SIMPLE TRUTH #4: People want a competent Manager

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You don’t have to look far to find articles about employee engagement because, aside from being a popular buzzword these days, it is a relevant indicator of productivity and business performance.  And it’s not surprising to learn from these articles that a person’s direct manager remains in the Top 3 of the most important factors that affect his/her level of engagement and job satisfaction. SIMPLE TRUTH #4: People want a competent Manager.

You can ask your people and they will tell you there is a direct correlation with their manager’s management abilities and the positive, or negative, affect they have on day-to-day morale and productivity.  Employees would even go on to tell you that their long-term commitment to your organization is connected to whether or not they think their manager respects them, knows and uses their talents, and will help them grow and develop in their career or not. Unfortunately, you have made it hard on your people managers to be competent at this important role and you may not even understand why…

Within the last two decades, many corporations made widespread organizational changes affecting people managers that continue to negatively impact productivity and employee engagement today. From the mid 1990’s through the early 2000’s, executive leaders were led to believe there was too much “management redundancy” in their companies. They chose to cut most, if not all, middle management positions in the pursuit of massive savings by reducing payroll costs.  Thousands of people managers were handed pink slips and shown the door.

By cutting middle managers, leaders were effectively removing professionals whose full-time job was to manage people. These individuals not-only knew all the talents of their team members, but also how each was motivated and how to effectively coach individual performance. They had their pulse on the collective employee heartbeat. They knew human behavior and how to influence it. Their roles were important to workforce planning and deployment, employee morale and engagement, operational effectiveness and how all of those positively or negatively affected business profitability.  However, because executives didn’t see the value in the “soft skills” espoused by people managers of yesteryear, they considered them expendable and rationalized their decisions by the resulting cost savings.

As displaced professional managers started their own businesses becoming the management consultants, trainers and coaches we know today – the poor individual contributors directly underneath the terminated managers – were promoted to be the ‘new’ managers.  What companies had naively done was re-title individual contributors as people managers expecting them to perform a full plate of individual contributor duties – in addition to – expecting them to manage the people who report to them.  It was a lose-lose proposition. Overnight, these newly flattened companies became grossly ineffective operating with inexpensive but also completely incompetent people managers.

Fast forward to today and we see the result of the restructures and middle management decimating actions of the last two decades.  Business performance is down. Companies that have started up since then believe it’s a normal course of business to have people managers with a full plate of individual contributor work who, on the side, happen to also manage people.  How do you think your company is going to be MORE productive and have engaged employees – if your people managers do their management duties when they get around to it?

Today’s people managers don’t have support by their leadership, or the TIME to be competent people managers because companies have made people management a “nice to have” instead of realizing it should be a non-negotiable.  Years ago, people used to aspire to be in management positions at some future point in their career. Management was a career path in and of itself and companies would pay to have high potential employees train to become future managers and leaders. Management was differentiated from the career path of an individual contributor who could choose a non-management career path if they weren’t interested in managing people. Nowadays, employees don’t want to become people managers because they don’t want two full-time jobs — nor do they want the headache of responsibility that they will receive little to no formal training or recognition for.

Your employees want and NEED to report to managers who have time to spend with them providing direction, useful coaching, immediate feedback, and recognition. They also want their manager to be trained in managing effectively and who has the authority (and resources) to enable them to be successful.  Employees feel valued when you have taken the time to hire and/or develop quality people managers. If you put people in management jobs, you need to make sure they know what to do, have time to do it, are measured on how well they do it, and that there are consequences when they don’t.

How much or how little time your people managers spend managing people is of paramount importance to the engagement of your workforce and the productivity of your company. And you, ultimately, need to be at the forefront modeling the management skills and behaviors you expect to your leadership team so they, and the managers who report to them, see it from you and take it down the ranks of your organization. It’s important. People Matter in Business.

Cindy Goyette, SPHR – Maximizing Human Capital, Inc. 2014

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