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OU instructors publish research on how organizations responded to employee needs during COVID-19 pandemic

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A team of OU instructors published a study in March on how organizations handled the needs of their employees during the COVID-19 pandemic and found 73 percent of workers believed their companies could do better. 

The study called “One Size Does NOT Fit All: Understanding Differences in Perceived Organizational Support During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” was conducted during the early stages of the pandemic by OU organizational leadership instructors Ruby Daniels, Leslie A. Miller and Michael Zia Mian, according to a Monday release.

The release wrote the study surveyed nearly 1,000 workers from 22 industries, rating the quality of 15 different actions performed by the organizations that focused on health and well-being, comfort expressing concerns, listening and caring about concerns, support for employees’ decisions and communicating the organization’s response. Study respondents also made suggestions on how leaders could make them feel more supported.

“(COVID-19) was a global issue, it was a national issue, in terms of trying to find a solution that would not only help organizations succeed but (also) would be able to help workers that were going through some really challenging (and) unprecedented kinds of challenges,” Daniels said in an interview with The Daily. “Understanding and watching what organizations were doing well, as well as opportunities for improvement, we felt that there was an urgent need for that, and that's why we started the study.” 

Ultimately, the study highlighted the need for employers to plan for how they would react in a pandemic situation. However, Daniels said there was not a “one size fits all solution” to the issues the pandemic brought to organizations. 

“I would say the biggest takeaway that we had was that different workers had different needs and that organizations needed to be able to speak to those specific concerns and address the specific needs of different segments of workers,” Daniels said. “(We could) not just be looking for a magic bullet that was going to work for everyone.” 

Daniels said the study found that universally, employees wanted to be heard by their supervisors. During the pandemic, some employees were laid off or fired with no explanation, Daniels said, resulting in what is now coined “the Great Resignation” where employees are realizing they don’t want to work a job that did not treat them well.   

The release wrote the study found empathy and compassion critical during a crisis such as the COVID-19 pandemic. Daniels said in the release they found this in one restaurant owner who gave away food to his employees rather than let it spoil when the nationwide stay-at-home orders passed. In the release, Daniels said she and her team hope their research serves as a planning tool for leaders in years to come.

“One of the big takeaways is the time to prepare for a crisis is not when you're in the middle of a crisis,” Daniels said in the interview. “Now is the time to really prepare a pandemic kind of plan because eventually another pandemic will occur. You have to be prepared in terms of how are you going to kind of handle the situation … organizations big and small, need to be thinking about pandemic plans.”

news reporter

Taylor Jones is a journalism sophomore and news reporter at The Daily.

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