• Jennifer Cahill

What are Irish CEOs preoccupied with right now? Answer: People.

Updated: Apr 27

A survey of CEOs conducted by Ibec in December 2020 reveals that two of the top five areas of strategic importance cited by CEOs were people issues. Surprising? Not at all.

Those two people-related priorities given by CEOs for the year ahead were:

  • Retention and upskilling of talent, and

  • Employee wellbeing

The world has changed dramatically in the course of 2020. Working from home and how supportive or otherwise the employer has been are massive factors in an employee’s career decisions. How different employers responded to the crisis, how supportive and proactive they have been, was readily and enthusiastically compared among friends and family over Zoom calls and on socially distanced walks and coffees over the last 11 months. Yes, your employees have been putting you under the microscope.

26% hired in 2020

The survey reports that 26% of respondents had increased their workforce since March 2020, which bears out our experience here in Savvi Recruitment. There is definitely movement in Financial Services to name but one sector, albeit one that has been classed as essential right from the start of the crisis.

On upskilling, this may be a consequence of something else that the survey threw up – a challenge foreseen by a third of respondents is the availability of specific skills in 2021 (possibly linked to Brexit), so a preoccupation with upskilling the people they already have makes sense in that context. This points to demand for good training and development programmes, be they in-house or external. Training companies take note!

Avoiding the iceberg

On employee wellbeing, we sense there is an iceberg of burn out hiding just below the surface. Some firms are hurtling towards this iceberg, Titanic style. The return to offices later this year could be the catalyst for employee wellbeing to jump to the top of the list of strategically important issues.

Indeed 72% of the CEOs who responded to the Ibec survey said that returning to the office would be a challenge to them, suggesting our leaders are all too aware of the changes they’ll need to make to adapt to the new normal; not only to the physical environment in terms of reconfiguring things spatially but also on the soft side – looking at employee assistance programmes, helping employees adapt to the return to office life, whether that's about making them feel safe or helping them regain a sense of being part of a team, and negotiating the nature of that return to the office - will it be straight back to everybody sitting there from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday?

This is where a leader’s emotional intelligence will be tested. We feel, ten months into the Covid crisis, employers need to seriously address how their people are feeling and take remedial or preventative measures. What measures, you may ask – great question. We will definitely come back to this in another blog very soon!

Ask, don’t assume

Working from home suits a lot of people; there are others who prefer the office. And then there is of course the bottom line. The decision is a strategic one but there is absolutely nothing to be lost and everything to be gained from asking people what they want and trying to facilitate people as best you can. Based on conversations with our clients it would seem that many people will request a mix of home and office working. Don’t forget that new legislation will be coming in making it a legal right for employees to request remote working.

There are lots of more fascinating insights in the survey findings. The report, which you can access from the link below, presents the findings in visuals – very easy to get through. I’m sure you’d like to know what your peers revealed about running a business in these very strange times.


Need a steer on the talent market and want to know what your competitors and industry are doing when it comes to talent management? Book our complimentary workshop here: https://www.savvirecruitment.com/freeworkshop

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