May 2012
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TD Magazine

More Employee Input and Accountability Yield More Effective Practices

Monday, May 7, 2012

Results from a new survey underscore the need for employers to elicit employee opinions and use them in decision making.

Despite good intentions from management, employees believe many workplace practices aren't effective and often get in the way of performance results. And about one out of two employees thinks that a lack of openness about how decisions are made and little employee input are major causes, according to a new survey by Fierce Inc., a communication training and leadership development company.

Although most employees said they would speak up about an issue, less than one-third felt that it would make a difference. "Among respondents who reported limited or no benefits from their organization's current practices, less than one-third felt that their company was willing to change practices based on employee input and feedback," notes Halley Bock, CEO and president of Fierce. "This indicates that about two-thirds of respondents felt that their opinion was either unwelcome or not valued."

The Fierce survey provides insight into employees' perceptions of workplace practices and the disconnect between managers and employees in workplace communication. Nearly 800 corporate executives, employees, and educators across the finance, healthcare, retail, aerospace, and defense sectors participated in the survey. Here are study highlights:

  • 44 percent of employees felt that workplace practices are ineffective and often hinder employee productivity and morale.
  • 47 percent reported that current practices impede desired results.
  • 50 percent said the lack of companywide transparency and the lack of employee involvement are the primary areas of concern.

And although 70 percent of employees were willing to speak up, they doubted it would make a difference.
"This highlights a disconnect within today's organizations. Organizations must open the line of communication between employees and management," notes Bock. "Since employees feel their companies' practices should be adjusted [to evolve with changing company needs], it's important that employers actually elicit opinions from their employees. Going a step further, employers really need to listen and have those opinions influence decision making."

However, employees do feel that some practices promote better productivity. Nearly 50 percent said that the practices that are effective are those that "encourage accountability, development, and individual empowerment within the organization." To do this, study researchers recommend that organizations create a culture where individual "efficacy" is encouraged and where employee opinion is solicited and valued.

"There are two primary actions that managers can take to improve the situation," says Bock. "First, invite multiple perspectives to 'the table'—reach beyond your usual network when important company decisions are being discussed. Secondly, be an active listener. When engaging in conversation with employees about important issues, really listen and take their input into account. The bottom line is, ineffective practices not only cost our companies billions of dollars, they drive away our most valuable employees and customers—limiting performance and stalling careers."

About the Author

Phaedra Brotherton is a trained career development facilitator and certified professional resume writer. She is former manager of ATD’s Career Development Community of Practice, and was previously senior writer/editor for ATD.

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