In a new survey of PR pros from The Plank Center for Leadership at the University of Alabama, everyone agrees that PR leaders have stepped up and improved in the chaotic years of 2020 and 2021, raising their overall grade to a B- from the previous C+.
But there’s a big disconnect in one key area: how workers view leadership’s efforts versus how those leaders view their own efforts.
When asked about leadership performance, the leaders themselves ranked their efforts a respectable A-. However, other PR pros rated their overall performance a C+.
A C+ Is not a terrible grade for a series of years that brought challenges that no one could have anticipated. However, it’s that gap that’s worrisome, even if it’s not surprising: The gap has been roughly the same in previous report cards.
“The gaps may be reduced through 1) increased power sharing, or leader empowering behaviors, 2) strengthened two-way communication, and 3) enhanced interpersonal skills in teamwork, such as conflict management, active listening, and empathy,” the Plank Center advises. “Leaders at all levels can benefit from relying less on the transmission mode and more on the reception mode when communicating with employees. These approaches also help build trust.”
This is a helpful experiment to replicate in your workplace. If you’re a leader in your organization, sit down and rate your own performance for the past few years. Then ask your team to do the same — that is, rate you or your leadership team at large. There has to be a certain trust level to complete this exercise, but hopefully you’ve fostered an authentic, open culture where people trust that anonymous pulse surveys will be anonymous.
The gender gap
There was another significant gap in the survey: that between men and women. From the Plank Center:
Smaller but still significant gaps remained between women and men regarding perceptions of organizational culture, trust, and job satisfaction. Women’s perceptions of shared power in decision making, two-way communication, and the valuing of their opinions differed significantly. Women said they want more involvement in strategic decision making, they want their opinions to count for more, and they want a communication system that emphasizes two-way communication.
While these gaps between men and women aren’t huge, they are troubling in a female-dominated industry (however, the survey was completed by slightly more men than women, 53% to 46%). Especially worrisome to leaders should be the more prevalent sentiment among women that companies will not keep their word and that their opinions should count for more.
This report card isn’t all gloom and doom, however. Employee engagement reached its highest recorded level, with a solid B rating. That’s impressive when many spent part or all of the survey period working remotely. Ratings for organizational culture, trust in the organization and job satisfaction also increased over the previous two-year period.
To see the full report from the Plank Center, click here.