Corona puts parts of the global working world in crisis mode. Home office and homeschooling, for example, are a constant burden for many. Even the first lockdown had a negative effect on the mental health of Germans. Anxiety and depression were increased in Germany during the first wave of infections in 2020, as an online study by scientists from Mainz, Marburg and Essen shows.
A new global study makes the impact of the corona pandemic on working life clear: The Global Leadership Forecast 2021 by the US management consultancy DDI and HR expert Josh Bersin showed that decision-makers and employees at work are burning out faster than ever. Without appropriate countermeasures, the crisis leads them towards burnout. Most executives also don’t think much of their virtual leadership skills.
Only 20 percent rate their virtual leadership skills as good
According to the study, almost 60 percent of managers feel drained and exhausted at the end of the working day – according to the experts, this is a strong indicator of burnout. Almost 44 percent of these managers are also thinking about changing employers for career reasons. 26 percent of them are expected to leave their company within the next year. And only 20 percent of the executives surveyed believe that they lead effectively virtually.
The number of executives at risk of burnout who have thoughts of changing careers for career reasons is significantly higher at 44 percent than among executives who do not feel exhausted and want to change because of their career (24 percent). Of them, only 6 percent plan to leave their employer in the course of the following year.
The study is the most detailed of its kind. Between February and July 2020, DDI collected data from almost 16,000 executives and more than 2,000 HR professionals worldwide from more than 1,740 companies in over 24 industries in 50 countries.
86 percent of the high potentials in companies are exhausted
“We see that the pandemic is causing serious problems when it comes to keeping executives in the company,” says Stephanie Neal, co-author of the study and head of the Center for Analytics and Behavioral Research at DDI. “The likelihood that decision-makers who feel burned out will leave their positions within a year is up to four times higher. That could have a long-term impact on current and future managers. “
According to the study, 86 percent of the so-called high potentials, i.e. the top performers among the employees, currently feel exhausted. They tend to leave the company twice as often as colleagues at the same level who are not at risk of burnout. “Business leaders should be careful now,” says Neal. “Obviously the future of leadership as a whole is at stake.”
Too few young managers, too poor leadership quality
Decision-makers in all countries expressed concern about a lack of young talent willing to lead: They stated that only 47 percent of the important roles in the company can currently be filled, but that there are not enough talents for the future. Only 11 percent of HR professionals claim that they have enough potential managers on hand for future positions.
Rapidly changing markets and increased pressure therefore influenced the innovative strength and the ability to make provisions here. The quality of leadership also declines during the crisis. In the DDI study, 48 percent of managerial staff rate their fundamental leadership qualities as high – but only 28 percent of HR experts share this belief. The discrepancy between self-image and external image has always existed, as the picture below shows. But now the gap in between is particularly pronounced.
While decision-makers are struggling with the requirements in the wake of the pandemic, HR experts in companies are concerned: They fear that their managers may not be able to cope with future challenges.
“The future of work is here – and managers don’t feel prepared”
“The future of work is here, but decision-makers don’t feel prepared for it,” says analyst Stephanie Neal. In fact, the pandemic forced a large proportion of companies to quickly switch to the virtual workplace in 2020. Too fast for executives?
Only 20 percent of them consider their own virtual leadership skills to be effective. Less than a third of the decision-makers stated that they received targeted support in their development. The majority felt unprepared.
Decision-makers are therefore not yet fully ready to work in a highly digital business environment. In the survey for the study, they mentioned the desire for coaching, targeted development and formal training in order to be able to develop and improve their skills in addition to their daily job.
“The current business climate makes it difficult to predict,” says Josh Bersin, co-author of the study. “Decision-makers must now be able to adapt quickly to the situation and be able to accept change if they want to survive.”
HR managers, on the other hand, are already in the process of coming to terms with the ongoing uncertainty. “You are reorganizing management training courses to address current needs. At the same time, they develop their employees, train them further and improve their flexible work, ”says Bersin. Another HR focus is on even more diversity and equality in companies and on tapping the potential of employees in the best possible way – not least to address future management needs.
A plus: feedback, diversity, empathy
What the study also shows: the value of a good culture. For example, companies in which executives give and receive feedback are 4.6 times more likely to have top executives and promising high potentials. Companies that strive for diversity at management levels are eight times more likely to be among the top 10 percent of economically successful companies.
Overall, there is still a lack of diversity. Executives with multicultural or multiethnic backgrounds occupy only 22 percent of all management positions worldwide, shows the study by DDI. There is a lot of catching up to do here all over the world.
The study also contains other valuable lessons for companies and decision-makers: for example, the importance of communication in times of crisis. It is also a sign of a good corporate culture. Anyone who has an open ear for their employees in the crisis shows that they are willing to approach their own situation constructively – and could start with motivated employees after the crisis.