Despite productivity benefits of remote and hybrid, trust is an issue

Productivity has risen with remote/hybrid working, but trust may pose a larger challenge, a new PwC survey reveals.

The report suggests that remote/hybrid working has boosted productivity — a majority of global business leaders said that their organisations have performed better against workforce performance and productivity targets over the past 12 months.

But less than a third of leaders are confident that they are building high levels of trust between workers and supervisors.

“Just a quarter of Irish CEOs are prepared to invest significantly in leadership and talent development”

The survey draws upon the views of almost 4,000 business and HR leaders from 26 countries and regions including Ireland and 28 industry sectors on current workforce challenges and what the future of work may look like for companies.

Productivity boost

While the Irish data set is relatively small, the trends highlighted in the survey resonate in Ireland where we see many companies experiencing similar trends and challenges. 

Remote and hybrid working has provided a short-term productivity boost in most workplaces, with 57pc of respondents saying their organisation performed better against workforce performance and productivity targets over the past 12 months, compared to a mere 4pc saying their company performed significantly worse in that time.

However, productivity and performance gains may have come at the expense of longer-term employee trust.

Only 30pc of the business and HR leaders surveyed strongly believe their organisation is building high levels of trust between workers and their direct supervisors

Burnout may be partially responsible – nearly three-quarters (74pc) are not fully confident that workload is manageable enough for employees to make full use of personal time.

“The challenges that leaders face today are more significant and complex than they’ve been in generations,” said David Keane, director, PwC Ireland People & Organisation.

“As businesses accelerate digital transformation, our research findings highlight leadership, trust and culture as crucial areas when managing teams. Various factors such as the potential for worker distrust, competitive talent markets and changing workforce expectations put a greater emphasis on the role of leaders today – especially the need for inclusive leadership in a hybrid work environment.

“The survey results also resonate in Ireland where we see similar trends. PwC’s 2021 Irish CEO survey revealed that, for eight years running, Irish business leaders are more concerned about skills shortages (75pc) than their global counterparts. At the same time, just a quarter (25pc) of Irish CEOs are prepared to invest significantly in leadership and talent development. Workforce strategies for greatest attention are in the areas of culture and behaviour, skills, health and wellbeing and people engagement.”

Strategic planning dividend

The PwC Future of Work and Skills research found that effective and dynamic organisational planning can pay dividends. Companies that undertook such detailed strategic planning (including scenario planning for multiple outcomes) were 30 percentage points more likely to perform at or above financial and other targets than those who did not.

“Looking more broadly can be particularly beneficial in helping leaders build their forward-looking ability and putting organisations in a better position to thrive financially and otherwise,” said Ciara Fallon, director, PwC Ireland People & Organisation.

“Yet only 26pc of organisations in our survey strongly agreed that they use a wide variety of external data sources and viewpoints in planning. Investing in data will help leaders avoid being caught off guard by the next disruption and will help them build their ability to be intentional rather than reactive in their strategies.

John Kennedy
Award-winning ThinkBusiness.ie editor John Kennedy is one of Ireland's most experienced business and technology journalists.

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