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The Boss Barometer Report DACH 2019

It is well-known that many of the most famous and successful businesses in the world today such as Amazon, Google and Salesforce are run according to Agile principles. These put innovation that delivers real value to customers at the forefront of their efforts. Doing that involves building and maintaining high-performing teams, decentralising decision-making and developing leaders who coach and motivate rather than issuing orders.

Leaders of businesses considering whether to adopt these methods often look for evidence that this is the way to go. The Kimble Boss Barometer survey confirms that employees are pushing in that direction. Workers in the German-speaking countries of Germany, Austria and Switzerland or DACH who responded to this survey voiced strong support for the key principles of Agile – a cooperative workplace culture, teams who are empowered to self-manage as far as possible, bosses who coach rather than issue orders. However, the survey also shows that German bosses are significantly less likely than those in the US and UK to routinely consult employees before making big decisions. But on the plus side – they are more likely to treat employees respectfully.

Employees Keen to Work for ‘Agile’ Orgs

German workers say they don’t feel the need for a boss looking over their shoulder – the quality they most value in a boss is the ability to motivate and inspire. Only 10 percent of German workers feel they would do a worse job if their boss wasn’t there. Sixty percent said they would perform just as well or better without their boss, and 30% said almost as well. Additionally, 70% of workers want to take on more responsibility at work. (These numbers are all broadly similar to those people gave in the other regions where the survey was done.)

Three quarters – 75% – of DACH employees would like to provide more input to their managers. And more than half – 56% – say they would prefer to work in a flatter structure, where decision making and responsibility are shared, as opposed to a third 35% – who would prefer to work in a more hierarchical business where the boss directs them. Interestingly, although most German and DACH workers say they want to work more cooperatively, that number is even higher in the US and UK, where it was around 75%.

Kimble co-founder Mark Robinson who has written extensively about leadership and management issues, said:

“The survey shows that employees in every region where we conducted the ‘Boss Barometer” survey say they want to step up and take more responsibility at work. Business leaders should make sure that employees are not being held back by outdated structures.”

Bosses are Behind the Curve

However the survey shows that despite this demand for more autonomy and accountability coming from the workforce, many managers may be behind the curve. As noted above, nine out of ten workers feel they would do their job almost as well, just as well, or better without the boss on hand.

Kimble co-founder Mark Robinson commented:

“We are moving away from a world where it is seen as the bosses 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, German bosses are significantly less likely to consult with employees before making important decisions. Only 19% – less than one in five – indicated that their boss regularly does this. In the US, in contrast, a third of people, 34%, say their boss does consults them for decisions. In the UK, that number is just over a quarter at 27%.

DACH Bosses Are More Respectful of Employees than US and UK Counterparts

On a more positive note, workers in the DACH region are more positive about their bosses and managers than elsewhere. They are more likely to say the boss treats them with respect, and more likely to feel that he or she is interested in their career.

Two-thirds – 65% – of DACH employees feel their boss or manager is invested in their career growth and aspirations. In the US, this number was 56 percent, and in the UK 46 percent. The vast majority of DACH workers – 84% percent – feel their boss respects them. That’s significantly higher than in the UK where 74% say this, and in the US where it is 81%. Almost all German and DACH workers – 89% – respect their boss or manager, similar to the US, but higher than the UK, where it is 78%.

However, many German and DACH workers feel their boss tends to micromanage them too much. Almost half – 47% – complain of being micromanaged, compared to a third in the US (36%) and UK (31%).

Other criticisms include: around a third of workers in all regions surveyed say their boss or manager has taken credit for their work or contributions. Almost a third – 38 percent of German and DACH workers – find it hard to be honest with their boss or manager. When workers are asked to rate their boss’s performance on a range of metrics: – decision-making, coaching ability and skill at delegating, like workers in other countries, they give them a B average.

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 organisation. 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.

“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 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 DACH employees are keen to have more 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 organisation. 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. German and DACH workers are more likely than those elsewhere to say that how satisfied they are with their boss is the main factor in deciding whether to leave their job. For 31% it is the main factor and for another 41% it is a factor, although not the most important. That compares to 25% of workers in the US, and 15% in the UK who say the boss is the main factor.

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 organisation’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]