Corporate scandals are eroding trust in senior leaders and will have a damaging impact on employee engagement, warns CIPD

David Woods , 23 Jul 2012


Only 36% of workers trust their senior leaders and more than half (58%) of workers display signs of having adopted a ‘not bothered’ attitude to their work, according to the CIPD's quarterly Employee Outlook survey, published this morning, of more than 2,000 employees across the UK, which asks employees a number of questions to gauge their level of engagement in the work place and attitudes to working life.

The survey found employees that display 'neutral' engagement are about half as likely to go the extra mile with regard to workload and hours than those who are engaged and nearly three times more likely to be looking for a new job. It also found a strong correlation between employee engagement and knowledge of the organisation's core purpose. These findings align strongly with the significant body of evidence cited in the MacLeod Review regarding the impact of employee engagement on performance.

The report revealed just 24% of employees agree they are consulted by senior managers about key issues that affect the business and only 40% of respondents are satisfied with the opportunities that exist to feed their views and ideas upwards to senior managers.

Employees who trust their senior managers are more likely to express satisfaction with their wellbeing and are less likely to report being under stress.

Peter Cheese, chief executive at the CIPD, said: "Given the number of examples reported in the media in recent months of unethical behaviours and corrosive cultures overseen by senior leaders, it is perhaps unsurprising to see trust in the workplace eroding. What's worrying is the impact this will have on engagement. We know that strong employee engagement drives higher productivity and better business outcomes, so such a prominent display of 'neutral engagement' in the workplace should act as a real wake up call for employers.

"Now more than ever, organisations need to pay close attention to the impact the behaviours of senior leaders is having on the rest of the workforce and consider how they can improve corporate culture from the top down. The HR profession is uniquely positioned to help organisations properly understand existing cultures and behaviours, to re-examine and re-define corporate values and to revisit the way in which those values are reinforced, incentivised and rewarded through the day-to-day behaviours by managers - from the very top down to the front line.

"Employees also need to believe their views are respected and that they have a voice in the organisation, otherwise there is a risk that when things go wrong, no-one tells the executive team until it is too late. Just as importantly, empowered and engaged employees are able to provide customer inspired innovation and ensure organisations' products and services adapt quickly to take advantage of fast changing markets.

"Building trust in senior leaders and employee engagement requires a shift away from traditional command and control styles of leadership to a distributed leadership model where managers at all levels have the ability to win hearts and minds, and get the best out of their people in the service of the organisation."


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Change needs to be motivated for the right reasons and authentic

Christina Lattimer 23 Jul 2012

Another unsurprising report. The problem is those leaders who engender distrust in their employees are usually the one's who are the decision makers. For change to happen,those leaders have to acknowledge how their behaviours are impacting on their business in terms of not only engaging their people, but their customer base also. This is the tricky part because unless those behaviours are "outed" either reported in the press or in some other way being exposed, then I question whether such leaders are motivated sufficiently, believe they need to do things differently or don't even think it's important enough to change significantly. For HR to make a difference here it needs to be able to a) pinpoint the issues b) paint a compelling picture of what good looks like (and there is lots of "good" out there too) and c) quantify the cost of "not changing" in term of profit, reputation, engagement and success. Its vital any changes are "heart and mind" decisions by leaders and managers because otherwise superficial attempts to change will make matters worse.

Employee Engagment Research 2012

Kate Jennings 02 Aug 2012

If leaders are not seen to be living the culture and values of their organisations and supporting the purpose then why should the employees? It is as important for senior leaders to be trusted in the organisations as it is for employees to trust their first line managers and supervisors. These managers are the face of the organisation and need to engage their teams. Our latest research consistently reveals the challenges that executives have in earning the trust of their workforce. This year it appears that leaders at all levels in Europe are struggling to retain trust. 49% of European employees say they trust their senior leaders compared to 51% in the last study. Meanwhile, trust in employees' immediate managers, though higher overall, has changed from 74% to 71% since 2011. Given that those who are engaged are willing to go the extra mile and not as likely to be looking for another job, employee engagement should be a critical success factor of any business. However our research tells us Engagement levels in Europe are flat. 30% of European employees are Engaged – the same finding presented in our 2011 report. The number of Disengaged workers has also increased slightly from 18% to 19%. Many organisations ramp up for the annual engagement survey. Managers are asked about the status of their action plans. Organisation-wide responses to last year's findings (e.g., career development tools or rewards programmes) are finally rolled out. Leaders increase their communications and visibility. But the scores achieved aren't necessarily an accurate representation of what's going on - this can turn engagement efforts into just another administrative task with no value-add. Survey’s alone don’t work – you need to re-educate your senior leaders about the role that survey findings should play in shaping decisions and focus on actions that increase long term engagement. Conduct pulse surveys throughout the year — because any survey is just one set of data set from one specific moment in time. Ask the right questions. Many employee engagement surveys are carried over from employee satisfaction tools, but satisfaction is not enough. True engagement integrates satisfaction and contribution; it requires alignment with the organisation's critical priorities. Make sure your engagement survey contains items that assess commitment and alignment with organisational goals and that it explores barriers to high performance. Make it balanced and concise so your organisation can focus on the actions it generates. Keep in mind that engagement is an individual equation: find ways to develop individual engagement plans. Take action, but take the right action. High scores are not the prize- They provide insights to help you take the action you need to achieve your goals. When it comes to employee engagement, many organisations spend so much time and money collecting, analysing and communicating data that they have little budget or actually doing something. And it's the doing that will impact your bottom line. Kate Jennings – Managing Director of BlessingWhite

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