Employees are confident about how their organisation responded to COVID-19 challenges, and are telling their employers they want to work flexibly in the future

LONDON, UK—May 13, 2021

Despite the trials and tribulations of last year over three quarters (78%) of businesses met or surpassed their growth target according to a new study by Oracle NetSuite, down just 4% from a similar report conducted prior to the pandemic. The new study, The State of Growth, provides insights from 2,000 employees in the UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Benelux, Nordics and the Middle East, examining business responses to COVID-19 challenges and the expectations for growth.

“It is evident in our findings that many European and Middle East businesses have rallied to adapt during the pandemic to meet their growth objectives,” said Nicky Tozer, VP EMEA, Oracle NetSuite. “Businesses know there are still challenges ahead—ever-changing circumstances and accommodating employees’ preferences to how and where they work—but it will be the organisations that evolve quickly and efficiently that will accelerate growth.”


Business confidence remains strong regionally

The organisations surveyed have demonstrated an ability to react and adapt over the past year and have an optimistic growth outlook for 2021.

  • The majority (78%) of respondents said their business met or exceeded growth targets last year. This was consistent regionally—the UK (83%), Benelux (83%), Spain (82%), Germany (80%), Nordics (78%), France (73%), Italy (72%) and the Middle East (70%).
  • Across all regions, respondents’ industries also impacted performance. Advertising, media & publishing (89%), professional services (85%), and software and technology (82%) industries reported growth, above manufacturing (64%) and retail (70%).
  • Despite challenges that remain, over half (54%) of respondents are expecting annual revenue growth in 2021, while 21% expect to remain flat. Spain (66%), the UK (65%) and Italy (59%) are more expectant of growth than Benelux (40%) and France (40%).

Thrive, rather than survive

Much has been made of how quickly businesses adapted to a changing landscape, and respondents have faith in how their organisations continue to tackle these challenges.

  • The majority of businesses surveyed are not overwhelmed by the pandemic—only 23% cited COVID-19 as the greatest external business threat they face, just ahead of government regulations and tax reform (21%), new competitors disrupting markets (20%) and political uncertainty (19%).
  • Strong financial performances could be attributed to organisations’ ability to react—70% of respondents rated their company above average for adjusting business priorities due to COVID-19.
  • 84% said they had to change the way they collaborate with customers over the past 12 months, and 72% said the amount they sell online, as well as the number of channels they sell through (72%), also increased.

The impact of remote working on the future workplace

The past year has solidified a change in how employees work, and their expectations for a more hybrid model moving forward.

  • Only 21% of employees surveyed plan to permanently return to company facilities full-time, with older workers (aged over 55) showing a greater willingness to return to the office (42%). Over a third (38%) would like permanent flexibility in working hours.
  • However, this doesn’t signify a complete shift to remote working in the future. 50% of respondents expect to work remotely more than half the time post-pandemic, compared to 41% that already did so prior to the pandemic.
  • Remote working has had little impact on the surveyed organisations’ ability to collaborate and problem solve, with 51% saying it is unchanged and a further 17% of respondents saying that remote working has improved their capabilities.
  • Remote workers have adapted—although face-to-face collaboration ranks highest (32%) for things people miss about being in the workplace, a further 68% of respondents do not miss in-person collaboration with colleagues, suggesting that many have found a rhythm with remote working patterns.

For this study, NetSuite partnered with Opinium Research to survey 2000 manager level and above employees. This research was conducted as a follow up to last year’s Unlocking Growth report. The respondents represented small and mid-sized organisations across industries including retail, manufacturing, wholesale distribution, software & technology, professional services and advertising, media & publishing. Respondents originated from the UK, France, Germany, Nordics, Benelux, Middle East (UAE & KSA), Spain and Italy, with 250 from each region. Participants took part in an online questionnaire and were surveyed in March and April 2021.