Age shall not wither their distrust of you

Mar 30 2007 by Nic Paton Print This Article

They may have been born in different decades, live different lifestyles and be concerned with completely different things, but one thing staff across the generations have in common is that they don't trust their bosses.

Fewer than half of workers - whatever their age - trust their organisation's leaders, with a nearly six out of 10 believing that bosses rarely respond to questions with a straight answer.

Research by consultancy Watson Wyatt looking at the different attitudes to work of older and younger workers in Canada has found workers, whatever their age, often have a lot in common.

Therefore managers who always assume younger and older workers want completely different things from work may simply end up alienating employees of all ages.

The things that engage workers are by and large the same, irrespective of generational differences, the survey found.

These are a management's ability to demonstrate leadership and strategic direction that builds confidence in the prospects for long-term corporate success, an effective reward programme and frequent, clear two-way communication.

But for the majority of the 3,000 Canadians polled, this simply did not happen.

Only 44 per cent said they trusted their company's leadership, with the level of trust dropping substantially at lower levels of the organisation.

And a similarly low 43 per cent said their leaders responded to questions with "straight answers".

Unsurprisingly, the study found a clear link between employee engagement and a company's financial performance.

Those companies with high employee engagement levels demonstrated better annual total returns to shareholders, higher market premiums and higher productivity levels than those with low engagement, it reported.

"Widely held beliefs about generational differences in the workplace may lead organisations to develop programmes that can actually diminish employee engagement," said Debra Horsfield, practice leader, organisation effectiveness with Watson Wyatt.

"Employers should avoid an emphasis on labels and instead focus on commonalities in what motivates employees," she added.

"The survey dispels another myth that employees know what their leaders are thinking," she continued.

"The findings clearly indicate there is room for improvement in establishing effective two-way communication with employees, in order to generate a higher level of employee motivation and commitment," Horsfield concluded.