Leaders in Lockdown 2020: A survey conducted by ORESA.co.uk

As the UK went into lockdown, the team at ORESA decided it would be useful to track the sentiment of business leaders.

Surveying c.200 Board or C-suite level executives in late spring, and then again in summer, they were able to provide insight into how leaders were feeling, adapting their thinking and evolving their strategies during the pandemic.

The surveys showed how leaders were struggling but also many positive signs, not least that leaders saw recovery coming within an 18-month period and many had plans to recruit and grow.

Future Strategy

According to the survey, over half of businesses were innovating or building a new plan during the summer. And whilst 13% were still ‘fi refighting’, it appeared that generally leaders were feeling slightly more confident, with 46% saying trading conditions had started to improve. This was borne out by the recent growth stats from the ONS and the fact that there are many businesses in growth due to or despite the pandemic.

With the threat of another lockdown, this is an uncertain time, making the challenge of architecting the plan even more critical. For some, the outside viewpoint of a growth consultant will help in this process. As Orlando Martins, CEO of ORESA says: “Whilst the markets are turbulent, this is fertile ground for those with the right mindset and an agile approach; however, to take advantage, CEOs will need to align their strategy, structure and leadership talent.”

Leading in Lockdown

The surveys conducted by ORESA showed that UK based CEOs and senior business leaders felt that lockdown had negatively affected their ability to do their job. Indeed, the figure rose by 8% between the first and most recent survey.

By summer, signs of weariness were setting in; 45% of leaders were working more hours than before the pandemic, and 62% were reassessing their work-life balance.

When asked about this, Martins said: “The 2020 holiday calendar was shot to pieces, with leaders foregoing almost every break including their summer holidays. The net result is leaders struggling to find balance and getting exhausted. We anticipate changes both at CEO and senior leadership levels as boards and investors seek new energy.”

Recruiting via Zoom

With regards to employment, ORESA discovered that 41% of leaders would recruit within three months of the survey. It is too early to confirm whether this happened but vacancies in the UK in June to August 2020 were at an estimated 434,000; almost 30% higher than the record low in April to June 2020 [Office for National Statistics].

For many, the move to virtual recruitment was a surprise.

“We’ve assisted many businesses in their searches for C-suite and senior leaders during lockdown. Many companies are now happy to employ and on-board someone without having met them in person,” says Martins.

According to the survey by ORESA, over three-quarters of leaders said that recruitment would be focused on those with broader skill sets, rather than single subject experts, suggesting that there will be fewer, but better, jobs available in the coming months.

Additionally, the most sought-after attributes that leaders were looking for in their next hire were adaptability, innovation, creativity and strategy.

So, what has happened in reality?

Martins says: “The survey was right, in that companies would seek leaders with breadth. Conversely many have focused on specific roles in areas deemed to be the key pillars of growth namely, customer insight, data, marketing and technology.”

ORESA provide organisational strategy, leadership consulting and headhunting services to the CEOs and Founders of companies seeking accelerated growth.

Email: Orlando.Martins@oresa.co.uk
Phone +44 (0)20 3675 1459