Other leadership qualities received mixed reviews

Employee Trust and Confidence in Corporate Leaders Improves Slightly but Not Even Half Think Leaders Are Effective, Towers Watson Research Finds

Workers’ trust and confidence in corporate leaders have increased modestly over the past four years, but the number of workers who think top management provides effective leadership overall has slipped slightly, according to research from global professional services company Towers Watson. Further, while a majority of employees give leaders high marks for promoting a positive image and understanding what drives success, barely half say leaders inspire employees, understand how their actions impact them or are open to new ideas.

According to Towers Watson’s Global Workforce Study, less than half (48%) of employees surveyed in the UAE said they have trust and confidence in their senior leaders. While most companies agree joint ownership is best, in the Middle East, the traditional view of the manager in charge of employees’ careers is more common, with a tendency of 28% for managers to guide employee’s careers, compared to the global tendency of 11%. In the UAE, 38% of the employees think that their organisation seeks opinions or suggestions from them and 34% think they act on employee’s suggestions. Only 32% agree that their company’s management involves employees in decisions that affect them.

“Given the ever-evolving economy in the Middle East and considering the context of a multicultural population, leadership is a key component in retaining and attracting critical talent,” said Jim Matthewman, Director and Lead Consultant on HR Strategy, OD and Workforce Planning, at Towers Watson.  While we are pleased to see a positive trend in employees trusting the superior leadership, it is disappointing to see that most of them are sceptical about their leader’s integrity. People don’t leave organisations, they leave bad managers”

According to the survey, employees give leaders the following high marks:

  • Respectful treatment (65%)
  • Ability to grow the business (62%)
  • Assigns tasks well suited to respective set of skills/abilities (57%)

At the same time, barely half of the respondents think that their immediate managers listen carefully to their point of view and 36% think that career development discussions in the past year have further developed.

“The results of our study highlight the generation gap and their different expectations. The main attraction driver for the young generation is growth and career opportunities. It is a defining characteristic of generation Y: they were brought up with Internet and everything working at high-speed with the information available one click away. They are highly productive and will question the ways of their superiors if the messages are not consistent. Good leaders will challenge and motivate them to retain critical talent. Succession plans based on potential, development programmes and training are key-tools in retaining and developing high potential and emerging employees,” said Matthewman.

HR’s Role in Developing Leaders

Effectiveness of leadership seems even more important than effective direct managers. Therefore, leadership skills improvement should be a key focus area for the Middle East employers. The view on senior leadership in the UAE points out to the fact that only 42% of employees think that senior leaders develop future leaders and only 39% think that the seniors are sincerely interested in their well-being.

Strengthening the career management processes is also crucial for this market considering the fact that the younger generations focus is shifting from base pay to career advancement opportunities as the main attraction driver.

“Developing strong, effective leaders is not something that just happens on its own. In fact, HR plays a critical role in building the right set of leaders for an organisation. To start, HR must articulate the key capabilities required for their organisation’s top management and evaluate how leadership is positioned for the organisation’s near-term and future success. HR can build the profile of success, assess leaders based on their demonstration of those requirements and clarify the path needed to get the right leaders in place today while building the next generation of leadership,” said Jim Matthewman.

About the Study

The Towers Watson Global Workforce Study covers more than 32,000 employees, including 30+ Middle East organisations, selected from research panels that represent the populations of full-time employees working in large and midsize organisations across a range of industries in 26 markets around the world. It was fielded online during April and May 2014.

Towers Watson (NYSE, NASDAQ: TW) is a leading global professional services company that helps organisations improve performance through effective people, risk and financial management. With 15,000 associates around the world, the company offers consulting, technology and solutions in the areas of benefits, talent management, rewards, and risk and capital management.

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