Why the South African workforce is feeling uninspired and distrustful

Sep 29th, 2015


The South African workforce is feeling uninspired; they do not feel that they are being communicated with effectively by their senior managers and are distrustful of the little information they do receive.

This is according to the latest State of Employee Engagement in South Africa Survey, run by digital communications company, PDTSA.

When it comes to communication, leadership and trust, it appears that senior management in South Africa is failing dismally.

The 2014 Deloitte Human Capital Trends South Africa Report highlights trends that should be top of the agenda for HR and Company Executives with respect to people develop. According to the report, this includes leadership, retention, diversity and inclusion, and capability and talent acquisition.

However, only 35% of respondents in 2015 Employee Engagement Survey feel as though their manager or direct superior inspires them. In direct contrast, 77% of company executives feel that their direct superiors lead by example and communicate goals clearly.

This same disconnect is highlighted by a staggering 0% of senior managers believing that improved communication is required, while 73% of the ordinary workforce are looking for better communication from their managers.

When it comes to the degree of transparency around company performance, only three out of ten middle managers and staff said that regular feedback was received; however, seven out of ten executive managers felt that performance was openly discussed and shared with staff.

This growing communications disconnect has a huge impact on the level of trust within a company and whether staff feel a sense of loyalty to their jobs.  This will ultimately ensure their retention and even buy-in into the company’s long-term vision or strategy.

However, only three in ten respondents felt that they could trust data received by senior management.

When 70% of the workforce is distrustful, employees are less likely to adapt, embrace necessary changes or proactively identify future challenges or opportunities.

Clearly company executives and staff are not singing from the same song sheet and leadership quality is becoming an increasing challenge not only in South Africa but across the globe.

There is one thing that everyone seems to agree on though – individual performance and motivation would be greatly improved if businesses engaged more effectively with their employees. In fact, overall, 85% of all staff structures want more effective employee engagement.

Besides better leadership quality, companies need to be cognisant of the fact that they are dealing with a millennial workforce, which requires new methods of engagement and retention.

The survival and growth of South African businesses in the future may very well rely on improved communications between different staff structures. A paradigm shift in thinking is needed if our companies are to engage with and gain the trust of their employees in the 21 century.