What Is It About Management That Workers Don’t Get?!

 

For the past ten years, Quality Consultants Limited has been conducting employee surveys in organizations in the region, both in the public and private sectors, and the results come back consistently: poor communication, poor management/employee relations, poor leadership, poor human resource management practices. You get the impression from employees that work would be a better place – if it wasn’t for management.

For the major part of last year, we conducted our sixth biennial Employee Benchmark Survey with organizations across the region. The survey involved close to 4,000 employees from organizations in Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Barbados and Antigua & Barbuda. The survey assessed employees’ attitudes, perceptions and opinions of their organization along ten dimensions: employee engagement, strategic alignment, leadership, talent management, management/employee relations, communication, supervision, work organization, customer focus and corporate social responsibility (CSR). It then benchmarked participating organizations against each other on these dimensions and on employee satisfaction and engagement in general.

The survey gives companies feedback on matters that could be affecting their employees’ job performance and productivity; helps identify their strengths and weaknesses; and can give them valuable input for their talent management, training and development, performance management and general HR management strategies, practices and programmes.

Of course, being a “benchmark company” can also give a company bragging rights and establish it as an “employer of choice,” which can be useful in trying to attract and retain the best talent available.

The results of the 2010 survey showed that the overall strengths of the participating companies were in the areas of customer focus, employee engagement, CSR, strategic alignment and supervision, in that order; while, consistent with previous surveys, the organizational weaknesses were, from the bottom up, leadership, talent management practices, communication and management/employee relations.

The survey also found that, across the 3,900 employees surveyed, the average level of employee satisfaction was 57%. That translates into just over half of the employees in the survey being satisfied with the organizational and management dimensions assessed in the survey. If these results are representative of employees in general, then it would seem that not very much more than half of our regional workforce is satisfied and engaged.

The implications of these results for productivity and job performance in the region are immense, as there is a wealth of management literature and research linking employee attitudes and perceptions to productivity and organizational performance. Essentially, the research suggests that satisfied and engaged workers are more likely to produce more, provide better customer service, have less job-related accidents, waste less and are less likely to seek alternative employment. All of these outcomes give these organizations a competitive advantage.

What the survey results indicate is that organizations are doing well in terms of their external customers and their corporate social responsibility, employees are relatively engaged and strategically aligned and supervision is alright – as far as employees are concerned. What the results also show is that our organizations are not doing as well when it comes to the more “touchy-feely” areas, like communication, leadership and management style, relations between managers and employees and how they manage their people. What all of these areas have in common, either in name or in nature, is – “management.”

So is it that employees just don’t get it – management, that is? Or is it that management doesn’t get it?

Our research suggests that much of the shortcomings that we see in organizations rest with management. Many of our managers and corporate leaders are still operating in the old command and control mode, which most new entrants into the workplace are neither accustomed to nor willing to tolerate. Today’s workers want to be in the communication loop; they want to be respected by management; expect management to be interested and concerned about their work/life balance, their welfare and satisfaction; aren’t willing to “leave their brains at the door” before entering the workplace – in other words, expect to be listened to, consulted and involved in the decision making process; and don’t necessarily have the same awe and reverence that their parents had for authority figures.

Where does that leave our managers? If our managers want to maximize their employees’ potential, if they want to attract and retain talent, if they want to engage employees to increase productivity and competitiveness, they will need to make some changes in the way they manage.

Based on regional and international best practices, we suggest that leaders and managers first need to understand themselves and how they come across to their employees. To begin with, they need psychometric profiling, they need executive coaching, and they need to improve their EQ or “Emotional Intelligence.” They also need some 360 degree feedback to keep them grounded.

Our managers also need to release the chains on company information and bring employees into the information and communication loop. Today’s worker is much more information and knowledge-savvy than in the past. If you don’t give them the information, they’ll get it anyway. It’s better that they get it from you. Information sharing also increases trust, which is sorely lacking in most of our organizations.

Finally, our organizations need to build human resource management systems that are strategic, that are people-centred, that are talent-driven and that are not steeped in the “personnel” past.

When our organizations – large and small, public and private – begin to adopt more contemporary approaches to management that recognize people as the source of creativity, innovation and value-creation, our productivity will increase and so will our competitiveness.

 

By Dr. Kwame R. Charles
Director, Quality Consultants Limited