Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Managers out of touch with employees

Two recent surveys have shown how managers are out of touch with their employees. The first was carried out by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) and found that too many managers have an inflated opinion of their ability to manage people. Eight out of ten managers say they think their staff are satisfied or very satisfied with them as a manager whereas just 58% of employees report this is the case.

This 'reality gap' matters as the survey finds a very clear link between employees who say they are satisfied or very satisfied with their manager and those that are engaged - i.e. willing to go the extra mile for their employer. The CIPD research found a significant contrast between how managers say they manage their people and the views of their employees:

 • Six in ten (61%) of managers claim they meet each person they manage at least twice a month to talk about their workload, meeting objectives and other work-related issues. However, just 24% of employees say they meet their managers with such frequency.
 • More than 90% of managers say they sometimes or always coach the people they manage when they meet, while only 40% of employees agree.
 • Three quarters (75%) of managers say they always/sometimes discuss employees' development and career progression during one to ones, but just 38% of employees say this happens.
 • There are similar gaps in views between managers and employees on how often managers: joint problem solve with employees; discuss ideas employees might have to improve the business and; discuss employees' wellbeing.

 Given this mismatch, it’s not surprising to find that employees are disengaged and have little respect for their management. The second survey was carried out by hyphen, the recruitment solutions provider, and showed that there is a clear discrepancy of attitudes to social media between young and older workers. The research finds that the use of online networking sites such as LinkedIn while at work is now an expected norm for younger people. Nearly two thirds (58.7%) of 'Generation Facebook' believe that having access to social networking tools at work actually increases their effectiveness as an employee.

 However, many mangers still don’t trust employees to use social media at work. They assume that people will spend hours chatting to their friends, wasting company time. But the poll of 1000 workers showed that close to a third (31.3%) didn't spend any time dealing with personal matters in their work time, which increased incrementally with age. Indeed, over half (55.1%) of the workforce spend less than 10 minutes a day on their personal affairs. This suggests employer concerns over employees wasting time on social networking sites could be ill - founded.

Managers who are out of touch with the younger employees are going to miss out on recruiting and engaging the best talent. If they are not able to adapt their working practices to reflect the values of the Facebook Generation it will reflect in the quality of their workforce and ultimately in the effectiveness of their business.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Civil Service Home Working

The government has just announced that thousands of civil servants will be allowed to work from home over a seven week period covering the Olympic and Paralympic Games. This has attracted negative media coverage, implying that the Civil Servants will be having an extended holiday and that the wheels of government will grind to a halt. This is based on the mistaken assumption that people working from home are less productive than those coming into the office. But the results of research and the experience of major employers is the reverse. People who work from home are generally MORE productive than their office counterparts. A survey of 350 home workers carried out by the Telework Association showed that 85% of people who work at home claim they get more done by staying at home. The challenge for managers in the Civil Service will be to measure the output of their people and manage them based on results not on the hours put in. This is counter to the ‘presenteeism’ culture that still exists in many organisations which results in long hours of low productivity work. This week a senior judge has called for an end to the hourly billing by lawyers which gives a financial incentive to drag work out rather than speed it up. A survey by the CIPD released this week shows that three-quarters of employees make use of some form of flexible working and 20% work from home on a regular basis. Despite this becoming a much more common feature of the modern workplace, managers are struggling to keep up. In the CIPD survey 35% of employees cited line managers as a barrier to flexible working and this will probably be reflected in the Civil Service this Summer. If the experience during the Olympics is negative then home working will get a bad name. If it’s positive then government managers will find they can run a more effective operation by continuing to allow people a choice of where to work. With mobile technology allowing people to work remotely, we have a great opportunity to update our working practices to match. The Olympics should be a catalyst for change and a nudge into the 21st century for those managers still operating a presenteeism culture. Whether the civil service takes this opportunity or not remains to be seen.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Anywhere Working Week

This week is Anywhere Working Week (see http://www.anywhereworking.org/2012/anywhere-working-week-27th-february/ }. It’s being promoted by the Department for Transport, supported by a variety of sponsors who are interested in spreading the word about mobile working.

One of they key triggers behind this initiative is the Olympic Games. The government is trying to persuade employers to allow people to work from home, or a remote location, during the peak fortnight of the games. The aim is to reduce commuter traffic by 30% and avoid complete gridlock in London.

Hopefully this will push reluctant employers into considering remote working as an option for their workforce and they will find that it isn’t as disruptive as they feared. Then they might continue to allow people to work from home after the Olympic rush is over.

However, there is a good chance that employers will see this as a bad time to let people work from home. Whist daytime TV is not normally a great incentive to stay at home and avoid work, during the Olympics there will be continuous coverage of the events and the temptation will be greater. So, a manager who already has difficulty trusting people to work at home is hardly likely to have a change of heart during the Games.

We need more persuasive evidence that remote and flexible working is good for business. There are some good examples of organizations, such as BT, which have saved millions in real estate costs and improved productivity through flexible working. But these are still seen as isolated cases. Maybe the government could sponsor some wider research into the relationship between remote working and increased output, to convince managers of the benefits. It might have help to improve commuting conditions in London forever, not just for the Olympics.