February 26, 2015
Accenture Research Finds Listening More Difficult in Today’s Digital Workplace
Survey also shows companies preparing more women for senior management, especially CTOs
NEW YORK; Feb. 26, 2015 – New research from Accenture reports that while nearly all (96 percent) global professionals consider themselves to be good listeners, the vast majority (98 percent) spend part of their workday multitasking. In fact, almost two-thirds (64 percent) say that listening has become significantly more difficult in today’s digital workplace. 
While 66 percent of respondents agree that multitasking enables them to accomplish more at work, more than a third (36 percent) say the many distractions prevent them from doing their best, resulting in a loss of focus, lower-quality work and diminished team relationships. When asked what interrupts their workday the most, respondents cited telephone calls and unscheduled meetings/visitors more than twice as often as they cited instant messaging and texting (79 percent and 72 percent, respectively, versus 30 percent and 28 percent, respectively).
The research, #ListenLearnLead, which surveyed 3,600 professionals from 30 countries, found that eight in 10 (80 percent) respondents say they multitask on conference calls with work emails, instant messaging, personal emails, social media and reading news and entertainment (cited by 66 percent, 35 percent, 34 percent, 22 percent and 21 percent, respectively).Those who listen actively on calls typically either need something from the call or are required to lead, participate in or follow up on the discussion.
“Digital is changing everything, and new technologies will continue to present challenges and opportunities,” said Adrian Lajtha, Accenture’s chief leadership officer. “As employees become increasingly hyper-connected, leading organizations will seize the opportunity to optimize the use of technology in the workplace, tapping its potential for employee engagement, collaboration and innovation.”

The research also found that the majority of respondents (58 percent) believe technology enables leaders to communicate with their teams easily and quickly, and almost half cite additional benefits, such as flexibility for teams to work anywhere/anytime (47 percent) and increased accessibility (46 percent).
Accessibility, however, is seen as both a help and a hindrance to effective leadership. More than six in 10 women (62 percent) and more than five in 10 men (54 percent) view technology as “overextending” leaders by making them too accessible. All respondents agree that among the top challenges facing leaders today are information overload (55 percent) and rapidly evolving technology (52 percent).
Additionally, more than 7 in 10 respondents (71 percent) believe the number of women chief technology officers will grow by 2030. And, more than half of respondents (52 percent) say that their companies are preparing more women for senior management this year than they did last year.
“Whether you are in charge of a meeting, an employee group, a volunteer event or a major project or account, there is always an opportunity to lead,” said Nellie Borrero, managing director, Global Inclusion & Diversity at Accenture. “Our more than 200 International Women’s Day events around the world will focus on recognizing, capturing and creating opportunities to listen, learn and lead. This year, our new virtual environment – an online, digital and interactive site – will feature live Accenture events, on-demand replays, a networking center, resource room and an expo hall. We invite women around the world to join us.”  
The research also generated insights on a broad range of work-related topics:
  • Listening skills. Respondents value good listening skills. In particular, thinking before speaking (54 percent), asking questions (49 percent) and taking notes (49 percent) are viewed as most important. The research also compared responses across three generations – baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials – and found that 64 percent of millennials said they spend more than half their day multitasking, compared to 54 percent of Gen Xers and 49 percent of boomers.
  • Workplace learning.  Fully 80 percent of respondents agree on-the-job training is the most effective form of learning in the workplace and more important than formal training (cited by 66 percent). The majority (85 percent) value their company training: 42 percent see it as an opportunity, 23 percent view it as a requirement, and 32 percent see it as both. More than half (59 percent) say company training has helped them get promoted or expand their role.
  • Leadership.  Respondents believe that, to advance, leaders should accept new responsibilities (54 percent), continue learning (48 percent) and mentor others (42 percent).  At the same time, when asked about the main obstacles to successfully leading a team, respondents cited lack of interpersonal skills (50 percent), communication skills (44 percent) and role clarity (39 percent).
  • Soft skills. Despite the belief that softer skills – effective communication, ability to manage change and ability to inspire others (cited by 55 percent, 47 percent and 45 percent, respectively) – are the most important leadership skills, only 38 percent of respondents say their companies offer “soft skills” training, compared to 53 percent who say their company offers technical-skills training.
  • Pay and promotions.  According to this year’s survey, an equal number (54 percent) of women and men asked for a promotion, up significantly from 47 percent of men and just 40 percent of women the prior year.  Additionally, more millennials asked for a raise (68 percent) and a promotion (59 percent) this year than did their Gen X counterparts (64 percent and 52 percent, respectively) and baby boomers (59 percent and 51 percent, respectively).

  • Job satisfaction. Job satisfaction decreased to 44 percent, from 52 percent in 2013. Feeling underpaid is the top reason, but “hours are too long/workload too heavy” jumped from 20 percent last year to 31 percent this year. Millennials are more likely to say their hours are too long (33 percent) compared to baby boomers (28 percent) and Gen Xers X (30 percent).
  • Stay-at-home parents. Half of all respondents (51 percent) said they would quit their jobs and be stay-at-home parents if they could afford it financially, up significantly from last year, when 37 percent reported this.
In November 2014, Accenture conducted an online survey of 3,600 business professionals – entry level to management -- from small, medium and large organizations across 30 countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Greater China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, The Nordics (Demark, Finland, Norway, Sweden), Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, Thailand, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom and United States. A minimum of 100 respondents from each country participated, with 500 for the United States, 300 for Greater China, and 200 for Germany, the Nordics and the United Kingdom. Respondents were split evenly by gender and were balanced by age and level in their organizations. The margin of error for the total sample was approximately +/- 1.7 percent.
About Accenture
Accenture is a global management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company, with approximately 319,000 people serving clients in more than 120 countries. Combining unparalleled experience, comprehensive capabilities across all industries and business functions, and extensive research on the world’s most successful companies, Accenture collaborates with clients to help them become high-performance businesses and governments. Through its Skills to Succeed corporate citizenship initiative, Accenture is equipping more than 700,000 people around the world with the skills to get a job or build a business. The company generated net revenues of US$30.0 billion for the fiscal year ended Aug. 31, 2014. Its home page is www.accenture.com.
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Joanne B. Giordano
+ 703 947 4860