Organisations have gone through tough times in the recession, especially when it has lasted much longer than many anticipated. But we’ve reached a point where using the recession as an excuse for poor leadership and putting the business on hold is no longer accepted by employees. Producing high-quality work without seeing clear reward and progression can be de-motivating and businesses might be jeopardising relationships with their workers by purely failing to communicate their strategies and plans for the future. This is where HR professionals can play a vital role in reversing this ‘era of lost leaders’, by creating the ‘missing’ communication link.


Leadership in crisis

The fact that poor leadership is indeed a growing problem in UK organisations is underlined in our latest Global Workforce Study. The survey found that just over half of UK workers (51%) believe the information they receive from their senior team and only 44% have confidence in the job being done by their senior managers. These are worrying statistics, suggesting that many workers are not happy with their organisations or their leadership and might start looking to move.


We tend to find an exodus of staff occurring when there is an apparent disconnect between senior management and employees and it often comes down to a lack of communication between them. It’s perfectly plausible that when senior managers are in the midst of tackling budget pressures and wider corporate issues, they can lose touch with their staff. However, the long term damage this can do to the company could prove to be much bigger and more expensive. Ensuring your workforce understands and supports the company’s goals must be a priority if businesses want to keep the best talent.


Culture of confidence

 Closer cooperation between HR professionals and the senior management can create a much better understanding of business intentions. This can then be fed back to the workforce in a way which clearly outlines ‘the plan’ and how individuals might be affected. It is also important to ensure that senior leaders are open to suggestions and feedback from workers. From our experience, creating a culture of confidence and shared purpose greatly improves business performance.


Engage in meaningful dialogue

These are important avenues of communication but this doesn’t mean that all internal communication should be done via the HR department; senior leaders still need to make time for face-to-face dialogue with employees in order to create an atmosphere of respect and teamwork. To support this, HR professionals can coordinate staff surveys and ensure that voices are heard so that senior management understand the issues workers have and engage in meaningful dialogue.


Our study also showed that UK workers are feeling the pressure, as over half have been working more hours than they were three years ago. This demonstrates that workers are willing to help their employers but in turn they expect stronger performance from their managers and recognition for being part of their organisation’s success. It’s not enough to tell workers about what the business is doing. Companies need to tell them how employees can be involved and be part of the change. This should go hand-in-hand with an explanation of how they will be rewarded and progress in their career as a result.


Innovation, recognition and reward at the heart of talent management

It’s particularly worrying, therefore, to see that in our survey, only half of employees currently rate the job that their leaders are doing to grow their business as either ‘good’ or ‘very good’,  especially when a third of them said they would leave their organisation if they lost trust in their leaders. Involvement and open communication channels are going to become increasingly important if businesses want to keep hold of their key talent. Workers realise their potential and capabilities and the best talent will always seek opportunities for growth. Innovation, recognition and reward should be at the heart of every talent management strategy and all businesses should ensure that these values are also effectively communicated from senior leadership right down to line managers.


Towers Watson has the following employee engagement tips for business leaders:

1.    Make recognition and reward of achievement a part of everyday life; find different ways to share stories of outstanding performance and of individuals going the extra mile.

2.    Encourage employees to suggest new ideas and ways of doing things in the company and reward them accordingly.

3.    Keep open and honest channels of communication with all employees and ensure the senior leadership team is approachable to staff. Investing in social media tools such as instant messaging, social networks and internal leadership blogs can support collaboration, ideas sharing and cultivate team building and give the leadership team clarify interaction with their workforce.

4.    Embed the idea of reward and recognition across the senior leadership team – training days or conferences can be effective in providing leaders with the tools they need to support and motivate their teams.

5.    Make sure every employee is informed of exactly how the company is performing, how it is matching up to key business targets and what this means for staff with supporting commentary from senior figures. Ensure that all employees feel a part of any changes the business decides to take.

For more information or to download a copy of Towers Watson’s Global Workforce Study, please visit