Trust and confidence in senior leaders has fallen to a two year low, with almost one third of employees believing that performance management systems are unfair. That’s according to a survey of over 2,500 employees published today by the CIPD, the professional body for HR and people development, in partnership with Halogen Software.

The CIPD/Halogen Software Employee Outlook survey reveals that as well as feeling performance management systems are unfair, almost a third of employees also feel progression within their organisation is unachievable, with one in five stating that their managers do not effectively communicate objectives and expectations.

The CIPD is now calling on managers to step up and talk to their employees about development or risk losing valuable talent. This is particularly the case in the voluntary sector, which has seen a rise in employees looking for a new job (27% up from 24%), compared with a slight drop in job-seeking in the public (20% from 23%) and private sectors (22% from 24%).

Claire McCartney, Research Adviser at the CIPD, comments: “It’s not surprising that job seeking intentions are still high, as employees lack faith in their leaders and managers. This survey shows a marked increase in negative perceptions of senior managers, with overall trust and confidence in senior managers hitting a two year low. Trust and confidence levels are particularly low in the public sector, and have potentially been influenced by the current unrest and strike action taking place in this sector.

“The survey also reveals real performance management and progression issues. Again this is likely to be linked to the current unrest in that sector related to pay, pensions and performance. There are also real concerns regarding progression across sectors but particularly in the voluntary sector, with more employees currently feeling that career progression is unachievable as opposed to achievable.”

Donna Ronayne, VP of Marketing and Business Development at Halogen Software, said: “With employee perceptions of the job market improving organisations need to be proactive about their retention strategies if they want to prevent their best talent from jumping ship. This means ensuring your performance management processes are clear and consistent and used to align employees to the vision of the organisation. It’s also important that your processes be used to strengthen the manager-employee relationship where regular coaching and feedback are the norm. Use these processes to identify the learning and development needs of your employees so that they grow with the organisation and see that career progression is a possibility. And managers need to be given the tools and training to identify and highlight those employees that add the most value to the business for differential reward, and progression.”

Overall, the survey showed that net levels of job satisfaction* are slightly up on spring 2013 (+42) compared to (+40). Employees in the voluntary sector continue to be the most satisfied with their jobs (+48), with however a slight decrease from previous surveys (autumn 2013: +54, spring 2013: +52). Job satisfaction in the private sector has shown an increase this survey (+42 compared to +39 in autumn and spring 2013) but is still below spring and winter 2013 levels (+45 and +48 respectively). While job satisfaction has decreased in this survey in the public sector (+37) but is up on spring 2013 levels (autumn: 41%, spring 2013: +25).

The CIPD/Halogen Software Employee Outlook also tracks overall employee engagement via the Employee Outlook Engagement Index, which comprises a set of measures which are important to understanding the level of engagement an employee feels towards their organisation. The index consists of 16 items, weighted and aggregated to give an overall score and is tracked regularly. The proportion of engaged employees this quarter is 35%, broadly similar to the previous two quarters (compared with 36% in autumn 2013 and 37% in spring 2013) but still below the levels of autumn 2012 (38%). Four per cent of employees are disengaged and 61% remain neutral.

The survey also tracks employees’ attitudes towards their line managers and senior managers, as well as the extent to which employees feel under pressure at work. To read the full findings, download the report from the CIPD website.