Maritz: Employee Sat, Trust Critically Low

An article today in Incentive magazine covers poll results from market researcher Maritz regarding “record lows” for employee satisfaction and trust of management and coworkers based on a national sample of 2,004 full-time employees.

Selected Findings

  • 11 percent of respondents strongly agree that their managers show consistency between their words and actions
  • 7 percent strongly agree that they trust senior leaders to look out for their best interests
  • 7 seven percent strongly agree they trust their co-workers to do so
  • 20 percent (one-fifth) do not agree that their company’s leader is completely honest and ethical
  • 25 percent (a quarter) disagree that they trust management to make the right decisions in times of uncertainty
  •  3 percent of respondents with weak management trust look forward to coming to work everyday vs. 50 percent with strong management trust

The Recommendations

Rick Garlick, senior director of consulting and strategic implementation, Maritz Hospitality Research Group, recommends the following (my comments in parentheses):

  1. Don’t make promises you don’t keep. (Absolutely.  Sometimes management tends to forget the small things that are promised and these can add up. For large decisions, such as pay issues, don’t make any announcements until all alternatives for win-wins have been considered and details have been ironed out.  It’s also a good idea to prevent information about major decisions from leaking out and creating expectations.)
  2. Have open and transparent communications, and keep employees updated on the company’s progress and goals. (There is an art form to internal communications.  If you have trouble putting yourself in employees’ shoes or have had memos backfire before, seek a professional opinion when writing or revising these messages. As a leader, you set the bar for the organization; get clarity on what you expect of others and yourself. Establish a regular communications plan and stick to a schedule.)
  3. Do things that bring people together and eliminate worker isolation. (This will only work if people enjoy each other’s company in the first place. Create a culture of fun, respect, professionalism–whatever works for you as a leader, your employees, and your brand–and ensure values are created, communicated, and carried out within the organization.  If you haven’t done the important work of developing values, vision, and mission, get started on that and get processes in place to reinforce and reward them so that you can bring people together based on common ground.)

The Critique

I think the study results are important and Garlick’s first two recommendations are on target.  What I would like to caution against is the idea that company events (“bringing people together” in #3) and incentive programs are going to solve trust issues.  In company cultures where there aren’t fundamental and pervasive issues, these two efforts can make a difference. But for the companies who have violated employee expectations, don’t have established values, or allow a culture of mistrust to exist, these attempts appear insincere and an attempt to make up for larger, more critical shortcomings.

While I believe Maritz has conducted this poll in the past, I wish there were more actual historical/comparative data presented to prove out we are at a “record low.”  I’d also like to see support from the scientific community (even a source from Maritz Institute, perhaps) for the claims about workplace stress and motivation.  I agree with the claims, but value hearing it from a technical source who is studying the effects.