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During May and June 2021, the Irish Management Institute (IMI), in collaboration with Cork University Business School, University College Cork, carried out a survey to examine the views of Irish organizational leaders relating to their organization’s resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 392 respondents represented a variety of sectors, with the public sector (28 percent) and financial services (16 percent) being the largest. In total, 29 percent of the respondents were middle managers, with the remaining 71 percent holding senior to C-level positions within their organization.

Key findings from the survey include:

  • When asked about their organization’s ability to react to the crisis, 86 percent of leaders felt their organization responded ‘well’ or ‘very well’.
  • In terms of communications with staff during the pandemic, the survey showed that 82 percent of leaders felt that they provided the right amount of communication.
  • There seems to be a fine line in terms of the ‘right’ level of communications in a crisis, both in terms of volume and frequency. The majority of organisations seemed to toe this line well, with 72 percent of respondents feeling that their organization provided the right level of communications to staff in terms of volume and frequency; yet 11 percent of respondents believed their organization provided too much information, while 17 percent believed that their organization could have done more with the volume of communications to staff.
  • The research asked leaders to describe the level of trust between senior managers and staff, with the data revealing a slightly increased level of trust at the time of the survey (79 percent positive responses) compared to pre-pandemic (76 percent). While there was an uptick in levels of trust in both public and private sector, the gains in the public sector were eight times higher than those seen in the private sector.
  • 77 percent of leaders felt there was a positive degree of improvement in their practice of leadership throughout the pandemic, with 5 percent feeling that there was a significant improvement. However, nearly a quarter of leaders (23 percent) felt the practice of leadership worsened or experienced no real improvement.
  • A key outcome of the pandemic for organizations is the move to more blended ways of working, mixing the in-person office time with virtual work. Over half (58 percent) of organizations plan to introduce blended ways of working, with only 2 percent maintaining virtual work for most or nearly all of the time. 40 percent of organizations plan to maintain some aspect of office working, with only 5 percent of these respondents stating that all staff in their organizations will be back to the office full-time in the future.
  • The respondents were questioned on how well they were set up to handle any further challenges, with more than a fifth (21 percent) of leaders feeling that their staff would be unable to face further disruption.

“We saw work-related stress, fatigue, and isolation coming up time and again in the research,” said Thia Hennessy, Dean of Cork University Business School. “As we return to the workplace, it’s important for leaders to focus on the issue of wellbeing. Fantastic progress has been made on trust and new work practices. Now, the challenge for leaders is to retain the best parts of that while adjusting to working in the office again.”

More details (PDF).

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