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Employee Attitude Survey Case Study - Performance

Turnaround

This case study is about a Danish company located in Copenhagen,


Denmark - which has a business of manufacturing computer
equipments.

Background

The employee attitude survey was commissioned by the UK parent


company of a Danish subsidiary. The Danish subsidiary had been
acquired by the UK Company two years earlier. Prior to the
acquisition, the subsidiary was a privately held exclusive distributor
of the parent’s products in the Danish and broader Scandinavian
markets. The subsidiary’s customers were dealers, not end users.

The former owners of the subsidiary had remained in the company


in the capacity of Directors for a transition period. Subsequently, the
former owners had been replaced by a British Managing Director
(who was not fluent in the Danish language) and his senior team.
The official operating language of the company worldwide is English.
Management are required to be fluent in English, whatever their
nationality and mother tongue.

It had been identified by the company previously that the Danish


staff and, to a somewhat lesser extent the Danish customers
perceived the senior management team to be ignorant of Danish
business culture, practices, and the nature of the Danish domestic
market. Reportedly, it was felt locally also that the UK parent was
“remote, unsupportive, and generally unsympathetic to the needs of
its subsidiary.”

Whether real or not, these perceptions had taken on a ‘life of their


own’ and seemed linked to the presence of friction and lessened
company performance. The Danish company was ailing financially
anyway and these issues did not help the parent’s objective of
turning its subsidiary around. The UK parent had reached the point
of considering the closure of its Danish subsidiary company.

The UK Board of the parent company decided though to adopt a


completely open mind and to fully explore its options before
reaching any decision. They decided to find out what the ‘real
issues’ were. Hence, the UK Board commissioned this study
(together with a psychological audit of the capabilities and style of
the management conducted in tandem by us, alongside an internal
commercial audit of the business).

Employee Attitude Survey Aims and Objectives


The aims and objectives of the employee attitude survey were
informed by the following needs:

General Needs Analysis:

The general needs to be satisfied by the employee attitude survey


were to:

• Reveal what actually ‘happens’ in practice in the company, as


opposed to theory.
• Tell the company what managers and staff think of the
effectiveness of existing initiatives and programmes.
• Identify the changes and refinements that managers and staff
would like to see introduced.
• Define and qualify problem areas that absolutely need to be
addressed.
• Improve morale, reduced frustration, and increase loyalty and
commitment.
• Expose latent discontent.
• Prevent wasting money being spent on irrelevant
management or staff development schemes.
• Help managers and staff understand their roles and their
contribution within the organization.
• Stimulate an awareness of management and staff
development need.
• Allow the company to plan ahead instead of reacting to crises.
• Involve managers and staff as contributors to changes in
management and staff development policy, and in company
policy broadly.

Specific Needs Analysis:

In addition to the general needs above, the company had a range of


specific needs to be satisfied, namely the need to:

• Monitor transition from a previously owned proprietorial


business to a subsidiary business.
• Measure the effects of company management over the
previous two years.
• Monitor the organization’s current state of maturity.
• Monitor the effects of personnel, policy, and strategy changes.
• Monitor the effects of market changes.

Methodology:

Pilot Work

Open-ended interviewing of a representative sample of individuals


across the subsidiary company functions was conducted to provide
a base starting point. A broad range of topics concerning company
structures, systems, management, roles and morale were
examined. The data were collected during a 40 minute duration
interview of company personnel. The data were analysed and
recurrent themes were identified and translated into a form suitable
for further examination. The questionnaire to be used in the
employee attitude survey was constructed.

The Employee Attitude Survey

The employee attitude survey consisted of two complementary


parts: the completion of the questionnaire, and a confidential
personal interview.

The questionnaire was divided into ten sections, comprising 92


items in total. The items were mainly of multiple choice format
(semantic scale and ‘yes/no’ responses). There were a small number
of open-ended questions also. The format was designed to be
completed within the 45 minutes allocated for the task. In addition
to answering the questions, staff were asked also to identify the
most important issues as they saw them. The staff were asked also
to identify those issues which either had not been examined
hitherto, or had been examined in a way which did not enable them
to express adequately their opinion.

The latter two tasks formed the basis for a subsequent staff
interview with a consultant. In addition, miscellaneous issues were
explored and reported, where relevant in the final report document.

Data were collected across two days. Where necessary (subject to


holidays, and such) several questionnaires were completed by
individuals and later returned by mail. A Danish speaking consultant
psychologist was available, should they be needed to assist
participants.

All employees, except two in Norway were included; 26 individuals


in total.

