Three men and two women stand at the top of an auditorium with the stage in the background. The screen says welcome, with the Accenture logo.
From left: Alan O’Sullivan, Sasha Terfous, Alastair Blair, Cormac Harris and Dr Michelle Cullen. Image: Shane O'Neill/SON Photographic

Leaders and employees disagree over workplace culture, research says

5 Mar 2020

New Accenture research has suggested a substantial perception gap between employers and employees when it comes to workplace culture.

While leaders might believe they create empowering workplace environments, not all of their employees agree.

Ahead of its 16th annual International Women’s Day event, Accenture released new research, which shows a massive discrepancy between what leaders believe about their organisations and what their employees believe.

The research suggests that while 86pc of leaders in Ireland believe employees have flexibility and control over when, where and how they work, only 27pc of employees agree.

Additionally, almost 80pc of leaders surveyed feel they create empowering environments where people have a sense of belonging, yet only 32pc of employees feel that’s the case.

The report also found that workplace culture is becoming increasingly important, particularly for women, when it comes to being able to thrive at work. The research found that 83pc of women and 67pc of men care increasingly about workplace culture.

The annual event, which was held today (5 March) at the Convention Centre in Dublin, aimed to explore how the ‘equality progress gap’ could be closed and what it means to be an inclusive leader.

Dr Michelle Cullen, a managing director and head of inclusion and diversity at Accenture in Ireland, said that despite the growing awareness of the importance of workplace culture, progress isn’t fast enough.

“Creating a culture of equality must be at the top of the business agenda. It starts with the belief that diversity is not only the right thing to do, but a business imperative that is treated the same as any other strategic priority.”

However, the research showed that most leaders rank diversity and workplace culture low on their list of top organisational priorities, instead favouring brand recognition and quality, and financial performance.

Only 40pc of leaders ranked diversity as their top priority and less than 30pc ranked workplace culture at the top.

Employees don’t feel they can be open

The latest research also showed a discrepancy between leaders and employees around how safe employees feel about raising sensitive issues. While 90pc of leaders surveyed believe their employees feel safe enough to be open about a physical disability, only 70pc of employees agreed.

Similarly, 85pc of leaders believe employees would feel safe enough to raise a concern about their mental health, but only 60pc of employees shared this view.

Accenture’s country managing director, Alastair Blair, said closing the perception gap starts with leaders understanding there is a gap. “It is an opportunity for leaders to connect with and involve their people, to truly understand how they feel at work,” he said.

“Based on what matters most to their people, leaders can prioritise and take action to close the gap, accelerating true equality for all in their organisation.”

According to Accenture’s report, closing the perception gap by half would mean the proportion of women who aim to reach a leadership position would climb by almost 50pc, and the proportion of women who feel like a key member of their team would rise from one in five to more than one in three.

Jenny Darmody
By Jenny Darmody

Jenny Darmody became the deputy editor of Silicon Republic in 2020, having worked as the careers editor until June 2019. When she’s not writing about the science and tech industry, she’s writing short stories and attempting novels. She continuously buys more books than she can read in a lifetime and pretty stationery is her kryptonite. She also believes seagulls to be the root of all evil and her baking is the stuff of legends.

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