Category Archives: Managerial Effectiveness

Why Do We Ignore the Tip of the Spear?

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I’ve written here before that middle managers are the tip of the spear, organizationally speaking, for everything. Productivity? Check. Change management? Check. Communication? Check. Culture? Check. Engagement? Check. Talent development? Check. Retention/turnover? Check. Everything.

I ran across a good little white paper from Grovo, a workplace learning company, that underscores this point, yet again. Good Manager, Bad Manager:  New research on the modern management deficit and how to train your way out of it, is a quick read and reminds us yet again that training middle management might be the most critical item on your training and development agenda.

“Management isn’t like riding a bike, where you learn it once and you’re set for life.”

This opening statement frames the discussion in this paper which reports that 99% of companies do offer some sort of management training and 93% of middle managers frequently attend it. These statistics notwithstanding, Grove has found that this training is deficient in three key ways:

  • Not comprehensive: 98% of middle managers believe that the managers in the organization need more training
  • Not timely: 87% of middle managers wish they had received more training when they first became a manager
  • Not habitual: 61% of managers report that training is offered only a few times each year and 11% report training being offered only once a year.

Grove has survey data that suggests that 98% of managers believe that key performance metrics would improve if managers were trained to be effective more quickly:

grovo-1

With $15 billion spent by U.S. organizations every year on leadership development, it seems we could really ramp up the ROI on that investment by getting to new leaders faster, with more frequent and engaging training. Looking at it another, way, Michelle McQuaid predicts that better, more capable middle managers can save organizations $360 billion annually in productivity increases.

This report is full of gold as you plan your 2017 training/development activities and budget. I’d encourage you to take a look. Maybe you can capture some of the $360 billion in productivity increases in your organization while you sharpen the tip of your spear.

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Filed under China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Employee Development Program, Grovo, Learning/Development, Managerial Effectiveness, Performance, Productivity, Training

Where’s the Trust?

Data Point Tuesday
According to the American Psychological Association’s 2014 Work and Well-Being Survey released last Wednesday, only half of U.S employees believe their employer is open and upfront with them, indicating that despite the mending U.S economy and the return of many organizations’ profitability employees are still struggling to trust their organizational leaders. This distrust comes with serious negative consequences. The APA reports that trust and engagement play important roles in the workplace, accounting for 50.8% of the variance in employee well-being. In predicting trust, the dimensions of employee involvement, recognition, and communication predicted 54% of the variance. Employees reported having greater trust in companies when the organization endeavored to recognize them for their contributions, provide opportunities for involvement, and communicate effectively. In predicting work engagement, employees’ positive perceptions of their employer’s involvement, growth and development opportunities, and health and safety efforts accounted for 27.1% of the variance.

An interesting and positive finding from the APA survey, is in strong contrast to the recent reports that have suggested upwards of 70% of employees in the U.S. are not engaged or are actively disengaged. APA’s Work and Well-Being Survey finds approximately 50% of working Americans reporting average levels of engagement, with around a quarter reporting low or very low levels and just under a quarter reporting high or very high levels. The mean engagement score for working Americans was 3.62 on a six-point scale (zero representing never being engaged and six representing always being engaged). Additionally, the survey finds that 70% of U.S workers report that they are satisfied with their jobs, however, just 47% continue to be satisfied with employee recognition practices and 49% with growth and development opportunities offered by their organizations.

Taking a closer look at the statistics on trust, about one third of respondents say their employers are not always honest and truthful, and nearly a quarter say they don’t trust their employers. Interestingly though, this lack of trust does not necessarily correlate to feelings of unfair or bad working environments. The survey found that 64% of employed adults feel that their organization treats them fairly, despite that only 52% believe their employer is open and upfront with them. Does this mean as an organization you can cultivate fair and honest practices without any transparency? Does this mean that leaders get a pass on being trustworthy as long as they provide safe working environments? These are interesting data to be sure. But perhaps the bigger question is how productive are employees who don’t trust their leaders? What levels of discretionary effort and personal development will employees expend who feel physically safe but don’t trust their leaders? As a leader, the question I would ask is “how long can I rely on an employee population that doesn’t me?”

APA Center for Organizational Excellence April 2014
The APA’s findings come after surveying 1,562 adults aged 18+ who reside in the U.S. and who are employed full time, part time, or self-employed.

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Filed under American Psychological Association, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Employee Engagement, Employee Recognition, Managerial Effectiveness, Rewards & Recognition, Worplace Trust

Tying Recognition to Values: Who Knew?

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Organizations that believe in driving an intentional culture – whether for engagement purposes, recruitment purposes, performance purposes, innovation purposes, or all of the above – might think it logical to tie their recognition programs directly to their values. But as it turns out, maybe not.

The new SHRM/Globoforce Employee Recognition Survey Winter 2012 Report has some interesting survey data and thought-provoking findings. The survey, sent to 6,000 SHRM members at the manager level or higher, had a response rate of 13% and a margin of error of +/- 3%. So, with 770 randomly selected HR professionals employed at organizations with more than 499 employees across North America, the sample size is large enough for the results to be interesting.

The broad findings are a little surprising – although the survey questions focused entirely on recognition, engagement and core values. (So, for example, the challenges of implementing healthcare reform don’t show up, nor do the issues of perceived talent or skills shortages.) But even within that context, these findings make me scratch my head:

#1  Employee engagement tops the list of HR challenges.

