Five Actions that Lead to Improved Manager Quality
If your employees were asked to give one adjective to describe their work environment today, what do you think they would say? What contributes to their assessment and how can you ensure a positive work experience? The answer: improve manager quality.
Manager Quality is Paramount to Employee Experience
While many factors contribute to an employee’s workplace experience, perhaps none is more influential than manager quality. Not surprising, is it? The person who has direct responsibility for setting vision and direction, clarifying goals and expectations and coaching and developing others, also has the most influence over employees’ perceptions of the workplace environment. The role of the manager is paramount to shaping the employee experience. Yet, organizational surveys almost always reveal manager quality as one of the biggest capability gaps a company has. If your organization struggles with manager quality, consider five actions you can take to address this opportunity and turn your organization into a place where employees not only show up, but they are motivated to show out (in a good way).
Five Actions That will Improve Manager Quality and Team Success
Here are five actions your organization can take that will lead to improved manager quality and team success:
- Set clear expectations. Getting clear about the qualities and behaviors expected of managers is the first step to improving manager quality. Organizations must identify the competencies and behaviors they expect of managers. These expectations must be clearly and consistently communicated and upheld in every phase of the talent process from selection to performance appraisal and reward.
- Select people leaders carefully. Organizations send messages about what qualities and behaviors are valued with every decision regarding who gets to lead others and manage resources. A mistake companies often make is placing someone in a people leadership position based solely on their strong technical or functional expertise. If the individual has no desire to lead others, then let’s spare him and his potential team the agony. Instead, select individuals who exemplify the qualities and behaviors expected of managers and who have shown a desire to lead a team of people.
- Plan leadership transitions. When an individual contributor assumes a management role inclusive of leading others, then the company has an obligation to ensure the manager’s successful transition to this new role. The CEB Learning & Development Leadership Council states that 46% of transitioning leaders underperform. If manager quality is lacking, I would focus on new manager onboarding and training efforts. I advocate taking the long-view in the transition process. Most transitions take months to foster manager success. Managers need time to develop and articulate a clear vision and mission for the team. They need to be able to assess individual and collective capabilities of the team; to design an organizational structure that enables the team to succeed in its business strategies; and to develop a team climate of open communication and collaboration, trust, commitment, accountability and results. Giving the new manager a mentor or coach within the first weeks in position can help the manager develop positive managerial habits and avoid common pitfalls.
- Provide ongoing support. Manager training and development is never done. Organizations must make continued investment in managers and teams. Manager development could very well follow the Tuckman (1965) model of team development: forming, storming, norming and performing. Preparing managers to assume leadership and form their team is only the beginning. Enabling managers to continue their development and the development of their team to handle conflict, establish team norms, and perform at their highest capability requires ongoing support. Today, there are at least four generations in the workplace. Managers must understand how to lead in an inclusive and culturally relevant way to engage all of their employees. This means confronting traditional assumptions and unconscious biases about people, work, and how things get done. The successful manager needs to be taught technology tools and policies that support greater flexibility and mobility of workers. Systems and practices that democratize decision-making, communication, feedback and rewards should be considered and followed wherever possible.
- Establish a manager/team index. Human capital metrics and analytics are surging in their importance not only for HR professionals, but for managers as well. Employee surveys, team climate surveys, and descriptive data are advancing to predictive analytics that help managers to fine tune their skills and approaches. They also help managers understand levers impacting employee engagement, enablement and retention. I recommend organizations establish a manager and team climate index. This index is an indicator of manager and team success. To decide what should be measured, determine what factors drive business success. The index can be drawn from a subset of questions embedded in your organization’s pulse or census surveys or established as a standalone assessment provided to managers and teams annually or biannually. Index results can be used in individual manager development plans, to examine themes across all manager groups, to improve manager training programs, and to recognize and reward manager and team performance.
Manager Quality is Good for Business
Far too many and far too often organizations and their employees list manager quality as the number one capability gap they have. The purpose of this post is to drive consideration and discussion on the opportunity cost derived from poor manager quality and to suggest actions organizations can take to foster manager and team success. With the competition for talent at its greatest in years, organizations cannot afford to leave manager quality to chance. Organizations must take proactive steps toward establishing manager quality standards, selection criteria, transition management and ongoing support programs, and success measures. These actions can lead to a workplace environment that motivates employees to stay and deliver their best efforts – and that’s good for business.