Boss sets the tone for employees' morale
Want to fix morale in the company? Fix the boss.
Not the little bosses -- the big boss. If the man or woman in the corner office is a grouch, the morale in the rest of the company will drop -- and so will the bottom-line results.
That was the most surprising result of a survey of workers released today by Towers Perrin HR Services.
Furthermore, the survey showed that while pay got workers in the door, the tone set by senior managers was responsible for keeping them engaged in the business, and it was the company's reputation as a good place to work that kept them there.
"A lot of traditional research is pointed toward the direct manager," said Andy Barton, the managing principal from the Towers Perrin office in Pittsburgh. "This is suggesting that senior management needs to be held accountable."
According to the Towers Perrin study, companies with the most employees who were engaged in their work showed a 2.06 percent increase in net profit margins over the course of a year while those with the lowest percentage of engaged workers had declines in net margins of 1.38 percent.
Engagement is the degree to which workers believe they have a stake in the success of their companies and are willing to go the extra mile for their employers, doing more than their job description requires.
A 2005 Towers Perrin survey found that just 14 percent of workers were fully engaged on the job. Another 62 percent are moderately engaged, while the remaining 24 percent are disengaged.
In the most recent survey, companies with fewer engaged employees also had the highest number of employees who were shopping their resumes -- or at least keeping their ears open for other opportunities. A telling statistic is that 4 percent of employees who were engaged were actively looking for another job while 28 percent of employees who were disengaged were job hunting.
Employees feelings toward the company also were affected by whether or not they felt the company had a sense of social responsibility.
Mr. Barton said an interesting aspect of the study, which was conducted on four continents, though the bulk of the respondents were in the United States, was that much of the data was the same despite differences in cultures.
In Pittsburgh, PNC Financial Services Group and Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh both tend to be on lists of good places to work and both have strong outreach programs to better the community, creating a sense of social responsibility.
PNC has been a leader in constructing green buildings and the PNC Grow Up Great program is a $100 million program over 10 years to fund early childhood education.
Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh runs various community investment programs, including "My Money, My Life" in which teens are taught about bank accounts, budgets and the dangers of credit cards. At the end of the program the students who complete the program receive $100 in their own bank account.
"My Money, My Life" is indicative of much of what we do at the bank," said Neil Cotiaux, a spokesman for the bank.
Other examples of the bank's relationship with its employees is that Federal Home Loan Bank of Pittsburgh recently held an employee recognition dinner and on Friday the staff will be out of the office helping Habitat for Humanity build a home.
"We're quite well-known for social investment," he said, and "we do have a reputation as a very fine place to work."
Mitch Koppell, a spokesman for Towers Perrin, said the company has been collecting data in the course of its work as a human relations firm for years. This latest study questioned 86,600 people at midsize to large companies in 19 countries.
Mr. Barton also noted that employees appreciate a clear path for advancement and that they want to be noticed and recognized for their work.
Workers often think of pay as the most important aspect of morale, while employers look to the workers' direct supervisors. Mr. Barton said the survey shows that companies can get more for their money if they work with changing the behaviors of the higher levels of management than with direct supervisors.
On the list of what keeps employees engaged with the company, the relationship with a direct supervisors ranked ninth, while the senior management's interest in employee well-being, employee training and the organization's reputation for social responsibility scored first. second and third, respectively.
When it came to keeping employees, the reputation as a great place to work was the most important factor, satisfaction with the organization's people decisions was second, and the relationship with the supervisor was third. A clear career track was forth and the ability to balance work and personal life came in fifth.
First Published October 23, 2007 12:00 am