Human Capital & Careers

Smells Like Team Spirit

Worker morale okay in the U.S., not so hot in Australia. Could it be the vegemite?
Lisa YoonMarch 13, 2003

It seems the barrage of bad news about the stalled economy, mounting unemployment, and incredible shrinking 401(k)s hasn’t completely broken workers’ spirit — yet.

In a new survey by Right Management Consultants, 83 percent of American workers say they’re at least somewhat motivated by the challenges and changes facing their companies in the year ahead.

According to the poll of 519 fulltime workers, 39 percent of the respondents said they were “very motivated” and 44 percent said they were “somewhat motivated.” By contrast, only eight percent described themselves as “somewhat unmotivated”; six percent said they were “very unmotivated.”

This may seem pleasantly surprising — for glass-is-half-full types. But things don’t look so rosy from Chris Pierce-Cooke’s perspective. Pierce-Cooke, who heads Right’s organizational-consulting practice, notes that 52 percent of the workers surveyed were either “somewhat motivated” or “somewhat unmotivated.”

That lukewarm attitude about work is cause for concern, says Pierce-Cooke: “If I was a CEO who knew that more than half of my workforce was feeling somewhere between O.K. and lethargic, I’d be taking steps to help them feel more invested and motivated.”

In Pierce-Cooke’s view, companies are losing out on untapped assets when they don’t attempt to engage the unmotivated worker. This, he says, is because many employees are sharper than employers recognize: workers understand the economic reality their companies face, can adapt to change, and are interested in helping out. But Pierce-Cook says. Few employers “understand as well the human potential [workers] already possess. He says companies often fail to take full advantage of that potential.

“There is a tremendous opportunity for organizations to succeed by better engaging their key employees and motivating them through ongoing dialogue, clear communication, and a shared investment in helping their company move forward,” said Pierce-Cooke. “But there must be strong leadership from the top to harness [employees’] energy for the corporate good.”

Survey: Australian CEOs Clueless

Speaking of management’s lack of awareness: it appears Australian CEOs are blissfully unaware that the majority of their CFOs and other top lieutenants would love to quit.

According to a report in The Age, a recent study by recruiting firm Hamilton James & Bruce found that 95 percent of CEOs believe their managers are happy. The reality check: Only 56 per cent of their managers actually are.

It goes on, reports the Australian paper: 71 percent of CEOs surveyed thought that up to 10 percent of their managers would leave the company in the next six to 12 months. But they’re wrong again: according to the survey, 53 percent of managers expect to hit the road in the next 12 months.

What’s more, 62 per cent of managers said the only reason they weren’t leaving was the dearth of jobs in the down economy. But only 5 per cent of CEOs seemed to realize this, reports The Age. Alarmingly, nearly 70 percent of the surveyed CEOs thought managers had stayed because they loved the work.

Australian CEOs showed similarly striking lack of awareness on several other issues examined in the study, according to the newspaper.

The majority of CEOs, for instance, said they are helping employees balance work and life — especially in the wake of the Bali nightclub bombing. But managers tended to think their companies were doing nothing of the sort.

Thirty-five percent of CEOs down under fancy themselves as effective communicators. Only 19 per cent of their managers agreed, however. On the contrary, many managers did not think the boss communicated that well. Indeed, 21 percent said their boss was hopeless.