Are CEOs Disconnected?

We recently conducted a survey with a combination of Indiana business leaders and staff. In the survey, we measured employee loyalty.  For the most part, the employees were fairly loyal, with about two-thirds of employees Truly Loyal.  Not surprisingly, loyalty dropped by level of position in the company with staff having the lowest loyalty at 40 percent.  Which is still not bad but lower than I would want to see given these are the employees dealing with the customers on a daily basis. 

We also asked CEOs to answer our loyalty questions the way they think their employees would answer.  Then we calculated loyalty using these projected responses.  The CEOs projected 74 percent of employees were Truly Loyal and only 4 percent were High Risk.  Clearly that is off from the actual where staff was 40 percent Truly Loyal and 29 percent High Risk. 

What was interesting was the CEOs projected loyalty was more similar to the employee loyalty of Senior Leaders and VPs.  We did the same thing with Supervisors and their projected loyalty was close to that of staff.  In fact, their projected loyalty was actually a bit lower than the actual loyalty of staff. 

So what does this mean for you?  Well I think the reason for the gap in projected scores could be the result of a couple of things.  It could be that CEOs have a more positive outlook in general and are more bullish about the company and the culture.  It could also be the people they interact with the most (other Senior Leaders, VPs, etc.) have a fairly positive outlook which reinforces their already positive views about the company. 

I was presenting these results to a group of HR representatives and they asked, "Does this mean CEOs are disconnected from the rank and file?" I think the answer to this is maybe but it probably depends on the CEO.  I know some CEOs that have regular meetings with staff-level employees to hear their recommendations and understand their complaints.  These are CEOs who are not disconnected.   However, I have met other CEOs that excuse away employee complaints and do not try to view the work environment from the perspective of the employee. 

I think some of this disconnect can also be attributed to middle management who maybe aren't letting the bad news travel upstream and aren't quite as positive about the company downstream. 

To help with this, CEOs must be out and visible.  They also need to conduct some type of employee feedback program on a regular basis so they can gauge the issues of the employees and understand the needs of the employees.  This will also allow them to track the progress on improving issues that arise from the feedback.  Lastly, they really need to try to view the work environment from the employees' perspective.  I have watched the show "Undercover Boss" a couple of times and invariably the CEO says it made them see things from a completely different perspective.  I am not saying each CEO needs to do the same thing they do on the show, but my point is they should try to walk in their shoes for a bit and try to look at the world from their perspective.  



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