Manages ignoring the people who matter

Sep 18 2006 by Brian Amble Print This Article

How much expertise in your organisation is being wasted simply because managers can't be bothered – or are too arrogant – to speak to the people who work at the coalface?

One in three employees is seldom or never asked for advice on solving a problem at work, according to a survey by CO2 Partners, a Minnesota leadership development firm.

Yet being asked to contribute a suggestion is a key sign of regard by one's employer, said CO2 Partners President Gary Cohen.

"Organizations are always striving for higher employee engagement, but evidence indicates they unnecessarily create fundamental mistakes. People needed to be respected and listened to."

"If our survey question had asked about solving an 'important' problem, it would probably have been a majority of U.S. employees that expressed such alienation," Cohen said.

"Despite a trend toward greater teamwork and maximizing individual contribution, it's disturbing that the input of so many people is still ignored. After all, employees are a key sources of valuable information needed to enhance organization performance."

The survey also found that women are marginally less likely than men to be asked for input by an employer while the less education an employee has, the less likely he or she will be asked to contribute an idea. In fact, four out of 10 of those with just a high school education said they were seldom or never asked for advice, twice the proportion of college graduates.

Likewise, almost half (46 per cent) of employees earning less than $25,000 annually reported never or seldom being consulted, compared with just a quarter of those earning more than $75,000.

According to Gary Cohen, the findings reflect a damaging top-down bias in many U.S. companies.

"How foolish to think just more educated or higher-ranking employees are worthy of being consulted," he said.

"It's less-educated workers that are actually making the stuff or are on the front line dealing with customers. They're the ones I'd want to talk to first."

But he also cautioned employers against asking questions for its own sake.

"Going through the motions isn't going to convince employees and would cause even greater alienation. A sincere effort to ask the right questions of everyone and to consider their ideas can be a powerful tool for improving both individual and organizational performance."