Employees losing confidence in leaders throughout coronavirus pandemic

Employee confidence in coronavirus-related decision making is taking a huge hit, according to a new survey by engagement tech firm Culture Amp.

In mid-May, 59% of 11,000 respondents saw a decrease in the number of employees agreeing that their leaders were making effective decisions in the crisis.

Compared to the result of the same survey taken at the start of the pandemic in mid-March, this proportion represented an average decrease of nine percentage points.

Leader visibility was also shown to be in decline, with 57% of companies observing a fall in the number of employees agreeing that their leaders are appropriately available when compared to responses in March.

For Nick Matthews, general manager and vice president and Culture Amp EMEA, the findings suggest that some leaders may be losing focus as pandemic restrictions run on.

He said: “After such an intense few weeks and months, leaders may be tempted to take their foot off the gas as workplaces settle into something approaching a new normal.

“However, what is required is the exact opposite. This is the time for leadership to increase their focus and strategic nature of their communications and people strategies.”

But not every business has found this to be the case.

Sharon Blore-Rimmer is head of human resources at supply chain specialist Czarnikow Group.

By contrast to Culture Amp’s findings, she told HR magazine: “We have seen access to leaders increase rather than be diminished since the start of the pandemic.”

“In particular, the introduction across the company of Microsoft Teams has made everyone very accessible. We also have All Hands meetings, which has enabled everyone to have time with the directors. In addition, we have enhanced our new joiner welcome and each starter has received a personal call from its CEO Robin Cave.”

Dean Corbett, chief people officer at L&D provider Avado agreed, saying that: "Our qualitative feedback suggests our people are very satisfied with the level of transparency, frequency of leadership communications, and how we have pivoted the organisation. This direct feedback informs us that we are taking the right actions, but we’re also focusing on what more we can do to meet the human needs of our people (examples include where we work, the hours we work and the ways we work going forward.)

"It is imperative that the sense of belonging our people enjoyed when we were office-based is recreated in a virtual workspace, as well as how we manage performance, personal growth and development."

And there are plenty of cases of leaders trying new ideas throughout the pandemic.

DHL Supply Chain for example has employed a dedicated HR Taskforce to deal with coronavirus queries and made efforts to roll out its internal communications app.

For Hertfordshire County Council, clear comms have been the key to its approach to the crisis, helping employees to feel supported and connected.

Culture Amp’s survey also found that in comparison to March, May had seen a dip in the number of employees feeling that they are being treated fairly by their colleagues. Fifty-three per cent of the respondents noted this decline, indicating that some frustration may be setting in.

This followed CIPD research which found an average of four in 10 people were anxious about returning to work following the crisis, so it’s clear that some trust will have to be rebuilt.

“Without the support of an enthusiastic and engaged workforce behind them, senior executives will find it more difficult to enact any strategic pivots or launch innovative initiatives to support their organisation through the post-COVID landscape,” Matthews added.

“It’s crucial for company bosses to find ways to foster and strengthen connections with their workers, whether they are returning to the workplace or still working at home, since that requirement won’t happen as naturally or effectively as it did when employees were co-located previously.”