By Daniel Hunter

British workers are losing confidence in senior management, according to research from global professional services firm, Towers Watson. Part two of The Global Workforce Study (GWS), which focuses on leadership and employee confidence, found that just over half of workers (51%) believe the information they receive from their senior team and only 44% have confidence that the leadership team is able to improve business performance.

This news comes at a time of continued economic uncertainty when workers are feeling pressured to work harder than ever in order to help drive growth and fulfil company expectations.

Out of the 2,600 British workers surveyed, over half (58%) claimed they were working more hours than normal but many workers feel their senior management could do more to grow the business. Only 45% of employees think they are doing a good job at managing costs and just half (50%) rate the job that their managers are doing to grow the business as either ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

“Five years after the start of the financial crisis, this recession has lasted longer than many expected and the ongoing pressure of squeezed budgets creating more work for less money can be de-motivating," Arvinder Dhesi, Head of Talent Management at Towers Watson, said.

"It is essential that leaders are clearly and transparently communicating the business strategy and employee’s role within it, so they feel empowered to make a bigger and more positive contribution to the organisation.”

The research points to a growing disconnect between senior leadership and their workforce, resulting in a climate of discontent with the organisation and its intentions.

The study found that one in three (32%) said that their company was doing a poor job of developing future leaders and a failure to inspire confidence and communicate the work of senior management could lead to an exodus of talent as a third of employees (31%) say they would leave their organisation if they lost trust in their leaders.

“It can be easy for senior managers to lose touch with their staff when pressured by targets and budgets, but the long-term damage this can do to the company could prove to be much bigger and more expensive," said Dhesi.

"It is particularly worrying to see how many workers are losing faith in the system of communication, which could make it difficult to attract and retain key talent in the future. It is vital that UK businesses take note of this growing trend and act to tackle it right now to avoid an era of ‘lost leaders'."

The Global Workforce Study was administered globally to 32,000 employees across 29 different countries, including those in the Americas, Asia Pacific, Europe and the Middle East. The survey examines how the work environment is changing in response to shifts in business operations, communications and technology and related global trends.

The purpose of the survey is to better understand how employees in general feel about their work experience, and what they need and care about in order to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. The study focuses on what contributes to sustained engagement in the workplace, made up of three distinct elements.

One is traditional engagement, defined as employees’ willingness to give effort to their employer. The second is enablement, defined as having the tools, resources, and support to get work done efficiently. The third is energy, defined as a work environment that actively supports physical, emotional and interpersonal well-being.

Towers Watson has the following employee engagement tips for business leaders:

1. Make recognition and reward of achievement a part of everyday life; find different ways to share stories of outstanding performance and of individuals going the extra mile.

2. Encourage employees to suggest new ideas and ways of doing things in the company and reward them accordingly.

3. Keep open and honest channels of communication with all employees and ensure the senior leadership team is approachable to staff. Investing in social media tools such as instant messaging, social networks and internal leadership blogs can support collaboration, ideas sharing and cultivate team building.

4. Embed the idea of reward and recognition across the senior leadership team — training days or conferences can be effective in providing leaders with the tools they need to support and motivate their teams.

5. Make sure every employee is informed of exactly how the company is performing, how it is matching up to key business targets and what this means for staff with supporting commentary from senior figures.

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