges. The key will be to invest in the right things, ensuring organisations have an aligned and responsive leadership team, ready to learn from the lessons of the crisis and take the best of their crisis behaviours forward with them.”
Sample verbatim comments in response to the question ‘what have you learnt about your leadership style during the crisis?’ included:
“Being remote is no excuse for being distant.”
“The huge importance of humility, empathy and approachability and how landing tough but honest messages brings a team with you.”
“It is the human side of me that matters most at this time.”
“Authenticity and honesty have never been more important, so never to be afraid to be myself. Don’t hold back. In the past I may have been over-considerate of others’ feelings. That does not help anybody in the long run and this time requires directness and action. You can still be honest and show empathy.”
“The importance of that balance between supporting and directing – and of timing in decisions and communication.”
The survey was issued to Coode’s network of CEOs and remained open from 23rd April to 13th May 2020. The report includes inputs from 44 individual CEOs from 8 countries, across 14 industries.