- British business leaders fall behind the U.S. on employee trust metrics
- Low trust in leadership correlates with low employee engagement
- Leaders can address employees' concerns by communicating more
In a crisis, employees need to know their leaders value and appreciate them as people.
Employees' engagement and wellbeing depend on feeling informed and guided, heard and taken seriously, and supported as much as possible -- and not feeling like just another number on the payroll.
And right now, British business leaders are falling behind their American counterparts on providing these assurances for their employees.
- 35% of U.K. employees strongly agree that their employer has communicated a clear plan of action in response to the coronavirus, compared with 50% of U.S. employees.
- 27% of U.K. employees strongly agree that their company cares about their overall wellbeing (down from 41% in 2019), compared with 51% of U.S. employees.
- 28% of U.K. employees have confidence in the leadership of their company to successfully manage emerging challenges (down from 35% a year ago), compared with 38% of U.S. employees.
It is possible that U.K. workers' reaction will only grow more negative. There have been more coronavirus-related deaths in the U.K. than anywhere else in Europe, and labor economists have predicted that roughly 2 million Britons will lose their jobs. British workers have reason to worry.
Their leaders should be worried too.
Workers who don't trust their employers aren't as likely to be engaged. A 2019 Gallup analysis found a correlation between U.K. workers' engagement and their trust in leadership and management -- more trust equaled higher engagement.
And employee engagement, or the lack thereof, also affects workers' productivity and performance outcomes.
35% of U.K. employees strongly agree that their employer has communicated a clear plan of action in response to the coronavirus, compared with 50% of U.S. employees.
As companies make plans to resize and reshape their businesses (which may destabilize employees further), British employers should start learning how their crisis management strategies are being perceived and address employees' concerns about returning to the office and any other changes happening.
Communicate more than ever before.
Although leaders' business plans and priorities have shifted from week to week -- from dealing with the onslaught of the pandemic to forecasting the aftereffects -- communicating a plan still reassures employees.
U.K. employees who strongly agree that their employer has communicated a clear plan of action in response to the coronavirus are significantly more likely to have confidence in the leadership of their company to successfully manage emerging challenges (57%). But when employees rate their company's COVID-19 response even slightly lower (when they give a rating of "4" rather than "5," on a five-point scale), they express much less confidence in their leadership's ability to handle emerging challenges (18%).
In addition, among those who strongly agree that their employer has communicated a clear plan of action in response to the coronavirus, 55% say they feel absolutely certain that nothing bad will happen to them if they follow their company's health guidelines -- compared with 16% of those who rate their employer's COVID-19 response as a "4." Workers who perceive a lack of careful planning in their employer's handling of COVID-19 feel the most unsafe in a crisis.
The more aimless employers seem, the less employees trust them.
So, as employees are wondering when they will return to the office and what their new world will be like, it's good to share your plan, even if it's subject to change.
Be realistic and accurate.
Any information is better than none if it's honest, open and transparent.
Effective and relevant communication requires continually reviewing decisions to ensure they're still meeting the demands of the times. Accordingly, it may be necessary to quickly adapt recommendations for action on short notice.
These changes and corrections must be passed on to the workforce as soon as possible.
Leaders and managers should reach out to their teams to proactively communicate companywide changes, rather than waiting to be asked about them. It shows they care. It also builds trust -- and it's a vital aspect of good people management, especially when the workforce is as skittish as it is now.
People are looking to their leaders for confidence and reassurance. In times of trouble, we look to great leaders who can provide us with a sense of trust, compassion, stability and hope.
Crises reveal the quality of a leader.
Prior disasters have shown that talented managers maintain their employees' engagement and resilience even in difficult circumstances. Good leaders focus on employees, treat them like people and not numbers, guide them, listen to them, and take them seriously.
U.K. business leaders may not have felt urgently compelled to do that -- or not with consistency -- but now is the time to start. As Gallup's U.S. data show, leaders can create a sense of wellbeing and security in the workplace.
So, British leaders can do what many of their compatriots across the pond have done by communicating a plan that shows workers they're safe. And leaders need to do it soon, before things get worse.
Discover more insights on how to lead through disruption:
- Learn about the COVID-19 strategies and policies of the world's largest companies.
- Watch this webinar for more Gallup insights on workers' views of leadership during the pandemic.
- Discover our learning programs that help leaders and managers build relationships based on trust.