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Sep 7, 2015
This article is part of a series called Classic TLNT.

Editor’s Note: This post is from a previous Labor Day, and it seemed appropriate to share again today.

For those of you TLNT readers who reside in the U.S., you know that Monday’s Labor Day holiday marks the traditional end of the summer season.

But, it also signals an opportunity for any number of workplace-related surveys that are pegged to Labor Day, and the notion that besides giving workers a day of rest and relaxation, we should give them a chance to reflect on workplace issues and their lives on the  job.

That means a lot of research and surveys about all manner of talent management issues.

For example, Globoforce released their Summer Workforce Mood Tracker survey this week, and it found (and no big surprise here) that satisfaction by employees with their performance reviews correlates with their overall satisfaction on the job.

Inaccuracy fuels unhappiness with performance reviews

The survey also indicated that:

  • 57 percent of respondents don’t feel their current performance review process is an accurate appraisal of their work.
  • 63 percent cite inaccuracy as the top reason for dissatisfaction with their review process, calling it “not a true indication of performance,” and,
  • Among employees who are satisfied with their performance reviews, 83 percent are also satisfiedwith their job. Comparatively, among employees who are dissatisfied with their review, just 55 percent are satisfied with their job.

In other words, a majority of the workers surveyed aren’t happy with their organization’s performance review process. Nothing seems to be really improving on that front.

The difficulty sustaining organizational change

Another survey, this one from Towers Watson, shows just how difficult it is to drive change in the workplace and make it stick.

The 2013 Towers Watson Change and Communication ROI Survey found that although 55 percent of employers say their change management initiatives (things like program or policy changes, business transformation, and mergers and acquisitions) meet their initial objectives, only 25 percent say they are able to sustain gains from their change management initiatives over the long term.

And why, you might ask, do organizations have such a hard time sustaining change? Well, it seems to be the manager’s fault.

Although nearly nine out of 10 survey respondents (87 percent) say they train their managers to manage change, less than one-fourth of all respondents (22 percent) admit their training is effective.

That’s a pretty sorry number, and it tells you that something in the managerial training process is going terribly wrong.

“Managers are a catalyst for successful change. Now is the ideal time for organizations to look at this lingering problem from a new angle, focusing on the manager’s role. For managers to succeed at spearheading change, companies need to change their approach, train managers more effectively and do a much better job of communicating with them,” said Kathryn Yates, global leader of communication consulting at Towers Watson, in a press release about the survey.

The problem with employee-employer communications

Yes, communications seem to be at the heart of the problem here, because the Towers Watson research shows that only two-thirds (68 percent) of senior managers say they are getting the message about the reasons behind major organizational decisions. Below the senior management level, the message dwindles further. Only half (53 percent) of middle managers and 40 percent of first-line supervisors say their management does a good job of explaining reasons behind major decision.

I don’t know about you, but the communications issues that crop up during change management (as shown in the Towers Watson study) must surely also be a big issue in the feelings employees have about the broken performance appraisal process, as the Globoforce research shows.

Change management, communications, and performance management are all critical workplace issues that have dominated the discussion at virtually every company I have ever worked for. They are issues for every organization, yet as this research shows, they are issues that are handled badly (or perhaps more correctly, badly executed) pretty much across the board.

That’s what the research says to me.

So as we approach another Labor Day, I’d make a case for managers, executives, HR pros, and organizations everywhere to reflect on what we’re all doing to better support our workers and the environment in which they work.

Rather than looking for some new and cool-sounding initiative to drop on to the organization, maybe we should be looking to get back to the basics of work — communicating well, driving change in a smart and responsible way, and talking to people more succinctly about their performance.

That’s the lesson I’ll take away from Labor Day. Is your lesson all that much different?

This article is part of a series called Classic TLNT.