Keystone Partners Study Finds Nearly One Third of American Workers Feel Senior Management Is Out of Touch with the Impact of COVID-19 on the Lives of Employees

National Research Finds Gaps in Transparency and Communication Between the C-suite, Middle Management and Employees

COVID-19 turned the lives of American workers upside down – from massive layoffs to an acceleration of remote work – the need for job security and the importance of strong leadership skills has never been more top of mind. The pandemic has shined a spotlight on the disconnect between workers and their companies’ senior leaders. Close to one-third of the American workforce feels senior management is out of touch with employees’ daily lives, according to a national survey, commissioned by leading leadership development firm Keystone Partners, a founding partner of Career Partners International. In order for employees to remain motivated in the new normal, senior leaders need to commit to clear communication plans and management styles, while remaining empathetic and transparent about company goals and employee wellbeing.

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Similarly, about one-quarter of the American workforce feels that senior management lacks compassion and affinity and approximately one-third of workers feel disrespected or treated unfairly. Senior management also receives relatively low marks for offering support and flexibility during the global health pandemic.

“COVID-19 put corporate leadership to the test. In a volatile economy, and job insecurity against the backdrop of a major global health crisis, employees really looked to their company’s leadership to offer empathy, flexibility and compassion, as well as a clear path forward,” says Elaine Varelas, Managing Partner, Keystone Partners. “The results of this survey clearly remind senior leaders that their actions and words impact their employees’ physical and mental well-being, job performance, and ultimately the company’s reputation post COVID-19.”

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Chicago Management Teams Show Major Inconsistencies

Chicago workers said that their managers are less effective at managing their teams through the pandemic; when compared to employees nationally, they received lower scores on:

  • Communicating a plan for vaccination (Chicago: 48% vs. U.S.: 60%)
  • Showing concern for overall wellbeing (Chicago: 59% vs. U.S.: 64%)
  • Transparency of overall plans for the business (Chicago: 51% vs. U.S.:61%)
  • Communicating transparently about the impact of the pandemic on the business (Chicago: 54% vs. U.S.: 62%)
  • Clear post-pandemic business plan (Chicago: 54% vs. U.S.: 61%)

However, leaders at companies based in Chicago have made strides, and are more like to:

  • Have expanded employee benefits (Chicago: 20% vs. U.S.:17%)
  • More likely to provide emotional support (Chicago: 31% vs. U.S.:20%), and resources for depression (Chicago: 21% vs. 17%) and addiction (Chicago: 21% vs. U.S.:14%)
  • More likely to provide flexible schedules (Chicago: 44% vs. U.S.:36%) and onsite childcare (Chicago: 17% vs. U.S.: 11%)

“Chicago leaders have done a great job putting programs in place to support their employees during the pandemic. Despite this, employees expressed some concerns as evidenced by lower marks than the national average when it comes to communicating the true impact of the pandemic on the business and post-pandemic plans,” says Howard Seidel, Senior Partner at Essex Partners, a division of Keystone Partners. “Leaders across the country are operating under a variety of circumstances including local economic conditions and state edicts. What is clear is that employees are looking for organizations to lead with empathy, communicate concern for their well-being, and provide a clear business plan for, and as they navigate through, the pandemic.”

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