By David Morel, Founder and CEO, Tiger Recruitment
Business leaders will long be remembered for their response to the coronavirus crisis. Some such as Marriott President and CEO Arne Sorenson will be applauded for their authentic leadership in these challenging times, while others including Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman will be recognised for putting their employees’ job security first. However, according to the latest Edelman Trust Barometer, the majority of leaders might not be remembered quite so favourably; fewer than one in three people questioned (29 percent) think CEOs are doing an outstanding job responding to the demands placed on them by the pandemic.
As lockdown restrictions ease and businesses transition to the next phase in their Covid-19 response, it is important that finance leaders learn from the last few months to help them support their people in the right way. What more should they be doing and where should their focus be? Research from Tiger Recruitment (Tiger) provides some of the answers.
The employee perspective
In April 2020, Tiger polled more than 1,100 employees to find out how they were feeling about the coronavirus crisis, how well they thought their employer had responded and what more they could be doing to support them. Below are three ways they said leaders could improve on their performance going forward:
- Communicate more effectively
When asked what their employer could have done better to support them during the pandemic, employees were most likely to say that internal communications could have been improved.
Now more than ever, businesses need to provide clear and authentic communications to demystify the situation for employees and reassure them.
Crucially, this communication should come from the top. As Paul Argenti, a professor of corporate communication at Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business, writes in Harvard Business Review, “In my study of crisis communication after 9/11, many employees described how important it was to hear the voice of the leader, whether live or through email, phone messages, or social media.”
Given the uncertainty and fast-moving nature of our current situation, communication should be regular. Edelman’s Trust Barometer found that 63% of employees are looking to their employers for daily updates on the virus. As for communication channels, employees say they prefer to receive information via email or newsletter (48 percent), posts on the company website (33 percent) and phone/video conferences (23 percent).
- Provide better support for remote working
As a result of the coronavirus crisis, remote working has gained widespread acceptance from employees and employers alike. With social distancing measures still in place, many financial institutions say that staff will be able to continue working from home for the time being – some even see home working as an integral part of their future.
Royal Bank of Scotland says that more than three quarters of its staff will continue working from home until at least the end of September, while Mastercard has told staff they can work from home until they’re ready to return. Barclays’ boss Jes Staley has gone a step further in suggesting that remote working is the shape of things to come.
However, employees surveyed by Tiger say they need more support in certain areas to be able to keep working from home effectively.
Close to a third (29%) said that they didn’t have a dedicated workspace at home, while over a quarter (27%) felt that their employer could provide more technical and ergonomic support.
As home working becomes more of a fixture, finance leaders should commit resources to ensure that their people have the set-up and infrastructure they need. This will enable employees to uphold professional standards and work productively, from wherever they are.
- Invest in employee mental wellbeing and mental health
Despite 95% of employees saying that they see clear benefits in working from home, there are signs that their mental health and wellbeing could be suffering.
Many financial services professionals are working longer hours during the crisis and may be feeling more anxious than usual due to concerns about their job security and the prospect of returning to the office. This stress is no doubt exacerbated by being physically separated from colleagues and friends.
Certainly, employees find the current lack of social interaction a challenge – more than half of those (55%) surveyed by Tiger said it was the most difficult aspect of working from home.
Almost a quarter of employees (23%) said they felt their employer could do more to support their mental health, while half of employers surveyed Tiger acknowledged that they could be doing more for staff mental health and wellbeing.
Now is the time for finance leaders to invest in the mental health wellbeing of their people. Providing the strategies and tools employees need to manage their emotional wellbeing can go a long way to making them feel healthier and happier and, in turn, help them work more productively.
A Lasting Legacy
At a recent virtual event hosted by CNBC, Bestselling Author Daniel Pink remarked:
“If you’re a leader, the first line of your obituary may be how you responded to this crisis.”
Melodramatic perhaps but a valid point nonetheless. It is only by treating employees well, by doing the right thing in these unprecedented times, that finance leaders can leave a lasting legacy they can be proud of.