The events of 2020 made it easy to feel powerless at times. As news of the virus grew, and COVID-19 became part of our daily vernacular, we looked to leaders to help us know how to react, and what to do.
At work, that role has fallen to managers. As employee anxiety and uncertainty has grown, managers have stepped up to offer critical support and communication, all the while dealing with the same feelings themselves.
And while they may not have had all the answers as to how things would progress, the most important part is that managers have been responding immediately as their team members began to voice concerns and needed extra support.
Between March and May 2020, managers left over 150,000 responses to employee comments discussing the COVID-19 pandemic. We analyzed this data to see how manager responsiveness differed by industry and region.
When an employee leaves a survey comment on the Workday Peakon Employee Voice platform, managers can interact with them in one of two ways: by leaving an acknowledgement, or leaving a comment. Leaving an acknowledgement communicates to the employee that their voice has been heard, while leaving a comment allows managers to start a conversation.
In March, when lockdown was implemented globally, the average manager acknowledgement rate was 16.5%, while the average comment response rate was 4.5%. But as employees began increasingly discussing the pandemic in survey comments, manager responsiveness skyrocketed.
Compared to the global averages for this time, managers have been three times more likely to leave a comment in response to employees voicing their concern on COVID-19, and two times more likely to leave an acknowledgement.
This data gives us vital insight into just how responsive and sensitive managers were to the heightened anxiety of their teams during this time. But it’s only when we dive deeper into the data by industry sector and continent that the most important details concerning this responsiveness emerge.
Since March, managers in the financial services sector have been the most responsive to employee comments on the pandemic, acknowledging an average of 25.6% of comments, and responding to 6.7% of them. They are swiftly followed by those in the technology and professional services sectors.
Managers in education have been the most likely to leave a comment response to employees throughout the pandemic. Comment responses allow managers to have a valuable dialog with employees, ensuring they feel heard.
Meanwhile, some of the lowest manager response rates have been seen in the consumer industry, which is likely as a result of the sector’s downturn due to international lockdowns. Unsurprisingly, healthcare was the least responsive sector overall between March and May.
However while the sector’s overall manager responsiveness is low, healthcare was the only one to see a rise in responsiveness. From March to May, manager comments and acknowledgements increased more than tenfold as compared with the start of the year.
Between March and May, managers in Oceania—which includes Australia and New Zealand—were the most responsive to employee discussion on the pandemic, leaving acknowledgements on almost a quarter of all employee comments. Managers in North America and Asia were similarly responsive, acknowledging around one in five of all employee comments.
Meanwhile, managers in Africa and Latin America and the Caribbean were among the least responsive to employee concerns on the pandemic.
As our data shows, managers globally have been responsive and sensitive to their employee concerns throughout the pandemic, supporting and leading their teams through times wrought with uncertainty.
But to do this effectively, managers need support from their organizations. This is why, as we begin transitioning back to the office, organizations will need to ensure that they are maintaining regular, transparent communication that provides their managers with the insights, guidance and training to better support their teams.
This will enable managers to communicate openly with their team members on any developments that directly or indirectly impact them, allowing them to feel trusted, supported, and above all, safe.