Slow motion: workers find 'inflexible' European firms least responsive to change

  • Employees say organisations are unable to make speedy decisions and question their companies’ ability to respond effectively to changing market conditions.
  • According to workers, emerging market countries are able to out-manoeuvre Western colleagues.
  • New decision-making index based on employee research identifies G14’s most agile countries.

    Cumbersome European firms are unable make timely decisions, struggling to keep pace with more agile businesses, according to new worldwide employee research from management consultancy, Hay Group.

    Fifty-three per cent of European employees report that their organisations are unable to make timely decisions. In addition, more than a third (36 per cent) of European employees indicate that their firms cannot respond flexibly to the changing business environment – falling behind the rest of the G14.

    Emerging markets, however, perform comparatively well, with less than half of employees (48 per cent) noting that their organisations are unable to make decisions without undue delay and less than one third (31 per cent) expressing concerns about the responsiveness of their organisations to changes in the market.

    Hay Group’s European Decisiveness Index reveals employees’ perceptions of the speed of decision-making in companies across Europe, and their ability to handle change effectively, compared to G14 colleagues (see Tables 1 and 2 below).

    The research uses data from Hay Group’s global employee opinion database, based on 4,053,555 employees – including senior management – from across the G14 nations. Due to the large employee samples used in this research, all data point differences of one point or more are statistically significant.

    Mark Royal, senior principal for Hay Group, comments: “The speed at which companies make decisions and how they respond to market challenges are matters of business agility.

    “Agile firms are able to flex and change, structuring themselves to avoid bureaucratic processes and taking the bold decisions necessary to drive the organisation forward.

    “These qualities are essential to remaining a viable competitor on the global stage, and Europe can ill afford to fall behind.”

    Europe in slow motion…

    Chinese companies top the rankings, with almost two thirds (60 per cent) of employees giving their organisations high marks for making decisions without undue delay. India also performs relatively well, with the majority (58 per cent) of employees reporting that their organisations make timely choices, compared to the G14 average of 49 per cent.

    The UK is the G14’s worst European performer, with less than half (45 per cent) of British employees signalling that their companies are able to make timely decisions.

    And even in Europe’s speediest country – Germany – decisions are only seen as being ‘made without undue delay’ by 48 per cent of employees, Hay Group’s research reveals.

    …as competition rages

    According to Hay Group’s study, European workers suggest that organisations fail to respond effectively to shifting market conditions. As a result, European countries may risk losing competitive ground in the global marketplace.

    On average, only two thirds (64 per cent) of European employees report that their companies are able to respond effectively to changes in the business environment, compared to 69 per cent of employees in high growth economies and 65 per cent across the whole G14.

    India ranks highest in this regard, with organisations flexing effectively to change in the view of almost three quarters (73 per cent) of employees.

    Meanwhile, French firms struggle to keep up (61 per cent respond favourably), and Egypt and Japan also face tough competition.

    Achieving business agility

    In order to ensure that decisions are made without undue delay, it is essential that companies across Europe take positive action – and note the practices of their more agile colleagues in emerging economies.

    Mark Royal, comments: “In contrast to Europe, decision-making processes are much less centralised in emerging markets, with organisations in these countries enabling decisions to be made at the appropriate level.

    “The wide disparity in how decisions are made has broad implications for the speed of decision-making and the ability of organisations to respond to shifting business conditions.

    “By clarifying the boundaries on individuals’ decision-making remits and documenting levels of accountability across the business, leaders can ensure that employees feel empowered and supported in making decisions swiftly.

    “Leaders would also be well advised to view expanded decision making authority as offering development opportunities for employees, giving them a chance to test and enhance their decision-making skills.”

Table 1: League table showing the percentage of employees who believe that decisions are made without undue delay

Position

1

2

3

=4

=4

=6

=6

=8

=8

=8

=8

=8

13

14

Country

China

India

Mexico

Japan

USA

Germany

Canada

France

Italy

Russia

Eygpt

South Africa

UK

Brazil

Decisions made without undue delay

60

58

52

50

50

48

48

47

47

47

47

47

45

44

Table 2: League table showing the percentage of employees who believe that their company is able to respond effectively to changes in the business environment

Position

1

2

3

4

5

6

=7

=7

=9

=9

11

12

13

14

Country

India

South Africa

Mexico

Russia

Brazil

USA

Germany

Canada

Italy

UK

China

France

Egypt

Japan

Respond effectively to changes

73

72

70

69

68

65

64

64

63

63

62

61

59

50

For further information
For further information on this story or to interview Mark Royal please contact:

T: 01273 716 820
E: teamhaygroupeurope@manbitesdog.com

About the study


The study is based on Hay Group’s global employee opinion database, which includes information from 351 organisations across 66 countries, representing 5,555,869 employees globally.

G14 countries are defined as follows:
Europe
Germany
France
Italy
Russia
UK

Emerging Markets
China
Brazil
India
Mexico
South Africa

Other
USA
Canada
Egypt
Japan

About Hay Group
Hay Group is a global consulting firm that works with leaders to turn strategies into reality. We develop talent, organise people to be more effective, and motivate them to perform at their best. With 84 offices in 48 countries, we work with over 7,000 clients across the world. Our clients are from the public and private sector, across every major industry, and represent diverse business challenges. Our focus is on making change happen and helping organisations realise their potential.