Executives and employees at odds over new world of work

This briefing looks at new research from IBM which shows a gaping chasm between company leaders and their staff over support and training for new ways of working

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence out there to describe how people are faring in the brave new Covid-19 world of work. This generally suggests that company leaders are relieved and pleased that they’ve managed to successfully pivot their organisations to remote working amid the pandemic.

But new global research from the IBM Institute for Business punctures that optimistic view. The study presents a big-picture survey which shows how far apart bosses and employees are on the subject of how well things are going.

Leaders believe they’re doing well at supporting staff through changes to work disrupted by Covid-19. But employees disagree, telling researchers they are tired and  overworked, feel disconnected and lack the training and support required.

‘Employees feel tired, overworked, disconnected and lacking support…’

To gather data for the survey, IBM researchers interviewed 3,450 executives in 20 countries, including 400 CEOs in the United States. They also sent online questionnaires to 50,000 people in eight countries.

Nearly three-quarters of managers in the survey say they’re helping their staff learn the skills needed to work in a new way. But fewer than two-fifths of employees think they’re getting the training they need. The divide is even starker when it comes to supporting physical and mental health. Eight out of 10 managers say they’re doing just that. But only 46 per cent of workers believe their organisation is doing enough to support and enhance their wellbeing.

According to the IBM report, ‘Our research highlights a gaping chasm between what executives think they are offering their employees and how those employees feel. Employers significantly overestimate the effectiveness of their support and training efforts.’ The survey also reveals that more a fifth of global workers have either been furloughed or lost their jobs.

What will really ring alarm bells is that employees seem to be missing the face-to-face interaction that is part and parcel of working in an office. This survey result paints a different picture to pre-pandemic surveys that showed many people thought working from home would be preferable to commuting to an office.

The IBM research identifies management priorities to control costs and move to technologies like artificial intelligence in response to the economic impact of the pandemic. But while these moves may be ‘practical and even necessary’, they may be adding to a sense among employees that they’re replaceable, says the report.

Executives should accept that changes brought about by the pandemic are permanent, say the researchers, and use the crisis as an opportunity to build a stronger and better business. This ‘starts with enabling a diverse workforce to perform optimally’. But as the gap in perception between leaders and employees shows little sign of being bridged, there may be trouble ahead.

WORKTECH Asia Pacific goes live

WORKTECH Asia Pacific 2020 is the next event in the new WORKTECH Virtual Conference Series. The live event will host a world-class line-up of expert speakers, exhibitions and opportunities to network in a virtual format over two days.

As organisations continue to power through the turbulence of the pandemic, this event will showcase international organisational leadership expertise from NASA, IBM and the former top commander of the US and International forces, General Stanley McChrystal. The live event is running from Tuesday 20 October from 11:00-15:30 AEST and Wednesday 21 October from 11:00-15:30 AEST. Find more details here.

In our WORKTECH Wednesday Briefings, we reach out to our 10,000-plus Academy members, WORKTECH attendees, speakers, partners and sponsors while WORKTECH’s professional live conference series paused due to the coronavirus pandemic. This edition is posted 14 October 2020.
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