Covid a ‘Wake-up’ call for CEOs

11th October 2021

Posted In: FYI

Irish employers could see a raft of resignations as the return to office accelerates — unless organisations change their structures and the way they deal with employees.

This is according to Dr. Nigel Paine, former Chief Learning Officer at the BBC, who says Covid-19 has been a wake-up call for CEOs. He says that ‘The Great Resignation’ that has happened in the US where more than four million people quit their jobs in a few months could also happen here.

Dr. Paine, who has 25 years of experience in corporate learning and is a global expert on learning and development, is one of the keynote speakers at the 2021 Learnovation Summit which takes place tomorrow (October 12th) and Wednesday (October 13th).

Learnovation is an annual global learning tech event organised by The Learnovate Centre, a leading technology research centre based at Trinity College Dublin and funded by Enterprise Ireland and the IDA.

The theme of Learnovation 2021, which will be virtual this year at,  is ‘The Future of Work and Learning.’ A full programme of speakers can be found here

Dr Paine, who has a global reputation for his work in learning and development, says: 

“What happened in the U.S. is unprecedented but I think we are going to see that process accelerating around the world and in Ireland. People will quit their jobs if they are not getting what they want. These are smart, engaged people who have good jobs but they are quitting because the organisations are not delivering what they want.

“Workers are thinking they only have one life and are looking at whether or not their job holds value for them anymore.

Organisations will be working out how they can keep people and throwing money at it won’t help at all.

It is not a question of money, it is a question of agency and meaning.

Organisations need to craft meaning rather than write more cheques. Going back to a place where people don’t have agency is going to be really difficult.”

He says that retention is going to be a huge issue for all organisations unless they embrace change and redefine themselves.

“Organisations that have tried to slip back quietly to the way they worked before have become badly unstuck. Even massive multinationals have been taken aback by the resistance of staff. Organisations need to focus on getting the best out of the whole person and not trying to get everyone to fit into the needs of the organisation. That is a big sea change and it will take a while but people will walk with their feet in a way they would not have done two years ago.”

“Covid has been a wake-up call for CEOs. The days when CEOs sat in a room and made all the decisions on how organisations are going to run is over. Demands that work can no longer be done from the office reveals a hidden communication that CEOs don’t trust their staff. It is such a yesterday view of the world and staff. They trusted them to work from home for 18 months but they don’t any more. It’s a terrible message to be sending out.”

Dr. Paine will deliver the keynote tomorrow on Day 1 (Tuesday, October 12) of the Learnovation Summit entitled ‘How organisations are reimagining learning’. For more information, see

Image: The Learnovate Summit 2021 features: (l-r) Learnovate Academic Director Dr Ann Devitt, Learnovate Director Nessa McEniff and Associate Professor in HR Management at TCD’s School of Business Dr Na Fu.