To Tell The Truth

Employees are almost evenly split about whether they believe everything they hear from their employers, according to a Towers Perrin study of 1,000 U.S. workers. While more than 90 percent of the respondents indicate that they are able to handle the truth about their companies, their jobs, and their compensation, just 49 percent believe that they actually get it.

Mark Schumann, Towers Perrin principal and leader of the firm’s HR Services business communication consulting practice, explained that employees are hungry for the straight talk and the facts from their companies, but find that they are not always forthcoming.

The survey, conducted by Harris Interactive among a cross section of workers in mid 2003, further revealed that 51 percent believe their companies try too hard to “spin” the truth, and 60 percent of the respondents believe their companies communicate more honestly with shareholders than with the workers. More than half of the respondents (58 percent) believed that the customers hear more of the truth than the staff.

“Employees have become enlightened by the transparency consumers demand as customers and shareholders, and that has entered the workplace,” commented Schumann.

Survey respondents allocated higher credibility levels to some issues over others. Nearly two-thirds (64 percent) believed the communications they received about their benefits were open and honest, while just 39 percent believed that they received the truth about how their efforts impacted the company.


To what extent do you believe
the communications you received
from your company are open and honest
about…
Benefits 64%
Pay 59%
Learning & development opportunities 52%
What the company needs from employees 50%
The company’s competitive environment 49%
The company’s financial results 46%
Career opportunities 44%
The company’s financial challenges 44%
The company’s business strategy 42%
What employees get in return for doing
what the company needs
39%
Source: Towers Perrin

“These results are striking because if I’m leading an organization, and they [employees] don’t believe in my strategy, then something is wrong,” said Schumann.

Schumann further commented that the high rankings benefits and pay received in the survey present an opportunity for employers to build upon their credibility. He suggests that companies ask their employees questions about what they understand, what they believe, and what actions need to be taken. “The new year is a good time to institute communication standards,” said Schumann.

The report looked at the perceptions employees have about the various sources of corporate information, and 48 percent agreed that they receive more credible information from their direct supervisor than the company CEO. Nearly half (45 percent) of respondents indicated that they received more credible information about their company from face-to-face meetings, while more than one-quarter (27 percent) looked to the external news media as a reliable source. Other sources that respondents named for credible company information were co-workers, the corporate Web site, and the union.

Tenure, income and age factored into employees’ perceptions of their companies’ credibility, according to the report. Those employed less than five years were more apt to believe they were generally told the truth in their corporation communication, compared to those with longer tenure (59 percent vs. 48 percent).

More than half (57 percent) of those earning over $100,000 annually believed their corporate communications were generally truthful, very closely followed by those in the $50,000 to $100,000 income bracket (55 percent). Two-thirds of employees under age 35 shared the belief, while those 50 and older were more jaded, with just 44 percent trusting their company’s communications to employees.

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