Businesses adjust to more realistic performance goals
TORONTO, Feb. 29, 2012 /CNW/ - Levels of stress felt by business leaders
have shown their lowest annual increase since 2005 according to a
global survey of 6,000 businesses conducted for the most recent Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR). With economies depressed and the outlook for many still
uncertain, this raises the question of whether business leaders are
alleviating stress by scaling back on their goals—and possibly adding a
further brake to growth—or whether they have learned to better manage
the challenges they are facing.
In 2010, net1 45% of business leaders reported an increase in stress levels over the
previous 12 months, but this fell to just 28% in 2011. And the pattern
is consistent in many parts of the world—except Canada. Net 20% of
business leaders in the United States cite an increase in stress in the
last 12 months, compared with 36% in 2010. At the other end of the
scale, Asia Pacific is the most stressed region with net 44% reporting
an increase in stress over the past 12 months, down from 58% in 2010.
Even in distressed Europe, where the focus of economic turbulence
resides, the net increase in stress has declined from 40% in 2010 to
22% this year. Bucking the trend, research shows that net 18% of
Canadian business people report an increase in stress levels, slightly
higher than last year (16%) but still well below historical levels
(such as 2007, when net 29% reported an increase in stress).
"As the economic crisis has continued, the majority of business leaders
have learned to better manage the challenges they are facing, including
dealing with stress by adjusting to more realistic performance measures
and goals. This is just as true in the booming BRIC economies as in
troubled Europe," says Ed Nusbaum, CEO of Grant Thornton International.
"What we are seeing from our clients across the globe is more effective
management of this economic volatility and uncertainty. Businesses have
also learned to analyse risks better, factoring them into their
performance, and are setting themselves more realistic targets. And, of
course, some businesses are faring well despite the bleak economic
The IBR indicates that reaching performance targets is by far the
biggest headache for businesses—globally, 30% of business leaders cite
it as the major cause of workplace stress, and it is ranked highest in
37 of the 40 economies covered by the survey (with Canada at 28%).
Stress caused by the volume of communications (11% globally and 9 % in
Canada), office politics (11% globally and 16% in Canada) and work/life
balance (9% both globally and in Canada) are much less cited.
"The increased demands on managers that occur during periods of economic
volatility have the potential to increase stress levels. However,
people always try to actively manage the demands to reduce these
levels. Since they are unable to do much about the pressures coming
from the external business environment, they must look internally for
the solution," says Professor John Maule, an expert in Decision
Research at Leeds University Business School in the United Kingdom.
"With achievement of performance targets the greatest contributor of
stress for business owners, by reducing these goals they can lower the
discrepancy between what they want to achieve and what might happen.
This is an effective strategy for reducing stress, but the consequence
of lowering performance aspirations will decrease economic
activity—this at a time when it is most needed."
"These numbers show an encouraging pattern, and there are things that
can be done by growing businesses—and businesses that want to grow—to
reduce stress even more," said Bill Brushett, National Client Services
Partner, Grant Thornton LLP in Canada. "Employee engagement is an
important engine to a growing company, and we are finding that many
businesses are now recognizing and reacting to the increased
expectations on employees given the global economy. Many are, at the
same time, instituting helpful programs like flexible work arangements
or secondments in other regions—all programs that Grant Thornton member
firms around the world have utilized with positive results."
The IBR indicates that just 42% of business leaders take a holiday to
relieve stress despite a clear correlation between the number of
vacation days taken by business leaders and their levels of stress.
Canada does much better at 58%. Those countries where businesses take
the fewest vacation days—such as Japan, mainland China and
Thailand—report the biggest increases in stress. Conversely, business
leaders in the Netherlands, Russia and Denmark took the most days off
in 2011 and reported the lowest increases in stress.
The Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) provides quarterly insight into the views and expectations of
over 11,500 businesses per year across 40 economies. This unique survey
draws upon 20 years of trend data for most European participants and
nine years for many non-European economies. For more information,
please visit the IBR website at www.internationalbusinessreport.com.
Note to editors: Bill Brushett, National Clients and Services Partner,
Grant Thornton LLP, is available for interviews.
The research is carried out primarily by telephone interview lasting
approximately 15 minutes with the exception of Japan (postal),
Philippines and Armenia (face to face), mainland China and India
(mixture of face-to-face and telephone) where cultural differences
dictate a tailored approach. Telephone interviews enable Grant Thornton
International to conduct the exact number of recommended interviews and
to be certain that the most appropriate individuals are interviewed in
an organisation which meets the profile criteria. Data collection is
managed by Grant Thornton International's core research partner,
Experian. Questionnaires are translated into local languages with each
participating country having the option to ask a small number of
country specific questions in addition to the core questionnaire. From
2011, fieldwork takes place on a quarterly basis every quarter with
fieldwork lasting approximately one month and a half.
IBR is a survey of both listed and privately held businesses. The data
for this release are drawn from interviews with 6,000 business leaders
across the globe conducted between September and December 2011. The
target respondents are chief executive officers, managing directors,
chairmen or other senior executives (title dependent on what is most
appropriate for the individual country) from 40 economies primarily
across five sectors: manufacturing (25 per cent), services (25 per
cent), retail (15 per cent) and construction (10 per cent) with the
remaining 25 per cent spread across all sectors. Locally, the sample
tends to cover the sectors mentioned previously, with some countries
being able to have local valid data for specific sectors or regions
when the sample size is large enough.
Economies included in IBR
Australia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, China (mainland), Malaysia, New
Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam
Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)
Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam
Brazil, Russia, India, China (mainland)
European Union (EU)
Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy,
Netherlands, Poland, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom
Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, United Kingdom, United States of
Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Peru
Denmark, Finland, Sweden
Canada, United States of America
Armenia, Botswana, Georgia, South Africa, Switzerland, Turkey, United
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1Net figures show those indicating an increase less those indicating a