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Gartner: Gaps between employer and staff sentiment on the future of work

By Shannon Williams, 09 Aug 2021

As employers implement their future of work strategies, including decisions around hybrid work and increased flexibility, a gap is emerging between executive and individual contributor perceptions on the future of the employee experience, says Gartner.

"We examined the key areas crucial to planning for the future employee experience and discovered significant dissonance between individual contributor and executive sentiment across all," says 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."

The 2021 Gartner Hybrid Work Employee Survey of 4000 employees in January 2021 reveals the six perception gaps that employers must resolve:

Executives Think They Have a Culture of Flexibility Employees Dont

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 organisational 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," says 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."

Executives Are Better Equipped to Work Remotely Than Employees

Only 66% of employees agree they have the technology they need to effectively work remotely, compared to 80% of executives. In fact, only 59% of employees agree their organisation 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 executives 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.

Employees Have Lower Levels of Trust Than Executive Leaders

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 organisation 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," says 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."

Executives Think They Listen but Employees Disagree

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.

Executives Hear One Thing and Employees Another

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

Executives Feel Greater Purpose Than Employees

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

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 organisations diversity. 

Seventy percent of executives believe that managers at their organisation are as diverse as the broader workforce at their organisation, compared to only 52% of employees.

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