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Towers Perrin Survey Finds Almost Half of American Workers Doubt the Credibility of Employer Communications

Published 01-07-04

Submitted by Non Profile

STAMFORD,CT - Whether it is the corporate strategy or the details of the career opportunities a company offers, American workers are increasingly cynical and suspicious of information they receive from their own organizations, a new Towers Perrin study shows.

Of the 1,000 U.S. workers polled for the survey, just over half (51%) of the respondents believe their company generally tells employees the truth, while almost a fifth (19%) disagree. At the same time, 51% believe their companies try too hard to "spin" the truth. The survey also shows that employees believe their companies communicate more honestly with shareholders (60%) and customers (58%) than with workers.

The survey, Enhancing Corporate Credibility: Is It Time to Take the Spin Out of Employee Communication?, further reveals that employees view the information emanating from senior leadership as the least reliable, with almost half (48%) agreeing that they receive more credible information from their direct supervisor than from their company's CEO. In addition, survey results show that employees are more likely to believe information about their pay (64%) and benefits (59%) than they are to believe information about company direction and business strategies - information most often communicated from the C-suite.

"These results reveal a worrisome employer-employee dynamic that should be a wake-up call to any senior executive or leader who will need to communicate with employees in 2004," said Mark Schumann, Towers Perrin principal and leader of the firm's HR Services business communication consulting practice. "Regardless of the topic, an organization will find it difficult to motivate, engage and retain their most talented employees if their messages are not believed."

Also notable is the survey finding that one-third of employees believe the information they receive today is less credible than it was just three years ago. At the same time, another third believe the information they receive from their employer is more credible.

The Truth Is Subjective

The poll also found significant differences in employee perceptions of corporate credibility on different subjects. Survey respondents believe their employer is least open when communicating the fundamental "deal" between the company and employees, specifically what the company needs from employees and what employees can expect to receive in return. Only half believe employers are forthright about what the organization needs from employees and well under half (39%) believe the company is completely open and honest in communicating what the organization offers. More than 90% of employees, however, claim they are ready to hear the truth about their companies and their jobs.

Age, Tenure, Income Affect Employee Perceptions

The degree to which employees believe corporate communications varies by age, length of tenure with the organization and pay level. Two-thirds of workers under 35 believe their companies are forthright in their communications, while only 44% of those 50 or older agree with this statement. Tenure also affects the degree to which employees believe corporate communications. Fifty-nine percent of employees with less than five years of service with their companies believe their organizations are entirely open and honest in employee communications, while less than half (48%) of those with more than five years of service believe the validity of corporate communications to employees. Finally, income plays a role as well. Fifty-seven percent of workers making more than $100,000 annually believe their organization's employee communications, while only 44% of those making less than $50,000 per year share that view.

"The survey results point to a need for greater openness and candor in organizational communications," added Schumann. "Employees, like shareholders, lenders and potential investors, expect more transparency today from organizations in which they invest their time and talents. Employers that understand this critical need and communicate clearly and candidly will not only boost the credibility of their leaders and managers but will become stronger organizations. Any organization planning to communicate with employees in 2004 should take a serious look at their own internal credibility."

About the Survey

Harris InterActive conducted the online survey of 1,000 working Americans in mid-year 2003. The survey sample was designed to represent a typical cross section of workers - the "average worker" - in U.S.-based organizations with at least 1,000 employees. The sample cuts across a broad range of industries and includes a statistically valid range of ages, education levels, genders and incomes.

About Towers Perrin

Towers Perrin is a global professional services firm that helps organizations around the world improve their performance through effective people, risk and financial management. Through its HR Services business, Towers Perrin provides global human resource consulting and administration services that help organizations effectively manage their investment in people. Areas of focus include employee benefits, compensation, communication, change management, employee research and the delivery of HR services. The firm's other businesses are Reinsurance, which provides reinsurance intermediary services, and Tillinghast, which provides management and actuarial consulting to the financial services industry. Together, these businesses have over 8,000 employees and 78 offices in 76 cities in 24 countries. More information about HR Services is available at www.towersperrin.com/hrservices.

EDITOR'S NOTE: Towers Perrin consultants are available for interviews on this topic. Please contact Joe Conway (914-745-4175 or joseph.p.conway@towersperrin.com) in the Press Relations office. You can also contact Bill Ferguson at Euro RSCG Middleberg (212-699-2742 or william.ferguson@eurorscg.com).

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