CEO6CEOs and managing directors (MDs) in UK businesses are not engaging with their workforces, with infrequent and impersonal communication negatively impacting worker satisfaction and motivation, according to new research commissioned by Totem.

With just 10% of workers completely satisfied in their jobs, the study reveals a severe lack of visibility of business leaders, with 74% of workers never seeing their CEO or MD in their own workplace and almost a third (31%) having never met them. Almost half (48%) of workers describe their CEO/MD as distant or remote and only 16% say they are ‘inspiring’.

The full findings of the survey, carried out with 1,000 UK workers in multi-site organisations of 1,000+ employees, are presented in a new Totem report ‘Changing perceptions: the current state of employee engagement’.


Other key findings from the report highlight the lack of real engagement between business leaders and workers:

  • Only 21% of CEOs or MDs make a point to speak with staff
  • A huge 87% of workers rely on annual appraisals to share ideas and views with the business
  • Business leaders use email to broadcast news to the workforce simultaneously (61%) rather than interact on a more personal one-to-one basis (12%)

CEO4In contrast to management’s distance, employees actually want to engage with the wider business, as 55% want better ways to recognise colleagues, 33% want to build better relationships with colleagues outside of their teams and around a quarter (22%) desire more opportunities to meet with senior leaders.

Marcus Thornley, Founder of Play Consulting, makers of the Totem app, comments: “Current approaches to employee engagement are woefully outdated, with business leaders relying on formal and infrequent ways to speak ‘at’ rather than ‘with’ the workforce. In contrast, today’s employees want the opportunity to actively engage with the business and know that senior management is taking notice. By fostering a two-way working environment, business leaders can unlock extra discretionary effort from teams that are inspired and motivated to improve business and individual performance.”

CEO5PwC is trialing a pilot of Totum, an employee engagement app. Anthony Bruce, human capital consulting leader at PwC commented: “Over the past decade, employee engagement has become ingrained as an approach by organisations to create a positive work experience for their people that can, in turn, influence better business results. Yet despite these efforts, many organisations still fall short. It is clear that employee engagement doesn’t just happen. The companies that reap the greatest benefit are those which allow employees to engage in real time and encourage agile ways of working.”