Trustworthy and open managers are most valued

Posted October 13, 2011, by Josie Chun

Trustworthiness and openness are now seen as the most important characteristics of a good manager, according to the latest L.E.A.D. (Leadership, Employment and Direction) Survey of more than 3000 employees across Australia and New Zealand.

This result highlights a marked change since last year, when trustworthiness and openness ranked only seventh on the list.

Employee expectations of managers have changed dramatically over the past year according to Grant Sexton, Managing Director of Leadership Management Australasia (LMA), who conducted the research.

'Clearly, if organisations want to improve the performance and productivity of their business they must foster trust and embrace openness in their workplace,’ says Sexton.'

‘Employees, frustrated with the extended period of lack of appreciation in their efforts and sacrifices to support their company through the difficulties of the GFC, are expecting managers to step up with a truthful and honest approach to what the future holds. Managers need to demonstrate to employees that they are willing to listen to employees and their input in order to earn their trust.’

In other words, managers have to win back the trust lost during the GFC, when many organisations cut back on staff, froze salaries and instituted more rigorous working conditions.

In addition to trustworthiness/openness, other increasing priorities for employees include being given the space to do their work and receive support (up from fifth to equal second) and being given the resources needed to do their job (up from equal eleventh to seventh). Being given regular feedback and challenging work, on the other hand, have decreased in relative importance.

‘To re-earn their employees’ trust, managers will increasingly need to allow their employees the space to manage their own work, provide the necessary support and resources to do so, and be willing to provide feedback and recognition regularly,’ says Sexton. ‘Furthermore, it is essential that managers fulfil their promises and “walk the talk”.’

Top 10 characteristics of good managers – November 2010:

1. Is trustworthy and open in approach
=2. Clearly communicates where we are going
=2. Gives me the ‘space’ to do my work, but supports me
4. Listens to and respects my input into decisions
5. Gives regular and honest feedback on how I am going
6. Is fair and even-handed/makes reasonable demands
=7. Provides the resources I need to do my job
=7. Recognises me for extra efforts/results 
9. Coaches and develops me
10. Trusts me with challenging work

It might pay for employers to take heed of these findings, given the results of another L.E.A.D. survey indicating that employees are still feeling restless despite being somewhat less jumpy than mid-last year, when those considering changing jobs was at an all-time high.

The November 2010 survey revealed that 50 per cent of all employees were considering a job change (versus 55 per cent in May 2010), 22 per cent were actively looking (versus 30 per cent in May), 13 per cent had applied for a new job (versus 22 per cent in May) and 2 per cent had changed jobs (versus 4 per cent in May).

Grant Sexton says that while workplaces have become more stable, half of employees are still considering looking for work elsewhere – so employers will need to work hard to keep their employees retained and engaged.

The factors most likely to induce employees to stay with their current employer are salary increases (69 per cent), opportunities for career advancement (58 per cent), opportunities for training and development (52 per cent) and flexible work hours (37 per cent).
In other words, employers will have to reward employees not only financially but with better working conditions and opportunities for growth, in an environment of greater security and openness. ‘Management’s lack of recognition of their employees was a key driver of workplace discontent when the economy began its recovery,’ says Sexton.

‘It was a scary and quite alarming scenario six months ago, but employers appear to have got the message. They are now acknowledging the sacrifices employees made during the GFC and reassuring them about their futures.’

Josie Chun

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