By Marcel Schwantes
Traditional office dynamics have changed drastically in recent years, but some barriers remain steadfast, like the role of the chief executive officer. While today’s CEOs have evolved the conventional power dynamics between the C-suite and the other employees have made minimal progress.
The CEO is seen as the face of the company and the embodiment of corporate values — but what is the reality of this identity? Recently, a greater percentage of employees have been feeling the disconnect between upper leadership and themselves. Many believe they have little or no say in the future direction of their organization or do not fully believe leadership has a clear vision.
This increasing trend is impacting the level of happiness of employees. Where exactly does this gap originate? According to research unit from Unit 4, which surveyed 1,800 global managers and non-managers, four main areas of disconnect were discovered. Additionally, here are some ways leaders can better engage their employees to fill the gaps discussed below.
The disconnect can be seen in a very literal way. Only 42% of non-managerial employees have interacted with their CEO in a one-on-one situation. This lack of accessibility broadens the perceived gap between the C-suite and the rest of the workforce. As the company’s figurehead, the CEO’s behavior is reflected throughout the rest of the company so, it comes as no surprise when distant CEOs create divided workplaces. A point of reality: Even if an organization is too large and one-on-one meetings are not feasible with every employee, establishing consistent check-ins or all-hands meetings helps create a regular cadence of communication for upper leadership to build the foundation for more meaningful connections.
Even the simplest forms of communication can have a direct impact on employee engagement, but still, many CEOs have an abysmal approach to internal comms. More than 62% of non-management employees have never even received a basic company-wide email from their CEO. Employees often interpret this behavior as apathy or just a general lack of interest in their day-to-day operations.
It’s been proven time and again that an empowered workforce is a motivated workforce. However, in reality, only 44% of non-managerial employees feel their views about their organization are respected and 60% of employees feel they don’t have a say in the future direction of their organization. By introducing a more democratic approach to feedback, leaders can actively break down these historical constructs and open a two-way dialogue that empowers employees to speak up and air their opinions.
With the distinct separation of roles, there is an unintended side effect of reduced transparency and trust. Without being able to see or hear the thought process behind the “big decisions”, many employees are left trying to fill in the blanks on their own. This can quickly lead to the spread of misinformation, rumors and a divided workplace. Additionally, this can reflect negatively on the employee’s opinions on their CEOs — 32% of survey respondents don’t believe their CEOs have a clear vision for the organization.
Similar to other workplace culture initiatives, any real changes need to be driven from the top. There is no final destination, but a building block for continuous improvement and measurement. Ultimately, the end result is beneficial for both the organization and its workplace culture — employees are happier, and the organizations they lead are more productive.