The perfect storm – Why you need research now – employees

A series of ten views – view 1, employees   

Everyone has their own take on the situation that organisations are facing at the moment. As an experienced researcher, I have always seen my role as being to reflect on the data before providing insights. It seems like now, more than ever, is the right time to publish a series of thought pieces on why we need marketing research.

The perfect storm?

Recent research that we have undertaken for a client has clearly indicated that, in the UK, organisations are keenly aware that we are in the eye of two key ‘storm fronts’ currently – to use the ‘perfect storm’ analogy.

  1. COVID
  2. Brexit

The business landscape

The business environment is being shaken in numerous ways, resulting in the following:

  • Uncertainty

There is a continual lack of clarity resulting from the ongoing ‘storms’.

  • Volatility

This means that the sheer rate of change is affecting our views of the world around us. Constant change can be very unsettling for many of us. It is impacting on previous cultural and behavioural norms significantly.


Organisations are facing major challenges including:

  • Sink, swim or surf

Of course, there will be some organisations that will benefit from these times but many others from sectors that will be obvious to most of us are still in survival mode. The impacts on financial aspects and all stakeholders, especially employees, are clear to see.

  • Cash

Tightening the purse strings is an inevitable reaction by those facing survival challenges.

  • Hybrid/home working

WFH (working from home) is on everyone’s agenda at this time. It provides opportunities and challenges in equal measure. It is important to recognise that it doesn’t suit everybody! Depending on our personality and behavioural traits, we will find this shift easy or hard to make.

  • Employees’ work/life balance

WFH has an impact on work/ life balance. Many have found the experience very positive but it remains a challenge for others too. Once the novelty has worn off, it can be hard to maintain a balance.

  • Shifts in the psychological contract

Employees are changing the way they view their relationships with employers. Redundancies, job market uncertainty and fear, both short and long term, are contributors to this.

  • Individuals’ focus on personal safety, security and survival

As a result of all of this, some individuals have been pushed into ‘survival’ mode. In terms of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, if safety and physiological needs are under threat self-fulfilment is not a key priority.

  • Providing clear direction

A key challenge for leaders in organisations is the critical need to communicate a clear direction during uncertain times.  A ‘roadmap’ for the future, as one respondent to the research described it so well.

  • Changes in customer behaviour and expectations

Our customers’ perceptions and attitudes are shifting too. They were already changing but the catalysts have accelerated this by a significant factor. The move to more online discovery and purchase are obvious, but, perhaps not as immediately visible, are the changes to brand loyalty and the time being spent on exploring alternative options.

Ten thoughts on what you need to research now?

There are plenty of things keeping business leaders awake at night but the key question to answer is:

“What do I really need to know about…?”

I have arrived at ten key areas that need to be considered for exploration now:

  1. Your employees
  2. Your customers
  3. Your markets
  4. Your organisation and internal communication
  5. Your processes
  6. Your products and services
  7. Your competitors
  8. Your strategy
  9. Your marketing communications
  10. Your brand

The first two, in particular, are intended to be in priority order.

Number one must be our people. Without them as the foundation, the other areas would not be important.

Customers would come a very close second.  Without customers an organisation would cease to have a purpose.

The employee view

Back to our core question: what do we really need to know and understand about our people?

As a matter of some urgency, we need to ensure we have a clear view as to the following:

  • Satisfaction
  • Levels of engagement with the organisation
    • Do they feel they belong?
    • Do they feel part of a team?
    • Are they being effectively managed
    • Do they know how they are doing?
    • Are they looking to move to another organisation when the opportunity arises?
  • Emotional states
    • Well being
    • Mental health
    • Self esteem
    • Loneliness
    • Vulnerability
  • Physical health
  • Sense of direction – do they know what the leaders’ plans are?
  • Levels of security or insecurity
    • Financial
    • Emotional
    • Relationships
  • Extent of team working
  • Attitudes to WFH and hybrid working
    • There may be pressure on some to be positive about WFH. Will it be the new ‘normal’? Will people feel able to voice their true feelings about it?
  • Extent to which work/life balance is being realised

Why you really need to know about your employees now…

There is no time like the present to make sure that we fully understand the state of our employee base.

If you need help researching this, let’s talk.

LEADERS – What can you do to be more effective?

Invest time in discovering which of your personality traits can help you to succeed and those that could hinder you.

We offer a completely confidential assessment.

How it works:

1. We send you an invitation to complete a short questionnaire (typically 8 to 10 minutes)

2. We arrange a one to one initial feedback session with you via video conferencing (Skype/Zoom/FaceTime) or face to face (if preferred)

3. Following the session you will receive a detailed report that suggests how you can develop your leadership style Invest in the effectiveness of you and your team now.

To find out more see our article here


Understanding your own capacity to lead as well as this in that of others can significantly add value to your organisation and its stakeholders.

What is a leader?

“A person who influences others because they willingly do what he or she requests”

(Armandi et al 2003)

I like the simple idea that if you are not followed then you cannot be a leader.

