November 2011

November 1st, 2011 by Matthew de Lange

A great piece in a recent Economist (“The view from the top, and bottom”) really caught my eye.  It’s based around a report by BRG into corporate culture in the US which flags massive differences in perception about the business between bosses and staff.

For example, 41% of managers think their firm rewards performance based on values rather than merely financial rewards.  Only 14% of staff do.

This is hugely important if you work in the HR and Employee engagement side of the business. Clients often conduct employee surveys and then try to interpret and act on the results. But there are at least two problems here.

One is that what is coming back isn’t necessarily “reality” – it’s a perception. And often one with a lot of prejudgement and assumption built in. So you have to be very careful in the follow up to delve deeper into the presenting issue to discover whether what needs focus is the apparent issue or the perception and understanding of the issue.

The second point is that the response to the survey findings often comes from (or requires approval from) the management who think everything is rosier than it probably is and therefore, almost by definition, are in danger of dismissing or downplaying the issue.

This has a number of consequences for tackling employee engagement but there are approaches which we know work and help address this problem. One, which we think is particularly important, is to stimulate real dialogue about the perception of how things are in the organisation. Using our actor facilitators to play out everyday situations and scenes realistically depicting the culture of the organisations generates fantastic debate about both how things actually are and how people see things differently.

By doing this with a cross grade and cross functional group you can not only build a shared understanding of these differences in perception, but also take the conversation on to identify solutions which are not top-down, rose-tinted management solutions but built on the shared vision and collaboration.


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