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The Boss Barometer Report US 2019

A comprehensive review of American employees’ desires for their bosses and their workplace

It is well-known that many of today’s most famous and successful businesses in the USA – and the world – such as Amazon, Google and Salesforce, are run according to Agile principles. Doing that involves building and maintaining high-performing teams, decentralizing decision-making and developing leaders who coach and motivate.This allows them to put an emphasis on valuable innovations that will make a difference for their customers.

Business leaders considering adopting these methods often look for evidence that this is the way to go. The results of Kimble’s Boss Barometer Report confirm that employees are pushing in that direction. US employees are eager to work for businesses which adopt some of the key principles of Agile – a collaborative workplace culture, teams who are empowered to self-manage as far as possible and bosses who coach rather than issue orders.

Employees Want to Work for Agile Orgs

In fact, US employees were significantly more enthusiastic about this than Europeans.

Almost three quarters of American workers – 74 percent – say they prefer a collaborative working culture, as opposed to one where the boss makes most of the decisions. (That number was 56 percent in a similar survey Kimble carried out in the German-speaking region of Europe.)

A similar number of American workers – 72 percent – indicate they would like to take on more responsibility. They don’t want a boss looking over their shoulder or ordering them about – the quality they most value in a boss is the ability to motivate and inspire.

Bosses are Behind the Curve

However the survey shows that many managers may be behind the curve. More than four in every five American workers – 83 percent – would like their boss to ask for their input or opinion more often. Two in every three workers – 66 percent – said they would do just as good a job without their boss’s input, and almost one in four – 22 percent – said they would do a better job.

Kimble co-founder Mark Robinson is an experienced manager who has written extensively about decentralizing decision-making. He said:

“We are moving away from a world where it is seen as the bosses to job to tell people what to do. It is the boss’s job to provide clarity of mission and to remove obstacles to the team’s success.”

According to the respondents however, despite growing demand for this more collegiate style of management, there are still a great many workplaces which operate in a hierarchical, command and control style. Only one in three survey respondents – 34 percent – indicated that their boss regularly consults them when making important decisions.

American Employees Respect the Boss - but Not Uncritically

On a more positive note, an encouraging nine out of ten workers – 88 percent – say they respect their boss. And eight out of ten – 81% – feel that their boss or manager respects them. Almost two thirds – 64 percent – say their boss has had a positive impact on their career or growth trajectory.

But they also voice some serious criticisms, with one in three saying the boss sometimes takes credit for their work. Another third (36%) complain they are micromanaged and almost a third find it hard to be honest with the boss. When workers are asked to rate their boss’s performance on a range of metrics – decision-making, coaching ability and skill at delegating – American bosses average a B.

Only slightly more than half – 57 percent – feel their boss or manager is invested in their career growth and aspirations. 23 percent say their boss or manager is not interested in these things and 21 percent don’t know.

Encouraging Employees to Make Mistakes

Rather than blaming individual managers for being too hierarchical and taking important decisions without consultation, Robinson believes that having a supportive workplace culture is key to developing an Agile culture across the organization. He said:

“Encouraging people to make mistakes and try things is key. Where people have the autonomy to actually make decisions, they will develop skills more quickly and contribute more effectively. Good decision-making isn’t the same as getting everything right all the time. People will get things wrong and then learn from that.”

Robinson explained how he personally goes about sharing decision-making and encouraging autonomy. “When someone brings a suggestion to me, I feel it is my job as a manager to either go with that solution or disagree – but not to procrastinate. In a culture of accountability, if the person isn’t actually 100% sure their idea will work they will say ‘Hang on a minute’ and voice those reservations, allowing you to consider it more deeply. But if their solution was a definite fix for the problem they identified, they will feel empowered because it was immediately acted upon.” He continues: “If you do disagree with their idea you can simply ask:’What were the facts upon which you based that decision?’ Perhaps they didn’t have all the facts at their disposal. Alternatively, it could be that they have information which you were not aware of. Either way, that is a positive way to embark on the process of reviewing a decision.”

In a positive, no-blame culture, Robinson argues, where people are engaging at the top of their game, they will be more likely to come up with solutions rather than simply reporting problems.

The Benefits of Improvement

It is clear from the survey that American workers would like to have more of a say in decisions, to take more responsibility and to be their own boss more of the time, even when they work for a business or organization. But why should bosses and managers take this seriously and strive to improve their score in the Boss report?

One reason may be the risk of losing top talent. A quarter of workers – 25 percent – say how satisfied they are with their boss is the main factor in deciding whether to leave their job. And another 57 percent say it is a factor, though not the most important one.

That will give many business leaders pause for thought because it is generally acknowledged that employees are a business’s biggest asset. They are the people who deal day to day with customers and who are responsible for delivering on the organization’s vision.

But employees, whether in software development or customer care, are also usually the main source of innovation and fresh thinking. They know where the rubber meets the road and they are best placed to see where improvement is required. If they have to refer everything to the boss, then they have to wait until the information filters up and the decisions filter down. That causes bottlenecks and delayed responsiveness.

And employees who feel more in control, who can take decisions and try things out tend to feel more engaged at work.

Robinson said:

“Having engaged and enthusiastic employees who feel supported to make decisions and try new things helps creates a culture of innovation and growth.”

For more information about The Boss Barometer or Kimble in general, please reach out to [email protected].