Are Companies In Tune With Their Own Workers?

Screen shot 2013-10-25 at 5.18.03 PMIt’s clear that we’re in the midst of massive transformations in the business world and the workplace. These transformations are underway, for example, in a rising sense of responsibility to society; recognition of the workplace culture’s contribution to debilitating stress and life imbalance; the impact of the younger generations upon collaboration, innovation, and career goals; and the increasing fluidity and constant external change that impacts all organizations.

Within such flux and change, it can be difficult to assess whether the company you’re working for, or considering joining, is sufficiently in tune with the future. Is it the right mesh between, on the one hand, your own well-being, evolving career goals and personal values; and, on the other, how well the company is positioned to engage and adapt to the business and cultural shifts that will determine it’s future success?

An important question. Especially so, when nearly every week new surveys appear showing how debilitating and disconnected many leadership and management cultures are, in relation to their employees and future business scenarios.

For example, a recent survey of 1,000 U.S. workers for Root Inc., a strategy execution consulting company, examined what workers would like to see change in their companies. “Many surveys tell us there’s something wrong – we know that American workers are unhappy or not engaged, and leaders know they need make adjustments to keep the very best talent,” said Rich Berens, president of Root. “With this research, we wanted to uncover the specifics of where employees really would like to see things be different and how management can take that data and make organizational changes for the better.”

Some of their findings include:

• Employee’s Feel Discouraged: More than half (54%) of employees have felt frustrated about work.

• Manager/Employee Relationships Need Improvement: Only 38% strongly agree that their manager has established an effective working relationship with them.

• People Don’t Understand Strategic Direction: 40% say they don’t get the company’s vision or have never seen it.

• Innovation Is Being Stymied: Nearly 67% of American workers can name at least one thing that would prevent them from taking any kind of risk at work.

• Big Picture Contributions Missing: Only 43% of workers say they feel accountable for the company’s revenue, profit, or growth.

• Not Leading by Example: Just 26% of workers strongly agree that managers embody the values they expect from their employees, only 39% say their manager understands his/her role at the company, and 40% strongly feel their managers understand their company’s strategy or goals.

• Collaboration Across Teams Is Tough: Just 27% strongly feel they can depend on outsiders to fulfill their duties when working with other groups.

• Training Isn’t Relevant: 26% report they don’t have any training available to them right now, and the 62% that do have training available believe it is either somewhat or not at all applicable to their jobs.

There are many other examples of the negative impact companies have when they don’t address the transformations already underway. For example:

• A survey of 2,000 workers found almost 50 percent of those surveyed said that their managers made them feel threatened, rather than rewarded, and 24 percent thought their bosses were over-stressed, poor communicators and lacked empathy — a combination counterproductive to and destructive for performance.

• In contrast, a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research, reported in Slate, found that productivity rises in the presence of good bosses who support learning and growth. And a Wall Street Journal study found that Happy workers have higher productivity and creativity than less-happy workers, according to that research.”

How To Seize Up Your Workplace Environment

Try this: Assign a number from 1 to 7 for each item I’ve listed, indicating how well each item matches your current experience. That will give you some indication of the degree of mesh between what you’re likely to be looking for, going forward, and the direction your company is headed in.

• Your work has a positive impact on people’s lives, whether through its product or service.

• Your work provides opportunities for new learning, continuous growth and opportunity to apply new skills and competencies.

• Your company’s culture is team-oriented, collaborative, innovative… and requires you to stretch.

• Your company practices open communication, transparency and feedback, up and down.

• It demonstrates diversity in hiring and promotion of employees, including differences of gender, racial/ethnic groups, and sexual orientation.

• It provides an environmentally safe environment, including nontoxic materials, adequate natural light and “green” equipment and furniture.

• It demonstrates visible commitment to sustainable practices and corporate social responsibility.

• It’s a positive workplace culture in which you look forward to going to work.

• Your company supports workers’ well-being through wellness programs, exercise, stress management, flextime and other services.

Companies and leaders who recognize the need to transform their culture and leadership practices will be those who survive and thrive. They embrace the fact that the younger generations of workers — the so-called “generation flux” streaming into the workplace — and into management positions over time — enjoy dealing with rapid change and unpredictability. That means more employees who are both highly competitive and collaborative; comfortable with rapid change and unpredictability.

Moreover, the future will include the need for more diverse, globally-oriented people. A new survey of human resource executives reported in the MIT Sloan Management Review found that HR executives see the next generation of global executives as much more diverse not just in “… age, nationality and gender,” but that “…top leadership groups in the future will be characterized by people with greater diversity of experience and ‘thought styles.'” This next generation leaders “…from highly diverse backgrounds will need to work together more effectively…more collectively.”

So that’s the future. How in sync with it are you and your company?

A version of this previously appeared in The Huffington Post.