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More than a third of UK employees have never had contact with their CEO

Mike Ettling, CEO - Unit4

Over a third (36%) of UK employees say they have never had any contact with their CEO, according to international research from global software company Unit4. A similar figure, 31% have only received company-wide emails from them, making it clear that business leaders must do much more to engage the workforce. Over a third of UK respondents (38%) said they would feel uncomfortable approaching senior management to complain about something in the organisation.

The findings come from Unit4’s Decision Making for the Future Business Report which is based on interviews with employees across the world – UK, US, Germany, Sweden, Norway, Canada and Netherlands – to understand the commonalities and differences in their working practices as well as how critical decisions are made.

UK CEOs prove the most elusive of all nations surveyed. When comparing the state of play across countries, the UK questions the accessibility and motivation of CEOs: 14% of employees feel the head of their organisation is unapproachable, compared to a global average of 9%; One in 10 (10%) respondents think their CEOs are untrustworthy, compared to a global average of 8%; 15% of respondents think their CEOs are motivated by money and not much else, compared to a global average of 11%

There is also a disconnect between the shop floor and the top floor when it comes to CEO engagement.

Just over half (55%) of UK managers, those defined as holding senior posts, said their CEO cared about social issues. The percentage was even lower at 41% when it came to non-managers, those on the shop floor of the workplace. Trustworthiness was below average (managers 61%, non-managers 49%).

62% of UK managers said the CEO led the organisation with integrity (compared with a global average of managers of 72%) and 63% said they had a clear vision for the company (compared with a global average of 68%).

UK CEOs were rated as average when managers were asked if they were motivated by more than just money (59%). They were also rated below par for listening to and caring for the opinion of their employees (52% vs global average of 65%) and approachability (56% vs global average of 68%).

Mike Ettling, CEO at Unit4, said:“Today we really have a new board member in companies across the world – the Chief Elusive Officer, the business leader who has not once engaged with their employees or sought to empower them to make decisions that impact the future of their organisation. This must change and it must change fast.”

“When CEOs are disconnected from their workforce, employees can be left feeling disengaged which can lead to much lower productivity at work and ultimately impact the bottom-line. A rigid, hierarchical business structure is simply no longer suitable for today’s workforce and CEOs need to change in order to lead more effectively.”

“This old-fashioned management mindset is no longer fit for today’s business and must be rejected in order to encourage the best asset a company has; its people. Perhaps a way to enable that is through the better use of technology so that employees can feel more engaged and empowered to make those decisions.”

Surprisingly, across the globe only 42% have met their CEO in a one-to-one situation. Globally, 5% of workers were so far removed from their own CEO, they didn’t even know if their CEO was a man or a woman.

Interestingly, executives also do not perceive the disconnect between leadership and their workforce. Globally nearly all (94%) think CEOs are performing well in their role, whereas only over a third (37%) of non-managers believe the head of their organisation is the right person for the job.

The research was in partnership with Opinium, talked to 1,837 managers and non-managers to get a sense of their autonomy, their own sense of empowerment in the workplace, and any biases and challenges that can cause friction.

This research looked at those who work at organisations of 10 – 999 employees across transportation, infrastructure and logistics, retail, financial services, technology, public services, government, higher education, NGO / not-for-profit and professional services in the following markets: Canada, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, United Kingdom and USA.

*For the purpose of this research, non-managers were defined as employees with no management responsibilities in organisations, including entry-level employees. Managers were defined as those within the C-suite, VPs, directors, senior management or middle management.

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