Weekly Wrap: Many Employees Feel They Don’t Know ‘What’s Going On’

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Apr 6, 2012

Surveys, surveys, surveys — wow, do I get sent a lot of research and surveys.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing because surveys provide a snapshot in time and a marker that we can use to measure how things are, how they may have changed, and, where they might be going in the future.

Yes, it’s a little peek into how things are — even if we don’t always like what we see.

Here’s a good example of that: a survey released this week by AMA Enterprise, a specialized division of the American Management Association, found that “as many as two-in-five employees feel they hardly ever know what’s going on at their organization. … Furthermore, a majority are in the know just some of the time.”

36% are clearly out of the loop

AMA Enterprise, which says it “provides organizations with advisory services as well as tailored learning programs,” surveyed nearly 300 senior managers, executives and employees and found that in the U.S. workplace there is a widespread sense of being left out of the loop.

Why am I not surprised at this?

When asked the question “Do employees feel they know ‘what’s really going on’ at your company?, here’s how respondents answered:

  • Yes, most of the time – 9 percent
  • Yes, some of the time — 55 percent
  • No, hardly ever — 36 percent
  • No opinion — 1 percent

To paint these findings in the best possible light, some 64 percent (nearly two out of three) of those surveyed know what’s going on in their organization some or most of the time. In some of the places I’ve worked, that would be a pretty good number.

But looking at this another way, more than a third of those surveyed — 36 percent — “hardly ever” knows what is going on in the business, and that to me isn’t a ringing endorsement of a particularly strong, motivated, and engaged workforce.

Do you know what the business strategy is?

The analysis of this research by AMA seemed to lean the same way.

“The survey was conducted to probe transparency in the workplace,” said Sandi Edwards, Senior Vice President for AMA Enterprise, in a press release about the survey. “And we have mixed findings, which probably reflect the realities of the workplace today. But in order for employees to be engaged in their work and be productive it’s essential they have a sense of inclusion and a grasp of what’s going on.”

And she added that any lack of transparency needs to be a core concern for senior management. “Too often employees do not feel trusted or involved in decision making,” Edwards said, “or may not even know what the business strategy is. Many workers, according to the findings, feel excluded.”

The survey also found that those in management sometimes feel out-of-the-loop as well, although not nearly to the extent as the broader workforce. Some 58 percent of managers said they believe they know what is going on at least some of the time.

“Of course, they’re in the know more than employees in general,” observed Edwards. “Nevertheless, a majority of management-level people concede they sometimes feel they are not in the loop. In fact, 15 percent say they hardly ever know what’s going on.”

And she added this: “Everyone has a need to be included, to be part of the process, to feel secure, and to have a sense of their role in making their company successful. Organizations that fall short in terms of transparency will pay a price.”

This is another side to the never-ending discussion on engagement, and of course, some people (like me) will read the findings as yet another indicator reflecting how distant and removed far too many managers are from their workforce — and shows how much needs to be done to get our national workforce firing on all cylinders and moving ahead again.

AMA says that “the survey population consisted of 289 senior-level business, human resources, management professionals and employee contacts drawn from the AMA database of contacts,” and I wish I could link to the survey or press release about it here. I can’t, however, because AMA curiously doesn’t seem to have it on their website.

Too much stress at work? You read and decide

In fact, the latest press release that pops up when you go there is from — get ready for it — 2009. Huh? The American Management Association hasn’t updated its press releases since 2009? Guess they really do know what it means to be out of the loop.

But there’s more than how some employees don’t know what’s going on in this week. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • Working in a coal mine? Nope, just an Amazon warehouse. It’s never been easy working in a warehouse environment, but The Seattle Times look this week into life for warehouse workers is a little surprising for how brutish and hard it can be. “To get a better … sense of life on an Amazon warehouse floor, The Seattle Times interviewed more than 40 current and former Amazon warehouse workers. Reporters visited Campbellsville, home of one of Amazon’s oldest fulfillment centers, and Sumner, Pierce County, home of one of its newest facilities. A reporter also toured a two-year-old warehouse in West Phoenix while accompanied by company officials. They found some employees who relished the challenges of working at an innovative company and appreciated the emphasis on safety. But they also found others who said that in its relentless push for efficiency, Amazon was quick to shed workers who, regardless of their tenure, could no longer measure up.”
  • Dogs in the office = less stress at work. Here’s another endorsement for Take Your Dog to Work Day: according to NPR, a self-reported test out of North Carolina found that workers who brought their pets into the office had lower stress levels overall. “People who took their dogs to work in an office in Greensboro, N.C., had lower stress levels through the work day, as reported on self-reported test. The employees who hadn’t brought their dogs to work said their stress levels increased through the work day. So did the non-pet owners. But the dog owners said they stayed mellow as the day went on.”
  • Maybe an example of TOO much stress at work? Hard to know what to say about this story — except that you should feel lucky not to have this happening in your workplace. According to the Des Moines Register, “The man accused of urinating on the office chairs of fellow Farm Bureau employees turned himself in on Saturday, according to officials with the West Des Moines Police Department. Raymond Charles Foley, 59, was charged with second-degree criminal mischief. A Farm Bureau vice president at the company’s West Des Moines office told authorities on March 26 that Foley had been caught on video camera urinating on the office chairs of four female co-workers.”
  • Kronos Time Well Spent Easter cartoon. Kronos, the company that probably makes your organization’s time-and-attendance systems, publishes a regular Time Well Spent  workplace cartoon by Tom Fishburne. This one seemed particularly apt for TLNT, and I’ll post them here in the Weekly Wrap from time to time.