UK CEOs' lack of communication leaves staff in dark

31 March 2020 3 min. read
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As UK businesses continue to endure stagnant productivity, bosses may be shooting themselves in the foot by failing to make their staff feel they can talk to them. While workplace equality can help drive innovation, a startling 36% of the British workforce say they are uncomfortable approaching their CEO with critical notes on their firm’s operations.

Polling some 250 employees in the UK, software supplier Unit 4 found that only 31% of workers “occasionally” received a company-wide e-mail from their CEO. This was not only lower than a similar study in the Netherlands, but showed that an even higher portion of 36% simply never have contact of any kind with their CEO.

Aside from that failure of a majority of CEOs to meet a bare minimum standard of contact, staff also suggested they were largely uncomfortable with relaying important information to their boss. In a global survey, UK workers exhibited the highest number of responses that they were not “at all comfortable” with expressing critical views to senior management. Around 17% of UK respondents said this, while a broader 36% said they were to some degree uncomfortable.

UK CEOs' lack of communication leaves staff in dark

This could be preventing companies from making a large number of simple and effective changes to their operations. A culture of equality can drive innovation at work, but according to another recent study – also in the UK – only one-third of employees feel empowered to innovate at present. This demonstrated a significant disconnect between workers and their bosses, with 76% of business leaders also claiming they empower employees to be innovative.

Supporting this, Unit4’s researchers suggest that the lack of contact between directors and their staff is fostering a distrustful work culture, which is further inhibiting progress. The study also showed the UK workforce stands alone with some fairly negative views towards the senior decision makers in their organisation regarding their approachability, trustworthiness and attitudes toward employee welfare. Compared to a global average of 11%, 15% of UK staff said their boss “cares about money, and not much else,” while 10% flat out said their CEO was untrustworthy.

A way to improve the reputation of British bosses may first rest with simply boosting communications with staff. Allowing staff to have clear contact with a CEO can do wonders for a leader’s reputation at a firm, something which can have a deceptively large impact. Even in the current state of lockdown around Covid-19, there is no excuse not to manage this, due to the extensive level of technology now available to bosses.

Mike Ettling, CEO at Unit4, said, “When CEOs are disconnected from their workforce, employees can be left feeling disengaged which can lead to much lower productivity at work and ultimately impact the bottom-line… This old-fashioned management mind-set is no longer fit for today’s business and must be rejected in order to encourage the best asset a company has; its people. Perhaps a way to enable that is through the better use of technology so that employees can feel more engaged and empowered to make those decisions.”