CloudNews & Analysis

How Organizations Can Bridge the Leadership Gap


When it comes to workplace expectations, managers and other employees are often on different pages. And this can lead to problems in an organization and its ability to execute strategies productively.

A Gartner research shows that as companies implement their future of work strategies, including decisions around hybrid work and increased flexibility, a gap is emerging between executive and employee perceptions on the future of the employee experience.

According to the research firm, organizations that fail to address this divide will lose competitive advantage around the future of work.

“We examined the key areas crucial to planning for the future employee experience and discovered significant dissonance between employee and executive sentiment across all,” said Alexia Cambon, director in the Gartner HR practice.

“If left unaddressed, this division may lead to a critical failure to build trust and employee buy-in for future of work plans,” said Cambon.

The Gartner survey shows that 75% of executive leaders believe they are already operating within a culture of flexibility, yet only 57% of employees indicate that their organizational culture embraces flexible work. Further, nearly three-quarters of executives believe the business understands how flexible work patterns support employees, but only half of employees share this view.

“Employees do not feel that their need for flexibility is seen as a driver of performance,” said Cambon.

“More concerning is the clear gap when it comes to autonomy over the decision to work flexibly — 72% of executives agree they can work out their own flexible work arrangement with their manager, whereas only half of employees feel they have that same privilege.”

Only 66% of employees agree they have the technology they need to effectively work remotely, compared to 80% of managers. In fact, only 59% of employees agree their organization has invested in providing them with resources that allow them to work the way they would onsite in a virtual environment — compared to 76% of executives. The gap between managers and employees in their ability to work from home is likely to further disadvantage employees if it makes them less likely to take advantage of flexibility.

Only 41% of employees agree that senior leadership acts in their best interest, compared to 69% of executives. Executives are also more likely to feel trusted when it comes to working from home, with 70% agreeing that their organization trusts employees not to abuse work flexibility, compared to 58% of  employees.

“Without trust, employees may feel wary of sharing their honest opinions about how, where and when they want to work,” said Cambon. “According to our most recent survey on hybrid work, only 56% of employees agree they feel welcome to express their true feelings at work, compared to 74% of executives.”

Only 47% of employees believe leadership takes their perspective into consideration when making decisions, whereas 75% of senior leaders feel they do. This divide extends to whether employees believe their work environment is inclusive of a diverse set of employee needs and preferences; while 72% of executives believe this is the case, only 59% of employees feel the same.

There is a clear disconnect between how managers and employees perceive the content and effectiveness of their organization’s communication. For example, 71% of executives agree leadership at their organization has expressed a preference for work conditions to return to their pre-pandemic model, whereas only 50% of employees have that same impression.

Organizations are striving more than ever to create a shared purpose, yet the Gartner research reveals that while 77% of executives agree they feel like they are a part of something important at their organization, only 59% of employees feel similarly.

There are a number of factors involved in narrowing the gap. First of all, executives have to understand their role in the company, which more often than not is about ensuring their team meet their targets and deliver results. They must inspire their team to work to their full potential whilst ensuring the employees understand the corporate vision and their role in the company. Finally, leaders or those in the executive positions have to communicate with their team members, ensuring that team spirit and joint accountability is at the forefront of any task presented to them. Greater involvement, reward and recognition can also help bridge the widening gap.

Last but not the least, trust and respect is the foundation of building a successful employee-manager relationship. Whilst managers find it important to trust their team members to do their job, employees also have to trust that their manager has their best interests at heart. Trust can come in the form of managers being open and honest about future plans or concerns, representing their team to employees high up the chain as well as protecting them from potential negative influences.

The increasing focus on diversity, equity and inclusion over the last 18 months has shone a light on how different employee segments feel about their organization’s diversity. As Gartner shows, 70% of executives believe that managers at their organization are as diverse as the broader workforce at their organization, compared to only 52% of employees.

Executives hold the key to unlocking employee talent, keeping clients happy and ultimately driving growth within the company. Therefore it’s of utmost importance that companies give them the tools and vision to help their teams succeed.

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