Most employees lack faith in bosses

This article is more than 12 months old

Employers feel they are doing a good job developing future leaders, but employees tend to disagree

A global study on employee behaviour conducted by Willis Towers Watson found that almost half of all employees felt they needed to leave their current job in order to advance in their career.

Are Singaporean organisations failing to take employee engagement seriously despite the clear correlation it has with employee retention and business performance?

It is alarming to learn that only half the employees in Singapore feel their leaders are effective at developing talent and leading change.

Interestingly, the study also found that less than half the employees here have trust and confidence in the job being done by senior leadership.

This is worrying, as lack of trust and confidence in senior leadership is one of the top five reasons for why employees in Singapore might consider leaving their organisation. This point is further accentuated by the fact that only 39 per cent of the employees here feel that senior leaders have a sincere interest in employees' well being.

A separate Willis Towers Watson study on employers' views on how they drive people practices showed disconnect between how employees and employers view the situation.

While 64 per cent of the organisations here feel that they are effectively developing leaders to meet future needs, only 33 per cent of the employees feel that their organisations are doing a good job of developing future leaders.

Immediate managers are best positioned to understand what is going on within their teams. Their relationship with subordinates is one of the top five reasons why employees leave their employers.

Our research showed that when leaders and managers are both perceived to be effective, employees are much more likely to be highly engaged. However, only 39 per cent of employees in Singapore feel that their managers have the necessary skills for the job. Clearly, there are some unaddressed or misunderstood issues at play.

It is critical to understand the unmet expectations that employees have of their managers.

The following are areas where we see the lowest levels of employee satisfaction with their managers:

  • Coaching to improve employee performance (44 per cent).
  • Having enough time to handle the people aspects of the job (44 per cent).
  • Making fair decisions about how employee performance links to salary (47 per cent).
  • Helping to remove obstacles for employees to do their job well (47 per cent).
  • Being effective at differentiating between high and low performers (48 per cent).

Companies need to understand that employees are increasingly behaving like consumers - they are evaluating which organisations can offer them the best "experience".

Forward-looking organisations are shifting away from "managing talent" to offering high-quality and personalised experiences for their workforce.

The employee experience is the collective experience offered by an employer in exchange for an employee's time and efforts.

It is multifaceted but can be broken down into four broad, fundamental components: one's purpose at work, the work itself, the people one works with and for, and the total rewards deal.

The total experience is a consequence of the strategy, culture, operating model, structure, systems and processes of the organisation. Leaders and managers, along with human resources (HR), play a key role in shaping these.

HR teams need to focus on getting the design of HR processes right, building an agile mindset for continuous improvisation and investing in a "continuous listening" strategy to understand the voice of their customers (the employees).

Otherwise organisations will not be equipped to pinpoint engagement deficiencies, nor will managers be able to see some home truths about their people management skills.

When armed with a strong understanding of the workforce's needs, leaders and managers can provide a tailor-made experience to engage and retain their people.

The value of strong employee engagement is clear and, at present, there is certainly room for improvement in Singapore.

Shaping an employee experience starts with understanding their views and needs. Effective leadership is arguably the most critical component of a successful programme.

The writer is director of Talent Consulting at Willis Towers Watson. This is an edited version of an article that was published in The Business Times yesterday.