Employers appear to be deluding themselves that workplace relations are positive and staff morale high when in fact two thirds of employees don’t trust their bosses and 58% are indifferent to their work.
According to a survey entitled ‘Facing the Future’ undertaken among 319 employers by the CBI
and recruitment consultancy, Harvey Nash
, just under two thirds believed that employee relations in their workplace were either ‘co-operative’ or ‘very co-operative’.
Two out of five described staff morale as either ‘high’ or ‘very high’, while a huge 85% were confident that their personnel understood the need to contain costs and adapt work patterns in order to respond to external market pressures.
Nonetheless, over the next 12 months, their three key priorities were boosting employee engagement (60%), containing labour costs (48%) and recruiting for key vacancies (38%).
Katja Hall, the employer lobby group’s chief policy director said: “With two thirds of businesses reporting high levels of co-operation in their workplace, employers clearly understand the value of engaging their employees and keeping them informed about business challenges being faced.”
Erosion of trust
But the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development
was no so sure. Its own quarterly ‘Employee Outlook’ survey of more than 2,000 UK staff revealed that only 36% trusted their senior leaders, while almost three out of five seemed to have adopted a ‘not bothered’ attitude to work.
Peter Cheese, the organisation’s chief executive, 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.”
But such a scenario would inevitably have a negative impact on staff engagement levels, which would, in turn, lead to lower productivity and poorer business results.
“Such a prominent display of ‘neutral engagement’ in the workplace should act as a real wake-up call for employers,” Cheese said. “Now more than ever, organisations need to pay close attention to the impact the behaviour of senior leaders is having on the rest of the workforce and consider how they can improve corporate culture from the top down.”
The research found that employees who showed ‘neutral’ levels of engagement were about half as likely to go the extra mile in terms of workload and hours as people who were fully engaged. They were also more than three times more likely to be looking for a new job.
Nonetheless, HR was “uniquely positioned” to help organisations understand existing culture and behaviour in order to re-examine and re-define corporate values and how they were “reinforced, incentivised and rewarded through the day-to-day behaviour by managers – from the very top down to the front line”, Cheese said.