CEOs of companies 'too distant' from their workers

28 February 2020 3 min. read

According to new research, Chief Executive Officers companies are too ‘distant’ from their own employees. A survey of staff across Dutch organisations has found that only one-fifth have any form of contact at all with the CEO or General Manager.

Polling some 250 employees in the Netherlands, software supplier Unit 4 found that only 31% of workers “occasionally” received a company-wide e-mail from the CEO. Aside from that failure of a majority of CEOs to meet a bare minimum standard of contact, a further question showed that of employees without management duties, only 36% had a “meeting” with the Director.

A culture of equality can drive innovation at work, but according to another recent study – this time in the UK – only one-third of employees feel empowered to innovate at present. This demonstrated a significant disconnect between workers and their bosses, with 76% of business leaders also claiming they empower employees to be innovative. Supporting this, Unit4’s research suggests that the lack of contact between the director and the staff is a missed opportunity.

CEOs of companies 'too distant' from their workers

Unit4's Michel Visser argued, “You don't just manage a company. When CEOs have no connection with their staff, employees feel less involved. That can lead to lower productivity and even negative business results."

Getting this right is not just about contact moments. Organisations should see this as part of a broader objective: to increase the connection between management and the workplace. While companies that are leading in this regard are using hologram technology in some cases (allowing a CEO far away to seem physically very near), succeeding in this regard doesn’t need to be all that complicated.

In theory, reaching out to staff should be easier than ever. In the digital age, the use of smart tooling should enable straight-forward communication between the boardroom and the rest of the company. At the same time, mass-mailings with an automated personal message, or video calls with groups of employees mean bosses boosting their contact with staff is something of an open goal.

Visser explained, “People want to feel involved with those who direct the company, understand where the company is going and want to be recognised for their contribution to it. Managements must therefore change if they want to lead more effectively.”

On another level, boosting communication with staff can also do wonders for a CEO’s reputation at a firm, something which can have a deceptively large impact. It is generally acknowledged that when a CEO is admired, and known as a great leader rather than a good manager, staff will proverbially run through walls for them. Such commitment applies as a major factor behind productivity and innovation spikes, two aspects which are parameters to financial health or an organisation. Technology can also serve as an important driver here.

Mike Ettling, CEO of Unit4, stated he tries to be as close as possible to all 3,200 colleagues at his firm, before concluding, “By making effective use of technology, leaders can make their employees feel like they are being seen. This makes them feel more connected and involved.”