DATA NEED GROWS TO OFFSET LEADER CONCERNS ABOUT COVID-19 PANDEMIC WORKPLACE CHANGES IN ASIA PACIFIC & JAPAN
Singapore business leaders cite more positive gains from the pandemic on workplace discussions (42%) than countries surveyed in the region
- 36% of regional business leaders said business discussions had improved post pandemic despite shift to remote and hybrid working across the region
- 79% of regional leaders say data delivers credibility in decision-making and drives attention to a topic
- Research found strong correlation between regional leaders who personally used data (52%) on a weekly basis at minimum, and overall business adoption (49%)
- Regional businesses that increased data use during the pandemic were more than twice as likely to report positive workplace changes (57%) versus those that did not (21%)
- While regional leaders understand the value of data, 52% cited the lack of data literacy as a barrier to decision-making
SINGAPORE - 13 OCTOBER 2021 - Business leaders in Asia Pacific and Japan (APJ) have largely offset concerns about changed working conditions following the global Covid-19 pandemic by leaning more heavily on data to inform decision making, according to a new YouGov survey, commissioned by Tableau, the world’s leading analytics platform (NYSE: CRM)
Some 95% of leaders in APJ listed at least one major issue they’d experienced as part of workplace shifts in response to Covid-19, with 47% worried about their business’ ability to find solutions to problems, a little over a third (36%) saying poorly structured meetings were problematic, and 35% said a lack of data had hindered their conversations.
The research, which included responses from almost 2,000 business leaders from nine countries including Singapore, Japan and Australia, found almost a quarter (24%) of senior APJ executives had seen a decline in discussion quality since the beginning of the pandemic - whilst 36% had experienced positive changes.
The Quality Conversations survey sought to examine how business leaders had adapted decision making and employee engagement since new public health measures and restrictions were introduced last year.
Business conversations are better with data
Perhaps one of the most surprising results overall was that many leaders believed changes associated with the pandemic had actually improved business conversations - despite moving into a largely virtual working environment. Interestingly, regional businesses that increased data use were more than twice as likely to report positive change to conversation (57%) during the pandemic, compared to those that hadn’t (21%).
In particular, executives said workplace meetings had become better prioritised (61%), more inclusive (60%), productive (57%) and, critically, more likely to be led by data (59%) than prior to the pandemic.
APJ leaders were almost two times more likely than their counterparts elsewhere in the world to use data to improve workplace decision making and communication - with local leaders in Singapore (52%) and Australia (54%) increasing their use of data significantly more than markets such as the United Kingdom (29%).
On the importance of using data in business conversations to make decisions, 67% of APJ leaders ranked generating actionable insights for the business as the most crucial factor for a quality discussion.
JY Pook, Senior Vice President and General Manager, Asia Pacific & Japan, Tableau, said: “There has been no greater challenge to leadership and business culture in decades than that caused by the pandemic. While leaders recognise the importance of data to accelerate decision making in a rapidly changing and uncertain environment, they are now at a critical crossroads to walk the talk in order for their business to become data-driven. A data-driven organisation is built when leaders are committed to this change and employees are supported with building their skills and given access to the right tools. Only then can everyone use data to draw actionable insights and speed up decision making.”
Singapore leaders profess optimism even amid Covid-19
Employees were found to stand down and listen up more. In Singapore, 83% of leaders found that the use of data created an environment conducive to listening, built trust (78%), and minimised the influence of personal opinions or egos (76%) in a discussion.
In fact, more than half of Singapore executives (53%) believe that the top action to improve workplace discussions is by opening up conversations to people in the organisation closest to the topic. In contrast, only 45% of regional leaders felt the same.
Leslie Ong, Country Manager, Southeast Asia, Tableau, said: “Changing workplace conditions and the rising use of technology during the pandemic has paved the way for flatter team structures, allowing businesses in Singapore to respond to new challenges quickly. Data has the potential to level the playing field, so that everyone, including those in bank branches or retail stores can participate in the company’s decision making process. Employees will also be more engaged as they feel empowered and valued by their organisation.”
Professor Donnel Briley, a social psychologist and Professor of Marketing at University of Sydney who provided commentary for the report said: ”The shift to remote working has shown us how leaders simply can’t use the same set of tools in their toolbag to communicate anymore. But we’re also seeing leaders recognise how data creates a foundation of intelligence for important business discussions - more so in this region than anywhere else. Data will increasingly play a role in shaping such conversations.” Professor Briley said
Tjen Chew Lee, Chief Financial Officer at Phoon Huat, one of Singapore’s leading food suppliers, said: “Last year, we expanded our brick-and-mortar presence online to make our baking supplies more accessible to customers during the pandemic. We also launched our omnichannel customer loyalty program to give us more insight into our customers’ online and offline shopping behaviors — data was central in this transition. It is now possible to engage with our customers on a more personalised level than before.”
Overview of regional findings:
- Singaporean business leaders have used changing working conditions and the rise of technology to flatten traditional employee hierarchies
- The research found more than half of leaders (53%) had sought to open-up conversations to a wider range of staff in a bid to improve discussions
- To support the change, some 53% of leaders indicated they have used data more in business conversations since Covid-19, as did 47% of SMEs and 63% of large organisations
- The loss of meeting ‘face time’ during the pandemic is worrying many Australian business leaders and forcing them to rethink their leadership approaches.
- Almost two-thirds (61%) of Australian business leaders struggled with a lack of non-verbal communication during crucial business discussions, whilst another 61% said no longer having informal ‘water cooler’ discussions was also impacting their ability to engage with others.
- Nonetheless, Australian businesses were more positive about the impact of the pandemic on workplace culture and discussion than many other countries. Some 41% of local respondents said the quality of conversations amongst the business had actually improved since the onset of the pandemic, compared to just 27% who had seen a decline in quality.
- Younger executives had been more successful in negotiating cultural changes since the pandemic hit Japanese workplaces.
- More than a third of business leaders (35%) aged 44 years and below had seen an improvement in workplace discussion compared to executives (45 years and above, 25%).
- These emerging leaders were less reliant on meetings serving as a way of building consensus and more likely to use data to help drive outcome focused discussions.
For more information about the research, please visit: https://www.tableau.com/great-decisions-come-great-conversations-apj
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About the research
From 6-17 August 2021, YouGov surveyed C-suite business leaders throughout Asia including Australia (222 respondents), Japan (209) and Singapore (224), as well as countries such as Brazil (224), France (232), Germany (220), Spain (214), Sweden (215) and the United Kingdom (217).
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