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HR leaders are out of touch with the needs of their employees

By Nick Wilson | |6 minute read

Global data finds a “communication breakdown” between employees, managers, and human resources is driving down engagement and productivity and threatening mental health.

Compared with employees, HR leaders are more likely to believe their workplaces have a positive workplace culture and to believe employee mental health is less of an issue than it really is.

It’s no surprise then that just one-third of surveyed employees feel comfortable reporting issues to HR, according to Beyond the Cubicle: Leapsome’s Workforce Trends Report.

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“The research shows a concerning gap between what employees need at work and what companies actually offer,” the report stated.

The HR gap

The report found a marked difference in the opinions of HR leaders and the lived reality of their employees in the following areas.

1. Engagement

Only 32 per cent of HR leaders track employee engagement. In the absence of comprehensive engagement tracking, it is hardly surprising that HR sentiments are out of touch with the reality of employee engagement.

According to HR leaders, 95 per cent of their employees are either completely or somewhat engaged.

When employees were asked how engaged they really are, only 84 per cent answered either completely or somewhat engaged.

Of those, only 31 per cent of employees reported feeling completely engaged, compared with HR leaders who put the number at 46 per cent.

According to Gallup, disengaged employees cost their employers the equivalent of 18 per cent of their annual salary. Further, disengaged employees have a 37 percent higher absenteeism rate and can have negative implications for client and customer experiences.

Closing the gap between employee disengagement and HR awareness could mean higher productivity and lower turnover.

“With higher levels of disengagement among employees planning to leave their current roles, people ops professionals should make full use of tools, channels, and strategies available to continuously measure and maintain employee engagement,” said the Leapsome report.

2. Productivity

The report suggests that productivity stands to gain from better communication between HR and employees.

According to the report, employees believe that nearly half of their meetings are a waste of time. This is perhaps unsurprising when considering that only 30 per cent of meetings have an agenda – a strong predictor of meeting productivity.

“By implementing a structured approach to meetings, using well-defined agendas, and assigning action items with clear deadlines, organisations can boost efficiency and establish a more productive working environment,” said Leapsome.

Seventy-three per cent of employees reportedly want more feedback from their managers. The cost of not meeting this desire comes into view when considering that 79 per cent of employees said constructive feedback makes them more productive.

3. Mental health

“HR leaders are too optimistic about mental health,” claimed Leapsome.

When asked about their mental health, 39 per cent of employees said it was very good. Comparatively, HR leaders said that 48 per cent of their employees had very good mental health.

The gap, here, might cause businesses to overlook issues in mental health as they arise in the workplace. A more realistic grasp of the mental health of employees could make addressing the issue more of an organisational priority.

According to People Management, of employees with mental health struggles, 67 per cent admitted they did not tell their employer about the issue.

Of these, 23 per cent refused to do so out of embarrassment, 24 per cent did not think their employer could help, and 19 per cent thought it would harm their career.

“We know what gets measured and monitored gets acted on within businesses, and we need to shift that conversation on to mental health in work,” said Louise Aston, wellbeing director of Business in the Community.

Better communication

One-third of employees are looking to change roles within the next 12 months. According to employees, the top three reasons for this are:

1. Lack of career growth (36 per cent)
2. Workplace culture (33 per cent)
3. Lack of clarity on company direction (27 per cent)

“Such a communication breakdown risks additional unanticipated turnover, with a third of employees already planning to change jobs,” said the Leapsome report.

At the heart of all these reasons is a need for clearer and more consistent communication.

When asked what employees thought HR leaders should do differently, one respondent answered: “Conduct regular performance evaluations and feedback to ensure that I have a clear understanding of my own performance.”

Another said: “Be more open to feedback and focus on employee satisfaction.”

Sharing the blame

While employees want more out of HR, the same can be said of HR to employees.

When asked about the biggest “pain points” of their roles, one HR leader said: “New employees leave easily and are less willing to communicate.”

New approaches from HR leaders should be complemented with supportive technological and policy changes.

Another HR leader said the biggest “pain point” of their work was: “In terms of employee retention, we lack an effective mechanism to discover outstanding and potential employees.”

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