Belgian bosses should devote more attention to coaching

Results of the Big Boss Survey 2014

If you want motivated, driven employees on board, you need good managers. After all, the boss plays a central role when it comes to satisfaction and commitment. But what do employees really think of their boss and what do they expect, in concrete terms? Vlerick Business School, HR service provider Attentia and media partner Jobat asked 1,746 Belgian employees these questions. It seems that things could be better.

First and foremost, employees want a boss who coaches them and helps them to become better and to advance. And that coaching role is what managers often seem to find difficult”, explains Vlerick professor Koen Dewettinck. “In addition, three other aspects can ensure that employees are spontaneously willing to give their absolute best: being part of a team they are proud of, having clear objectives at a team level, and being part of a corporate culture that is based on wellbeing.

You can learn to get employees enthusiastic

60% of those surveyed were happy with their present job situation. But commitment is more than mere satisfaction with what you do. Committed employees desire change and progress, and are willing to step up their efforts. And it is that involvement that is often lacking. Younger employees, between 25 and 34 years of age, have particularly low scores. They have certain expectations of their boss that are not met, or are insufficiently met.

The research shows that employees expect their boss to support them in their development. They want to continue learning and progressing. Coaching has a tremendous impact on involvement and this is where Belgian bosses have the lowest scores. They do not devote sufficient attention to this area or they do not possess the necessary skills. “Older bosses in particular seem to feel less comfortable taking on the role of coach. Probably because they experienced this less with their managers and have progressed through the ranks in a culture in which employee development was considered less important”, explains Koen Dewettinck.

  • Another powerful lever for motivating employees is to make them feel that you empathise with them, that you are concerned. Bosses also score poorly on this human aspect.
  • When it comes to providing information, leading by example and involving employees when decisions need to be made, bosses do a little better, the research shows.

Every year, we ask our employees what they think and expect of their manager”, says Carine Huysveld, Managing Director of Attentia. “An open culture and good feedback always come out on top. And so we address this, for example, by listening to the feedback from employees, as well as actually doing something about it.”

Should appraisals be obligatory?

Only 40% think that appraisal interviews with the boss have a motivating effect. The other 60% think that they have little to no effect. “We must therefore ask ourselves what the point of these interviews is if they have no motivating effect and do not improve employees’ performance”, says Koen Dewettinck.

The research provides insight into what could be improved.

  • It seems the number of formal interviews is not relevant. What is important is the duration and quality of the interview. Employees often feel that these interviews are too short.
  • The research shows that informal chats and feedback play a much greater role when it comes to motivation and commitment. The problem is that they are not frequent enough. 80% say that they receive feedback once a month or less; for almost 1 in 3 people, it only happens once a year!
  • The content can also be improved. Employees want to talk mainly about their future prospects, progression and training. However, this is often at the bottom of the agenda. On the other hand, it seems that formulating individual objectives—a common topic during an appraisal—has no motivating effect.
  • A “pat on the back” can work wonders. Giving the employee the feeling that he/she has done something well has a directly positive effect on their commitment.
  • Finally, more than half feel that their appraisal is not completely fair. According to Koen Dewettinck, this is where, once again, we see the importance of informal chats. “The more interim feedback is given, the more the employee feels he or she is being assessed fairly. This also gives the boss a more accurate and better view of what someone is doing well and what could be improved.

Not forgetting the team level

If you have a team that knows what it is working towards and is proud of what it is achieving, then your employees are more motivated, too. The research shows that only 40% are proud to be part of their team, and only 50% say that there are clearly defined objectives. In this area, too, Koen Dewettinck believes there is an important role to be played by managers. “There is now too much focus on achieving objectives at an individual level, while there is actually a great need for concrete goals at the team level. At an individual level, companies should focus more on how they can support their employees in getting there. This can be a powerful combination, which companies still don’t make use of very often.

Greater wellbeing at work

  • A focus on results scores markedly higher in private companies and even higher in listed companies.
  • In terms of concern for employees’ wellbeing, however, the private and public sector have identical scores.
  • Both the focus on performance and attention to wellbeing have a positive effect on the employee’s commitment, but wellbeing is undoubtedly more important. There is still a lot of work to be done in this area.

About the research

The majority of the 1,746 people surveyed have completed higher education. 60% of them work in the private sector, 30% work in the public sector and the other 10% work for a mixed company. Around 40% of those surveyed work for a company with more than 1,000 employees, but smaller companies are also well represented in the research. 77% of the companies are active in the service sector; the others are mainly manufacturing companies.



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