Inside the BBC: Building Trust in Middle Managers

10 May 2017 -


CMI CEO Ann Francke urges iconic UK organisations to focus on improving staff trust in management, as a BBC study found less than half of its employees have confidence in the public service broadcaster’s executives

Jermaine Haughton

Completed by 69% of BBC employees, the public service broadcaster’s survey on staff opinions on the current management and the direction of the organisation found 44% of staff “have confidence in decisions made by the BBC executive team.” The BBC say this is an increase from 43% in 2015 and, also, one percentage point above the Ipsos Mori public sector average. The internal survey also revealed low scores on pay, recruitment and bullying and harassment.

Commending the BBC’s decision to make the internal staff survey results public, Ann Francke, Chief Executive of the Chartered Management Institute, hopes other UK businesses show similar transparency when dealing with issues in their offices.

Francke said: “Well done the BBC. It’s about time companies embraced transparency and I’m glad to see the BBC publishing the results of its internal survey. 44% of the BBC’s staff do have trust in executive decision making, which is above the 36% average across the country. But clearly there is a long way to go, and that’s an opportunity. It’s not uncommon for these iconic organisations to inspire great loyalty to the brand, but that doesn’t always translate to trust in management.

Over the past five years, the BBC and its management have come under scrutiny for its handling of several incidents, including Jimmy Savile abuse scandal and executive payoffs. Adding weight to past public criticism of the BBC’s ‘bloated management’ structure, watchdog The National Audit Office recently revealed the number of senior managers at the BBC earning more than £150,000 a year has risen despite a promise by the publicly-funded broadcaster to cut the figure by a fifth.

The BBC staff study found that almost all (95%) of survey participants believe they “demonstrate the BBC values in the way I behave at work”. However, the score drops to 53% when participants were asked whether the “BBC executive team demonstrate the BBC values in the way they behave at work”. Furthermore, 41% said they are “rewarded fairly for what I do through pay, benefits and flexible options”; 41% said there are “fair, open processes for filling internal vacancies”; and half (50%) agreed with the statement: “If I experienced or saw bullying or harassment I'm confident that taking action would have a fair outcome.”

Francke explains that a lack of trust within an organisation is a hindrance to business growth, and deserves the attention of chief executives across the country.

She added: “Building trust is important. Make no mistake about it, trust affects productivity and growth: in rapidly growing organisations, 68% of managers have trust in their leaders. So getting it right brings real rewards. And in post Brexit Britain we need to build trust more than ever if we are to flourish. Let’s see more organisations following the BBC’s lead. That transparency allows us all to learn, and it is those learnings that can lead to vital progression in trust between senior leaders and middle management.”

The Chartered Management Institute’s The Middle Manager Lifeline research, published last September, found British business growth is being undermined from within by widespread mistrust of senior managers. Just one in three (36%) of the 1,456 middle managers surveyed in the study say they fully trust their senior leaders, whilst four in five middle managers believe staff lack full trust in their CEO.

Although 85% of business leaders and managers agree trust is critical to business performance, the low trust levels reported in the research reflect a communication breakdown, with only 37% agreeing that their leadership team is transparent. This ‘trust gap’ means only 31% of managers are ‘very confident’ in communicating company guidance and strategy to their teams.

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