July 22, 2021
As increasing numbers of companies offer post-pandemic hybrid working for employees, the challenges it poses to maintaining culture, morale, effective training and staff loyalty have been disclosed in a new survey of senior executives.
The survey was of 504 CEOs or Board members at major UK companies, each with more than 250 employees and annual revenues ranging from £50 million to more than £500 million and in diverse sectors of the economy.
It was commissioned by Definition Group, which sought to understand how businesses will change their communications priorities as a result of their pandemic experience. It was conducted over one week in May by Censuswide, the global research agency.
Although the positive benefits of the new model in terms of a better work-life balance for employees leading to increased productivity are widely recognised, they are almost equally countered by concerns about the potential negative impacts on business performance.
Enhanced internal and external communications to reinforce ‘purpose beyond profit’ within a business are seen as essential in creating an informed, engaged, loyal and productive workforce as well as reinforcing client and customer sentiment in the ‘new world of work.’
Many respondents could see the positives in hybrid working, with 33 percent agreeing that it offers a better work-life balance for staff, leading to increased productivity and 29 percent seeing financial savings through reduced real estate costs as a benefit. However, these were countered by concerns about the adverse impact on productivity by a disengaged workforce (29 percent), greater challenges around training and career progression (29 percent) and a potential to create a two-tier workforce with negative impact on morale (26 percent).
Additionally, 25 percent of respondents envisaged hybrid working resulting in a less loyal workforce posing greater retention challenges and 23 percent foresaw negative impact on creative thinking and problem solving.
Peter Davenport, Senior Strategic Consultant at Definition Group, says: “We are at a watershed moment in business life. The benefits of a strong workplace culture are widely acknowledged but how to maintain that in the ‘new world of work’ in the long term is uncertain. Balancing corporate requirements and employee preference will be a major challenge.”
“Balancing corporate requirements and employee preference will be a major challenge.”
In the survey, overall 92 percent of decision makers, report that communications priorities have changed since the start of the COVID pandemic; 21 percent said that they want to increase the frequency of communication, 18 percent want to increase the use of owned media, 17 percent want to do more social media comms and 14 percent plan to do more PR.
In addition to these changing priorities, respondents believed that communicating their ‘purpose’ as an organisation has become more important now than ever before, with 32 percent making sure their purpose is reflected in all communications activity and 29 percent demonstrating it in practical ways such as supporting charities and community projects. Values and purpose also have a significant impact on people strategies, with 31 percent agreeing it makes their staff proud to work for the business and 28 percent saying it helps with recruitment.
More than 95 percent of respondents to the survey also said that reputation contributes to annual revenue, with 24 percent agreeing their reputation has improved since the pandemic because they have worked harder to engage their employees and customers. 44 percent believe it has improved because they have done more promotion.
Davenport adds: “British businesses have faced their biggest peacetime challenge in coping with the disruptive impacts of the pandemic. For some, the crisis created opportunity; for others, it was a question of simple survival. Communication was at the heart of how organisations engaged with frightened and bewildered staff as well as confused and concerned customers and clients. How well they managed both will impact on their future reputations and fortunes, post-pandemic.”