Managers call for long-term focus during economic slump

A poll of 1,118 senior executives reveals that the UK’s managers and leaders are calling for calm in the face of the continued economic gloom. 

The survey shows that just one in five feels secure in their job. However, although half (54 per cent) admit that ‘work has become more stressful’, indications are that respondents are able to deal with the pressure. Three-quarters see the downturn as presenting them with ‘greater challenges’ and one-third (37 per cent) say it has ensured they are ‘more focused at work’. Only 22 per cent claim that fears over the economy have caused them to ‘lose sleep’.

In a sign that managers have confidence in their ability to deal with the current situation, the study shows that a third are still keen to take risk while half are prepared to accept extra work (57 per cent). Many are also not prepared to ‘sit tight’ during the downturn, with 60 per cent suggesting they would be ‘tempted to move if the right offer came along’. Perhaps surprisingly, 36 per cent claim to be ‘actively looking for a more senior position’.

The research also identifies the top factors currently putting most pressure on the financial performance of UK organisations. Rising energy costs top the list (32 per cent), followed by concerns over employee motivation (29 per cent) and weak demand (27 per cent). However, despite two-thirds admitting that the current state of the UK economy is having a negative impact on their organisation, more than half are either ‘optimistic’ or ‘very optimistic’ about business prospects in the next year.

The research also shows UK’s managers and leaders believe that a combination of experience, decisive action and long-term planning is the key to business survival:

Past practice: 78 per cent have previous experience of redundancy and 41 per cent have supported friends or family through redundancy. With this in mind, almost three-quarters argue that there is now less stigma attached to redundancy than in the 1990s

Action, not words: 32 per cent of respondents say their organisation has already frozen recruitment, with 44 per cent diverting attention to developing the skills of core internal staff. Most argue that focusing on management and leadership skills will help them survive the recession

Long-term approach: 68 per cent suggest that ‘organisations should focus on product innovation and service’ to stay afloat in the downturn. The idea of investment is backed up with only 35 per cent agreeing that ‘the best response to recession is to cut costs’.

Jo Causon, director, marketing and corporate affairs at the CMI, said: “It is vital that the UK’s leaders remain composed in the face of growing economic pressure because knee-jerk reactions will only serve to exacerbate the problem. It’s easier to manage when times are good, but the current climate is a real test of how strong the UK’s leadership credentials really are.”

Responding to the findings of the survey, the CMI will be launching a micro-site at the end of October 2008, designed to provide employers and individuals with resources to help lead them through the downturn. The resources, which are free to download, will be available at

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