Boardrooms have beefed up their supervision of employee well-being following the pandemic, with employee engagement and workplace issues now higher on the list of corporate leaders’ strategic priorities.
The Board Transformation 2021: Leadership in Transition survey, conducted by Board Agenda, Mazars and in association with Henley Business School, reveals that 82% of those polled either agree or strongly agree that their boards have strengthened the oversight of employee well-being since the pandemic. It also found that engagement with employees and workplace issues, such as employee health, are among the top five priorities that have grown in importance.
Risk and resilience, digital transformation and innovation have also seen growth in their importance to boards.
For one respondent, working conditions could now be a leading factor in recruitment. “It will be some time before a consensus emerges on such areas as remote/flexible working. During this time nimbler employers will be able to benefit from a competitive advantage to recruit and retain the best employees.”
Changing priorities, another respondent observed, means fresh challenges for board members. “Board directors need to learn, unlearn and relearn. From being familiar with new technology platforms for conducting board meetings, to the impact of remote working, remote management and new disruptive technologies.”
Experts believe boards should now strengthen their contact with employees to get the best from new ways of working, as well as consider how recruitment and employee development will adapt as more employees work from home or use a hybrid working structure.
Anthony Carey and Alan Frost, board practice and business consulting experts at Mazars, write: “In our conversations with board directors, we are finding a growing appreciation of the evolving need of the organisation and its people; they will understand the importance of clear communication, none more so than that between the senior leadership and their employees.”
Capabilities for board transformation
For other observers the pandemic has raised questions about boardroom capabilities. Andrew and Nada Kakabadse, professors at Henley Business School, write that board members need the ability to understand the competitive advantages that have emerged from the pandemic, as well as the pitfalls.
“So board directors need to ask if they collectively have the necessary expertise, skills and judgment among themselves to take on these challenges, reviewing operations and business strategies.
“Clear oversight of the enterprise has never been more important—the responsibility for governance, stewardship and compliance remains firmly on the boardroom table. Boards may be transforming, but they need to ensure they retain and enhance the necessary skills to carry out these functions. Having the right roles on the board has never been more important.”