Employee Trust of Leaders Lags

Leaders are faulted for not linking employee goals to overall corporate performance.

Boston — Sept. 7

The results of Interaction Associates’ (IA) 2011 Building Trust in Business survey offer a warning for business leaders navigating a still-difficult economy: Employee trust in leaders is lagging and has not rebounded in the year since the 2010 survey.

Building Trust in Business measures key indicators for the interplay between trust, leadership and collaboration — pointing to how high-performing companies achieve key business results by emphasizing all three. The 2011 survey of more than 150 business leaders is the third year that Interaction Associates has explored what has been referred to as “the formula for success” at high performing companies.

“Our Building Trust survey has a key surprise this year around trust,” said Andy Atkins, director of research and development at IA. “Even as employees express trust in peers by saying they share and collaborate more easily with colleagues, they remain wary and distrustful of their leaders. Employees want more transparency into decisions and more involvement in the decisions that affect them.”

In the 2011 survey, most respondents view their companies as gaining strength financially and solid for continued survival — with survey results indicating that employees see both leadership and collaboration as strong in their organizations.

But the implications for leaders and the critical need to build greater trust is important, as options for high performers to change jobs in a potentially stronger economy increase.

“Our 2011 Building Trust insights should be an eye-opener for leaders focused on getting stronger results in this tough economy,” said Linda Stewart, CEO of IA. “Employees generally give their leaders low marks for management transparency, managing change, decision-making, listening to employees and learning from mistakes.”

Key findings include:

• Leaders are faulted in the 2011 survey for not linking employee goals to overall corporate performance — people are not clear about how their work impacts the organization’s success, a key demotivator for top performers.

• Power sharing through delegation is weak — leaders are working one to two levels below where they should, and employees are not empowered to solve problems independently.

• Risk-taking generally is not supported, creating environments where innovation can be impeded.

• Feedback to employees is lacking. For high performers, this has been proven to be a key demotivator.

In general, leaders are rated positively along several dimensions in the 2011 survey, including:

• Communicating mission, vision and values.

• Modeling organization values.

• Setting and communicating clear goals.

• Promoting cooperation between groups and functions.

• Acknowledging performance.

• Making sound decisions (but not in providing clear context).

• Reflecting optimism and confidence.

• Supporting employee development.

A white paper with additional details on the 2011 survey and previous years’ findings is available for download at www.interactionassociates.com.

Source: Interaction Associates