Responsible business has been steadily climbing up the agenda, driven by growing investor and regulatory interest in responsibility and sustainability, and an organisational focus on values and purpose. A shift in business practices is needed to ensure work is a force for good, and the CIPD calls for businesses to balance all stakeholders' needs and ensure employees benefit from the value created in our workplaces.

The research conducted by our UK colleagues tells the story of responsible business and trustworthy leadership through the peak and the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic. It gathers the perspectives of more than 80 senior leaders, including HR directors, across organisations that include FTSE 100 companies, large local authorities and household names. Through their candid reflections, we offer a unique insight into leading an organisation during both phases of the crisis and key learnings to consider to become a responsible business and embed cultures of trust.

Download the 2021 report:

Download the 2020 report and executive summary

Key learnings

These reports offer practical applications for leaders to consider as we navigate through the challenges and opportunities that the pandemic has created:

  • Invest in new cultures of trust. Understand work as a community, not just as a workspace. Apply what we already know about good people management: listening, learning and development, reward and recognition, and the employee value proposition.

  • Rethink talent streams, leadership development and your own leadership practice; new ways of leading are essential to success.

  • Use the disruption of the pandemic to restate your organisation’s purpose, both to survive and thrive in a post-COVID-19 economy and to play a bigger and more responsible role within its communities and ecosystem.

  • Continue to use technology to communicate honestly, clearly and regularly with all stakeholders.

  • Avoid two-tier workforces. Acknowledge divisions and tensions between parts of the workforce and address imbalance. Be active in addressing inequalities, including low pay for those in front line roles and inequalities linked to ethnicity.

  • Maintain the humane and personal leadership that has emerged during COVID-19.

Explore the insights and key learnings in the 2021 report.

Revisit the learnings from last year in the 2020 report.

The CIPD is bringing leaders together to learn from one another and navigate the new world of work. We hope to revisit these businesses and others in the months ahead as they navigate the next challenge of the pandemic.


Professor Veronica Hope Hailey

Veronica Hope Hailey is Emeritus Professor at the University of Bath and Director of Research at the Forward Institute. She was named among the “UK’s Top 10 Most Influential HR Thinkers” from 2012 to 2017. Hope Hailey was formerly University Vice President and Dean of the School of Management at the University of Bath, Associate Dean and Professor of HRM at Cass Business School, Professor of HRM at Cranfield School of Management and also a Fellow at the University of Cambridge. She was elected a Fellow of the Academy for Social Sciences in 2019.


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