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Even Higher Expectations in a Post-2020 World: How Organizations Engage with Social Change

Given the new realities of 2020, The Conference Board decided to repeat the 2019 survey to see if organizations are responding differently to social change issues and how employees think organizations should respond. In this study, we investigated 16 human capital-related social change issues. To ensure that we measured different facets of this topic, we employed a multimethod approach that combined a short online survey that had almost 850 global respondents (with 43 percent outside North America).


The phrase “What a difference a year makes” was never truer than in 2020. A year ago, The Conference Board published its first report on the topic of how organizations manage social change, Higher Expectations: How Organizations Engage With Social Change Issues. We highlighted the fact that organizations are now being judged on the quality of their relationships with customers, employees, owners, and communities while being expected to play a role in social change conversations. These higher expectations accentuated organizations that were purpose-driven, as well as profitable.

In November 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic hit, and as it spread globally, a domino effect ensued that demonstrated weaknesses in health care systems (national and private) which cracked under the pressure of managing the magnitude of serious and fatal cases. The shock of the pandemic and shutdown measures plunged the global economy into a severe contraction, as millions lost their jobs to furloughs and layoffs. Remote work became the norm wherever possible due to government-mandated lockdowns. In addition, shortages of food and basic necessities due to supply chain disruptions caused widespread panic. Schools and facilities for childcare, seniors, and other dependents closed, creating new, 24/7 responsibilities for many employees.

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Amanda Popiela

Researcher, Human Capital
The Conference Board


Robin Erickson, PhD

Principal Researcher, Human Capital
The Conference Board

Ray, Rebecca 120 x 120.jpg

Rebecca L. Ray, PhD

Executive Vice President, Human Capital
The Conference Board








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