Survey reveals half of UK organizations suffering from ‘Invisible Employee Syndrome’

Symptoms include poor levels of engagement (78%) and a reliance on spreadsheets (50%) making real-time visibility of the workforce impossible

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New research has revealed that a previously unrecognized malaise, Invisible Employee Syndrome (IES), is afflicting a significant number of UK organizations. 52% or those surveyed struggle to produce reports, workforce dashboards or management insights, stating it can take several days to collate and gather accurate data on company employees, by which time it is frequently incorrect.

The findings are part of a joint ‘Modern Workforce’ survey from Sage People, provider of global cloud HRMS to mid-size organisations, and HR Grapevine, the European network for HR business leaders and influencers. Over 6 weeks in early 2015, a respondent base of over 250 HR professionals from a range of sectors with 250-10,000 employees answered questions about the challenges with managing their workforce.

The key findings of the survey data are summariz­­­ed below, and suggest that contributing factors to IES include: inadequate engagement, poor communications, and lack of workforce insights.

Inadequate Workforce Engagement

Employee engagement is the top issue in 2015 for 35% of the surveyed companies. 78% of respondents felt their employees were poorly or partly engaged with a limited or inconsistent understanding of what’s going on in the business.

86% of respondents believed that organizations spent less than 50% of the time focusing on employees over customers, with 46% of these companies spending less than 25% of their time on employee-related matters.

“This lack of interest and attention can lead to employees feeling invisible to managers and leaders,” said Adam Hale, CEO at Sage People. “There is a danger that they are just being treated as human robots, just showing up for work, doing their job, getting paid and going home, day in and day out. This can lead to drudgery, boredom and a lack of interest in the business. While customer focus is important for businesses, great customer experiences are unlikely to be delivered by a workforce that is not engaged or motivated.”

Poor Workforce Communications

Given the challenge of engaging with employees, over 90% of respondents felt it was important to combine workforce data and processes with company and HR communications. Yet some 62% of HR professionals reported that their HR applications didn’t integrate with the organization’s communications tools. This can lead to employees feeling lost in that they don’t know what the business is trying to do or how they are relevant to the bigger picture. If this goes on too long, they may partially disengage, lose interest in their work and start to drop off the performance and talent radar.

Organizations are also failing to enable their employees and extended workforce to be able to use their HR systems while on the go and away from the office. Lack of support for mobile devices was also found to be a significant issue, with 70% of respondents unable to interact with HR applications on their mobiles.

Lack of Workforce Insights

The identification of IES is not surprising when the state of many HR systems in these mid-market organizations is considered. Over half of the HR professionals surveyed (54%) had inadequate systems where there is no single employee system of record, with different workforce information stored on multiple systems. 52% found it hard to produce reports, workforce dashboards or management insights, stating it can take several hours or days to collate and gather accurate data.

In contrast, 45% of respondents stated that they could produce basic information within minutes, showing the gap between those with accurate systems providing access to real-time data, and those without.

“This survey underlines the consistent themes we’ve found when talking to multinational mid-size organizations, that many HR teams and businesses are chronically underserved when it comes to people management and investment in systems to support employees,” adds Hale. “Many businesses have a better view of their customers and prospects than they do of their own staff, with one multinational revealing that they cannot account for a shocking 15% of their employees, meaning these workers are truly invisible to the organization!”

To see the complete results, download the full ‘Invisible Employee Syndrome’ report here.

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