In today's working environment, cubicles and filing cabinets have been replaced by open-plan spaces and standing desks. Gone are the typing pool and the switchboard: instead we have video conferences and remote workers.
But the changes are more than about furniture, with technology having re-written the principles underlying our working lives and connecting the previously unconnected workforce.
In a survey of over 2,000 senior business decision makers, and 2,000 frontline workers in the US and UK, Workplace by Facebook found the following trends on workplace communication today.
Disconnect between those in the HQ and on the frontline
While three in four (74%) of business leaders say they stay connected with frontline workers through informal conversations and meetings, the feeling isn't mutual, as only 14% of employees feel connected to their HQ (compared to 86% who feel connected to their direct co-workers). Meanwhile, just 3% feel connected to their C-Suite.
Currently, the vast majority of frontline workers find themselves stuck as passive recipients of information, rather than active participants in a mutual exchange. Only 22% of employees say their ideas make up a substantial portion of conversation with their bosses. Worse still, 17% say they never speak with their head office.
Meanwhile, 52% of managers believe that their employees’ new ideas are the main topic for conversations with frontline staff, pointing to a clear a disconnect between what managers think is happening and what’s really going on.
Communication gap is preventing idea transfer and talent recognition
Communications failure is stopping valuable ideas from rising through the business. Only 45% of frontline workers share their ideas with senior team members. Again, this contrasts sharply with managers’ perspective: 90% confidently report that their frontline workers feel empowered to share business ideas with them.
When ideas aren’t shared, they can’t be used, and this is a serious loss for the organisation and the people working in it. While 25% of employees have had an idea but never told anyone, a further 38% have shared their idea – only for it to be ignored. This inaction makes staff feel that their ideas aren’t valued – which only drives further silence.
So what’s stopping employees from making their ideas heard? When it comes down to it, it seems the biggest blocker of ideas is the way they are delivered. For more than one in four cases (28%) ideas were stifled because they were communicated poorly.
The second largest problem is failure to follow ideas through (19%), which most likely occurs when work is busy and the team’s time isn’t properly managed.
Finally, it’s important to note that inspiration can strike at any time, not just during work hours. 46% of employees believe they have their best ideas outside of work.
Employees don’t feel listened to or valued
Nothing stymies employee engagement faster than a lack of communication. When employees believe they are voiceless – as 54% say they are – they tend to lose motivation and enthusiasm for the business. It’s even more demoralising when 83% of managers confidently claim they give all employees a voice within their business!
After all, it’s hard to feel invested if an organisation seems to make all its decisions without you (especially when those decisions affect you directly). That’s why almost a quarter (21%) say that not being listened to is sufficient grounds to consider quitting their job entirely.
On top of this, only 48% of employees think their head office understands the role they perform and the value they bring to the organisation.
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