Latest Employee Outlook survey reveals employers fail to set clear objectives

Performance management is increasingly seen as the bedrock of HR practice – but many organisations are providing only rudimentary feedback that doesn’t meet employees’ needs, according to the CIPD/Halogen Spring 2015 Employee Outlook survey.

Only 44 per cent of the 2,226 employees polled were set clear objectives, while just under a fifth (19 per cent) said their performance was explained in the wider context of contribution to the organisation, even though the majority of employees felt both should be aspects of the performance management process. A total of 18 per cent received no feedback of any kind at work.

The survey included detailed questions about performance management for the first time. “There’s been a lot of rhetoric about ripping up performance management processes, but nobody had asked employees how they felt about that,” said Jessica Cooper, CIPD research associate. “In particular, you can’t help feeling organisations are missing a trick when there are so many people who aren’t being set objectives.”

Rankings or ratings were favoured by just 27 per cent of those surveyed, and there was a strong preference for performance being assessed on an individual basis by line managers.

The survey also contained some stark findings on company culture. Fifty-five per cent of employees said they would prefer to work in a firm with a “family feel held together by loyalty and tradition”. However, just 26 per cent would currently describe their own employer in this way. Instead, half work in a “formalised and structured place” governed by procedure.

“As a concept, culture can sound nebulous,” said Cooper. “But it is coming to be more and more important to organisations. People are increasingly talking about it and focusing on it.

“You can’t change culture overnight, and to turn it from a concept into something operational is even more difficult. But organisations can start to think about ways in which they can make changes to better suit their talent preferences – and equally, employees should consider moving jobs to have a more satisfying role.”

Overall, engagement stood at its highest level (29 per cent) for three years and job satisfaction is up five points year on year. But Cooper cautioned that although these were positive indicators, they did point to a workforce that was “relatively satisfied but not hugely engaged”. The relatively low numbers intending to move jobs meant many might be “sitting it out”, she added, which could point either to an excess of caution as economic growth gradually picks up or a wider shift in the psychological contract between employers and their staff.

Robert Jeffery, 28th May, 2015 PM Today