Board Transformation 2021 survey report: Leadership in transition - adapting to a post-pandemic reality

Over the past 18 months, organisations have faced some of the most significant challenges of recent times, accelerating transformation as they adapted to a new reality. But are boards keeping pace with this transformation? How well equipped are they to deal with changing operational, strategic, technological, financial and ESG issues? How will this new environment influence board priorities and do board directors have the skills to tackle these challenges? Mazars, in collaboration with Board Agenda and Henley Business School, has surveyed boards about their experiences and the results are illuminating.

Findings reveal a boardroom community that is embracing change, increasing oversight of employee issues, focusing on the long-term resilience of the organisation, and giving equal weighting to risk management on the one hand and the opportunities for digital transformation on the other.

Leadership style and culture have come into focus, with a significant number of respondents recognising the need for transformation and to review capabilities. They have also shown themselves to be agile and able to transform at speed, having been forced to work remotely along with the rest of their workforce, as well as witnessing how other family members are coping with their own working challenges.

Responses came from 270 senior business leaders, including board chairs, chief executive officers, chief financial officers, chief operating officers, chief risk officers, executive and non-executive directors, and company secretaries – from a broad range of industries, across the globe.

Key findings

  • Eight out of 10 boards (82%) are strengthening their employee wellbeing policies as a direct result of the pandemic.
  • Nearly two-thirds (63%) agree that feedback on engagement with their workforce has improved since the onset of the pandemic.
  • More than half (56%) of boards have made substantial changes to the structure or operations of the business while nearly three-quarters have increased its long-term resilience.
  • Risk management and resilience topped the board’s agenda alongside digital transformation.
  • Some 77% of respondents feel their boards have had the necessary agility to navigate changed priorities, though nearly half (48%) say there needs to be a review of boardroom capabilities.
  • 43% are in favour of a change in leadership style.
  • Two-thirds (66%) say engagement between board and senior management has been improved.
  • 47% say that investor engagement has been improved.
  • 58% agree the need for greater emphasis on ESG.
  • Half (50%) say they are making changes to long-term liquidity, credit, and capital.

“Boards have told us they have been agile in the face of disruption—pivoting and adapting as circumstances shifted. So now is the time to embrace transformation—today would be a good day for boards to review their strengths and areas for development, for tomorrow, will bring fresh challenges and the risk of falling behind their competitors.”

Anthony Carey, Head of Board Practice, and Alan Frost, Business Consulting Partner.


Board Transformations 2021 - Research Report - Leadership in Transition