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Who Really Has the Biggest Impact on Employees’ Performance?

Digital Image by Sean LockeDigital Planet Designwww.digitalplanetdesign.comCommunications teams spend anywhere from 15 to 50 percent of their time getting their leaders to communicate with employees in authentic, personal, open and transparent manner. The big theme that keeps popping up is trustworthiness of leaders. If leaders come across as human (a daunting task sometimes to achieve because you can only work with what you got) and employees trust them, they will be willing to cut them some slack during tough times and they will be excited to work harder and more productively.

The assumption is that if employees feel inspired by their leaders and connected to their organization, they will work hard and perform at their best. However, our latest quantitative study of 1000+ employees shows that there are quite a lot of issues with this approach.

First, there is the fact that whether your employees love or just barely like your company doesn’t make that much difference to their performance.  Our quant found that getting employees to be proud of the organization, or feel strong sense of ownership for the organization versus just pretty much barely liking the company has exactly the same impact in performance terms. However, the way employees connect with their peers and their networks within the organization has a big impact on how they perform and support others within the organization.

The implication is that lots of time spend on initiatives focused on getting people to fall in love with your internal brand would probably be better spent on helping employees connect with their peers and people within the organization who can help them get their job done.  Think about it, at the end of the day, it’s your team and people you can reach out to for help when you are stumped that ultimately make you feel good about your job and help you get stuff done.

Second, despite the considerable effort that we communicators dedicate to coaching leaders, our study revealed some surprising statistics. Only 24 % of survey respondents reported that they are inspired by their leaders. 31 % said that they feel that their leaders value their opinion, and 29 % say that leaders actually explain to them why they made certain decisions.  And my favorite one, more than three quarters of respondents would rather have a leader who gets them the tools and resources to get things done, rather than one that inspires them.

On similar note, we found the leadership that enables employees to connect with others and encourages information sharing, and empowers decision-making at lower levels has 1.6 times the impact on employee’s performance compared to “authentic, open, and inspiring” one. I am curious to know, in light of this data, how would you change the way you currently support your leaders ?

Recommended Resources

Adapting Leadership Communications to a Networked Environment

Empowerment Guidelines for Managers

Empowerment Workshop for Leaders

Leader Communication for Agile Organization

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