Putting people over profit a priority for CEOs, finds IBM

By Bizclik Editor
The pandemic has brought a reinforcement among corporate leaders that mental and physical wellbeing of employees needs to come first, reveals research...

For the majority of high-performing company CEOs, those in the top 20% for revenue growth, empowering a remote workforce is a top leadership challenge over the next few years.

That’s according to IBM’s annual CEO study, IBM Institute for Business Value’s 2021 CEO Study, which collates insights from 3,000 CEOs across 26 industries and nearly 50 countries. 

The report found that remote work will become a permanent fixture as part of a hybrid workforce that blends in-person employees with virtual colleagues and as such will shift organisational culture and demand new management approaches and upgraded executive capabilities. 

Wellbeing is a priority for CEOs

As part of this commitment to remote working support, 77% of outperforming company CEOs report plans to prioritise employee wellbeing even if it affects near-term profitability, reflecting that such organisations are putting people first over profit and prioritising talent.

"The COVID-19 pandemic challenged many leaders to focus on what's essential, like their people," said Mark Foster, senior vice president, IBM Services. "Many employees' expectations of their employers have significantly changed. The 'anywhere' workforce can require leaders to provide agile technology, to adopt more empathetic leadership models that prioritize employee wellbeing and to champion flexible and inclusive cultures."

This finding reinforces data from another IBV study, Accelerating the journey to HR 3.0, which found that CHROs at outperforming organizations reported their companies “support as a core value” the physical, emotional, and financial wellbeing of their employees at rates nearly three times those of underperforming companies. 

“The far most important capability is human capability,” says Younus Al Nasser, CEO of Smart Dubai, the government agency that facilitates the city’s digital transformation. “Technology advancements come when you have the right human capabilities.” 

What employee wellbeing means to CEOs

This support has to be not just well-intended, but well-received, however. A C-suite focus on employee wellbeing may not be enough if the employees themselves aren’t feeling the love. 

In many organisations, employees have felt unenthusiastic about corporate efforts. Another of IBM’s recent reports, Closing The Chasm compared employer perspectives with those of employees and found that while 80% of executives believed they were supporting the physical and emotional health of employees, only 46% of employees felt they were being supported. 

Questions therefore emerge about how companies re-engage around collaboration and deliver opportunities for teams to be together again. 

IBM recommends that leaders consider carefully the longer-term challenge of a hybrid work environment, including things like providing employees with digital, cloud-enabled tools for collaboration, preventing employee burnout, or sustaining company culture with a focus on diversity and inclusion. 

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