Employee Engagement Grows as a Leadership Concern

Community Blog
Written by Clare Ryan

AUGUST 4, 2020

As we shift to summer, the coronavirus pandemic drags on -- at least here in the U.S. -- and business leaders continue to have their hands full of challenges. Executives are leading through multiple crises at once, from the pandemic and economic fallout to issues of racial injustice. We continue to conduct our monthly pulse survey, as we try to understand what C-level leaders are facing and how they are leading through continued disruption.

Despite the challenges, in last month’s survey, 68% of C-level executives said they have either grown or thrived as a leader during the current crisis. This month, we wanted to learn how they are leading their organizations with resiliency through multiple crises.

We found that C-level executives are spending less time on business continuity planning, with only 14% saying that is how they spend the majority of their time, versus 26% who reported that back in May. 36% of executives now report spending most of their time on leadership strategy, followed by 28% who cited internal communications.

Keeping the business running continues to be their main concern with 26% reporting that in July and 25% in May. However, as remote work continues into its fifth month, more executives now indicate the importance of maintaining culture and engagement (23% in July, versus 17% in May).

Another notable finding is the number of leaders who say that cutting costs is their primary concern has decreased from 25% in May to 17% in July. Anecdotally, executives shared other concerns like “keeping the workforce safe and healthy,” “developing new models to interact with customers,” and “a virus resurgence.”

As C-level leaders add employee engagement to their list of top priorities, they are using a variety of tools and tactics to interact with their teams. Large majorities say they are employing virtual company meetings, collaboration tools, and more frequent communications.

Some cited “encouraging video calls,” “adding wellness activities,” and “agile tools and ceremonies” as additional ways to engage employees virtually.

Massive protests around the world against racial injustice have triggered new leadership discussions around diversity, equity, and inclusion. The majority of C-level executives said that their organizations responded in some way to the protests against racial injustice.

64% said their companies have enhanced internal communications around diversity, and 44% noted that their organizations provided opportunities for employee discussions around race and social issues. 24% reported their companies taking no action.

Other actions that leaders reported include “all employee mandatory training,” “leadership discussions to better understand issues,” and “reviewing programs for inclusivity.” Some executives shared in the comments that their companies already had DE&I programs or a chief diversity officer in place.

Despite current events and challenges, 17% of executives say that business operations have returned to normal now. The highest percentage of executives (22%) predicts a return to normalcy in 6-12 months.

In our ongoing virtual town hall discussions, we see a shift from crisis response and management to recovery and strategizing for the future. Conversations about returning to work, safety measures, or permanent work-from-home options are the new normal.

Executives have seen that remote workers can be incredibly productive. They seem more concerned now about the unknown effects of long-term, remote work. Are people burning out? What’s the future of the corporate office? How will our company culture be impacted?

We will continue to explore these issues and more in our monthly pulse survey and virtual town hall discussions -- as executives in our communities continue to want to share insights and lessons learned with their peers.

Clare Ryan headshot

Clare Ryan

VP, Content & Product Strategy at Evanta, a Gartner Company

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