Analysis

The analysis of questionnaire data was confined to simple


descriptive statistics using the statistical analysis software package,
IBM SPSS. The focus of the analysis was placed on companywide
perceptions.

Small sample sizes precluded the subdivision of the sample into


meaningful subgroups. Further, an analysis of subgroups for
reporting would have been likely to have brought about a breach of
respondent confidentiality by enabling the identification of specific
individual respondents, thereby breaching trust.

Interview data were content-analyzed. The most important items


emerged and helped identify and rank priorities. The identification
of other items completed the full examination.

Format of the Employee Attitude Survey Report Results

The format of the employee attitude survey report focussed on the


presentation and analysis of the questionnaire data. The analysis
had revealed that much of the interview data reflected the
questionnaire data, but from a more complex and often more
specific context. Interview data were, therefore given less attention
since, although adding to the substantive points raised by the
questionnaire, this was not sufficient in magnitude to play an
important role in detailing the report format. Generally, these data
were presented toward the end of the final report.

Results

Questionnaire Data

Within the questionnaire data, the following recurrent features


emerged:

Company structure and operation

• Controls were satisfactory.


• Controls needed to be ‘sold’ better to help induce
commitment.
• Controls in their present form were having a stifling effect
over time.

Company policies and procedures

• Seen as too bureaucratic.


• Perceived as disjointed and uncoordinated.
• Role definitions required clarification.

Senior company management

• More delegation and involvement by senior management were


wanted.
• Prioritisation of focus was necessary.
• Cohesiveness and coordination were missing.

Communication
• Internally, very poor.
• Relevant and clearer communications were wanted.
• A more ‘sharing’ and inclusive communication style would
have been valued.

Jobs and job roles

• A major role definition exercise was perceived as necessary.


• Roles needed to be identified, agreed, and co-ordinated.
• Quality of working life was identified as more important than
monetary rewards.

Nationality, culture and language

• Management style was perceived to be more important than


nationality as such.
• A mutual awareness of UK and parent company styles should
be developed.
• A strong commitment to the Danish subsidiary should be
signalled by its UK parent company.

Style, climate and morale

• Though generally low, good company spirit existed in part.


• Social cohesion was low.
• Feedback and results-focus were missing.

UK parent company

• Much greater clarification about all relationship and


communication aspects was perceived as necessary.
• Meaningful contact and ties needed to be drawn.
• The Danish subsidiary needed an identity of its own, within
the context of its parent’s identity.

Business environment

• The Danish subsidiary had priorities which could be capitalized


upon.
• The company and image needed to be ‘sold’ better.
• A public relations exercise seemed necessary.

The future

• An opportunity to contribute as a ‘valued partner’ and in a


meaningful way was wanted.
• Clarity of intention was missing.
• There existed positives which could be capitalized upon.
Interview Data

Within the interview data the following emerged as recurrent


features:

• The data augmented substantive points already raised from


the questionnaire.
• Priority topics were confirmed as: Communication; Style,
Culture and Morale; Company Senior Management, and
Policies and Procedures.
• Issues not previously raised or examined were: Policy; Jobs
and Job Satisfaction, and the question of survival.
• Solutions advocated throughout the report were further
supplemented.
• Very few ‘positives’ had emerged.

General Comments

The relationship between the pilot work and the study itself showed
the pilot work to be highly effective. Approximately 50% of the
individuals employed by the company were involved in the pilot
work. The questionnaire data reflected the data obtained from the
pilot work.

Every single member of staff was enthusiastic about the survey and
about being given the opportunity to contribute and be heard.

Everyone expected feedback about the results and that something


‘meaningful’ should happen and be seen to happen. The UK parent
company Board had successfully won the hearts and minds of all
within the subsidiary company.

Outcome

The Board of the UK parent company kept its promise of maintaining


an open mind. The results were well received by all parties.
Initiatives were put in place to address all the issues raised.

Subsequently, the entire senior management team of the subsidiary


company were replaced by Danes following a transition period.
Some vacancies were filled internally, the remainder externally.
Recruits were assessed psychometrically by us to ensure that: they
could do the job, would do the job, and would fit in with the present
and planned future company culture and values.

A more cohesive organization evolved. The subsidiary, and


everyone within it became more clear about their role and
objectives. Ties with the UK parent, and between same function and
cross function personnel became stronger; communications and
relationships were perceived as more open and ‘honest.’ Mutual
respect developed and grew.

The subsidiary company ultimately was successfully turned around to the satisfaction
of all stakeholders.

Questions:

1. Summarise the case study referring importance of “Employee


Attitude”.