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Do Bosses and Employees See Eye to Eye on Anything?

A new study reveals wide gaps between how employees and bosses view employee recognition, feedback, and annual reviews.
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Self-evaluation doesn't seem to be a human strong suit, as study after study has proven, but are bosses particularly bad at assessing how they're doing at supporting their employees?

That's what a new study by employee-recognition company Achievers suggests. The research is drawn from a poll of 1,826 employees, 232 CEOs, and 645 HR professionals. The poll asked each group the same questions about how employees view their organizations, and compared their answers. Turns out, things can look tremendously different depending on whether you're sitting in the proverbial corner office or out in cubesville.

Take feedback for example. Employees benefit from close coaching and immediate feedback on the strengths and weaknesses of their work, and 61 percent of the employees surveyed by Achievers reported preferring immediate feedback over other types such as an annual review (a nearly non-existent 1% of employees told Achievers they prefer to get feedback annually). Are they getting this immediate feedback?

CEOs on the whole are quite optimistic they are, with 54% saying on-the-spot feedback happens frequently in their organizations. But less than half that percentage of employees (24%) reported this was really the case and HR was hugely gloomy, with only 11% of people pros telling pollsters they believe employees are getting immediate feedback.

The situation with recognizing employees' contributions was similar, with bosses wildly optimistic, HR hopelessly pessimistic, and the reality reported by employees somewhere in the middle.

So, what percentage exactly of each group thought employees are regularly recognized?

  • 57% of CEOs either agree or strongly agree
  • 34% of employees agree or strongly agree
  • Just 19% of HR pros agree or strongly agree  

So what's the takeaway for business owners? Razor Suleman, founder and chairman of Achievers, offered some thoughts via email. "There are three sides to every story, CEOs, HR and the truth (employees). The study proves that business leaders have blinders on when it comes to employee engagement," he wrote.

Of course, being the chairman of an employee recognition company, Suleman stressed the need to show employees that they're valued. "Employees have an inherent need to be recognized; in fact, 46% of employees rank 'being valued and rewarded' as a top motivator when choosing where to work. Unfortunately, CEOs and HR leaders are unaware of the power and ROI of employee recognition and fail to build this element into their talent strategies," he said.

Even if you're not convinced about the specific brand of employee recognition Suleman or others in his industry are selling, the results are still a valuable reminder that things look different from the top and, as a business owner, your view of what your employees experience in their day-to-day working lives is most likely skewed. Whether your employees want a specific sort of feedback or recognition, this study probably can't tell you, but it can remind you to get out there regularly and ask them, as you probably don't have a perfect grip on what's actually going on. 

Just one lingering question here: What's up with the humungous pessimism of HR? Any human-resources professionals out there who can shed some light on this in the comments here or on Facebook?

Last updated: Jun 1, 2012

JESSICA STILLMAN

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer based in London with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist.




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