Having trained, taught and coached people both in leadership roles or those aspiring to be leaders for many years, I have a strong interest in what it is that makes a person an effective leader.

There are numerous ways in which individuals can find out about their capacity to lead others. For some, this is being given responsibility for people and finding out the hard way. Increasingly though, organisations are far more aware of the risks of doing this and they will provide development programmes, coaching and training to grow their own leaders and if recruiting from outside will look at an individual’s track record as an indicator of likely success.

What is potential?

“A person with potential is one who can grow to maximise or optimise their talent”

In the context of leadership we are looking at the factors that, when combined, give an individual a high probability of success.

If we know what these factors are, we can begin to make key decisions about our own and others’ future roles and development.

Research has shown that personality traits predict approximately 20% of potential at work. Personality can be described as ‘the way we think’. Our personalities are largely shaped by our early twenties and become less variable as we get older.

There is no simple or single measure of potential. As with all things, some are better suited to certain situations than others.

Key questions around leadership

Anyone with more than a passing interest in leaders will have the heard the question:

“Are leaders born or made?”

Answers on a postcard please!

There is no doubt that training or development can increase leadership potential which is good news. However, clearly there are some people that will be more naturally inclined to thrive in senior leadership positions than others.

What else can help?

I have long been a fan of psychometric assessments in a leadership context as an aid to self-awareness and to give insight for personal development. For you or your existing leadership team they can help with developing positive relationships through being more aware of each others strengths and weaknesses and being able to play to them.

Critically, psychometric assessments can also provide real insight to aid decision making around people development, building leadership teams, succession planning, recruitment and internal promotion.

High Potential Trait Indicator (HPTI)

I use the HPTI from Thomas International as one of the key assessment tools for leadership development.

The HPTI assessment looks at six personality traits. It assumes that certain personality trait levels can indicate a high potential to succeed and be considered ‘optimal’ based on the requirements of a senior executive leadership. Too much or too little of a trait can indicate characteristics that could ‘de-rail’ an otherwise successful person.

The six personality traits measured by the HPTI are as follows:

  1. Conscientiousness – combines self-discipline, an organised approach to work and ability to control impulses which others might give in to
  2. Adjustment – indicates how individuals react emotionally to stress, external events, pressures and relationships
  3. Curiosity (novelty) – how individuals approach novelty, innovation, change, new information and methods
  4. Risk Approach – how someone deals with challenging, difficult or threatening situations
  5. Ambiguity Acceptance (complexity) – an individual’s reaction to complexity and contradictory information
  6. Competitiveness – the relative desire to win, need for power and reaction to winning and losing

Why is HPTI so useful?

  • It provides a subjective assessment on an individual’s leadership capacity based on their personality traits. This adds valuable insight to career development decision making.
  • It highlights strengths and weaknesses in the context of where the person is currently in their career and in terms of where they see their future direction.
  • It can provide an excellent basis for discussion around issues from an organisational leadership perspective.
  • It aids understanding of how and why some internal conflicts arise and what could be done by modifying behaviour to reduce the impact of these

To find out more on the HPTI assessment go to

Our top five tips are:

  1. Do the HPTI assessment yourself or use it to aid recruitment and selection in your organisation

It is unique. There is nothing else like it.

As an existing leader, you can discover what your potential trait indicators are and where they help you to succeed and those that may hinder your effectiveness. Use it to aid decision making for recruitment and selection of successors or to identify potential leaders in the organisation.

If you are keen to take on a leadership role, it may be something that you could ask your organisation to arrange as part of a training or development programme. If this is not possible, consider doing an assessment on your own behalf. It would invaluable for your personal and career development.

When you do the assessment, avoid the temptation to try to answer in a way that you think you should rather than your instinctive response.

  1. Get feedback

Get feedback from an experienced practitioner. This will give you far more insight than a report on its own can. It also avoids you having to try to interpret the findings on your own.

  1. Take the opportunity to discuss the issues that you or the organisation are facing as part of your feedback session

The opportunity to explore organisational culture, leadership and strategic issues as part of this feedback is worth taking. You are able to talk openly in a confidential setting. Sharing issues may generate potential solutions to issues that you have already identified.

  1. Remember there are no good or bad scores!

When looking at your results, think about how your personality traits do and don’t work for you in your current situation and where you might want to modify your behaviour in certain situations to be more effective or to realise your leadership potential in the future.

In a recruitment or selection situation, consider how a candidate’s traits could interact with others in your organisation. Where could there be synergies and how could they improve existing team performance, for example?

  1. Act!

As an existing leader, decide which elements of your HPTI results are priorities for you to focus on. Your feedback and the report will provide suggestions on how to develop your leadership style. Don’t try to do it all at once. Act on the key ones first.

In a recruitment and selection situation, the suggestions in the report can be used in discussion with the prospective candidate.

We can provide the HPTI assessment questionnaire and deliver feedback for you. To find out more contact us today.

Note: We offer Thomas International assessments including PPA, TEIQue and HPTI. For more information click here

With thanks to Thomas International for some of the trait descriptors