#2  Performance management remains stuck in neutral.

#3  Recognition programs fill the feedback and appreciation gap.

#4  Recognition programs have an observed positive impact on business results.

#5  Recognition aligned with core values leads to more effective managers.

#1  Employee engagement tops the list of HR challenges:  well, I do find that surprising – especially given the rest of the survey data. I might have thought that the issues of performance management done the same way it’s been done for 10-15 years (or not at all) would top the list of HR challenges. But no, employee engagement is at the top of the list. Despite (or maybe because of) the fact that most HR professionals haven’t been able to make the business case for investing in creating higher levels of engagement, it’s at the top of the list.

#2  Performance management remains stuck in neutral:  Performance management is the talent management infrastructure weak link. Most CEOs and other members of the C-Suite report that they know their system is ineffective. And what’s more they know their employees don’t like their current system either. That HR folks are “stuck in neutral” in this regard is perplexing. With the billions of dollars being spent on ineffective, unpopular legacy systems, this would seem ripe for corrective action — not being stuck in neutral.

#3  Recognition programs fill the feedback and appreciation gap:  so investing in new solutions that fill a gap rather than fixing the full system seems shortsighted to me. Don’t get me wrong. I think that there are recognition programs that powerfully engage teams, inspire individuals and create positive momentum for employers and their customers. Some of the new entrants that utilize social technology and are natively mobile are stunning. And worthy of investment. But should we be thinking bigger than filling gaps?

#4  Recognition programs have an observed positive impact on business results:  that’s research-speak for “we can’t quantify it yet but we think it’s real based on anecdotal evidence.”  ‘Nuff said.

#5  Recognition aligned with core values leads to more effective managers:  that’s it! If the data clearly support this finding, then this is the foundation for the business case that HR has been looking for. I’ve long believed that if the middle manager cohort was effectively trained and managed, the incidences of workplace drama and their resulting legal issues – and the resulting time-suck for HR – would be hugely reduced. Managers would be held accountable for managing. And HR could get to the strategic business of workforce planning and talent management leadership.

The following charts from the report show the “observed” connection between values-based recognition systems and managerial effectiveness in “acknowledging and appreciating” employees:

SHRM Globoforce Fig 8

SHRM Globoforce Fig 13

*Note:  the red circles on the charts are mine.

The finding that managers do a better job of effectively acknowledging and appreciating employees when recognition programs are directly tied to core values seems to stack up. But it also appears that managers do a better job of effectively acknowledging and appreciating employees simply by being given a recognition program to use. Either way works for me. And either way clearly works for employers and their employees.

But I’ll go out on a limb with the observable improvement in managerial effectiveness and agree that tying recognition programs to values is a winner. In fact, I’ll go so far as to opine that tying talent management in its entirety to organizational values will provide quantifiable improvement, not just observed improvement.

Interesting findings in this report. If you haven’t looked at some of the innovative new solutions in the recognition space maybe you should.

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Filed under Achievers, Annual Performance Reviews, Business Case, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, Globoforce, Managerial Effectiveness, Rewards & Recognition, Talent Management

Is HR Still in a Bad Mood?

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This was a popular post from last year at this time and I’m wondering if HR is still in a bad mood…

Results from The Fifth Annual Talent Management Study by Knowledge Infusion and Human Resource Executive® were published recently in HR Executive by Mike Brennan and some of the findings were surprising.

I didn’t find it surprising that 63% of the respondents report that they have trouble filling jobs and that they can’t find the right candidates. That’s been reported frequently.

It also doesn’t surprise me that more organizations than not will be increasing their investments in Learning/Development, Performance/Goal Management and Workforce Analytics/Planning services and technology. That’s obvious.

What really does surprise me is that 58% of HR executives believe that peer leaders in their organizations “do not buy into talent management.”

Lordy, I hope this isn’t the furniture conversation. And I’m willing to believe it isn’t because 83% of the respondents also believe that “many of our managers do not know how to manage people.” Additionally, 65% of the respondents believe that “many of our HR generalists/business partners are not equipped to consult with the organization on talent.”

Ouch. Either the HR respondents to this survey were all in a colossally bad mood, or they’re starting to look clear-eyed at their organizations and re-calibrate their challenges.

It’s clear that many organizations need to look at legacy systems and programs in the talent management arena (can you say annual performance review system?) and, according to this survey, they are. But focusing on leadership understanding and managerial effectiveness in talent management might be a strong first step.

It’s a great day for HR if the results of this survey mean a new focus on talent management effectiveness – at the top, in the middle, and most importantly, in HR.

But if it was just a systemic bad mood, we’re sunk. Because, in the words of one of my favorite movie characters in one of my favorite movies, “we have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them.”

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Filed under American President, China Gorman, Data Point Tuesday, HR Credibility, HR Executive Magazine, HR Technology, Knowledge Infusion, Managerial Effectiveness, Talent Management

The Tip of the Engagement Spear

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BlessingWhite’s Employee Engagement Research Update has recently been released.  It’s an update to their massive research published in 2011. Measuring engagement is tricky – from gaining consensus on terms and definitions, to crafting survey questions that generate useful answers, to identifying key findings, to agreeing on recommendations – it’s all very tricky.

BlessingWhite does a good job managing the trickiness.  But truthfully, there’s not a lot of difference in engagement scores globally since their 2011 findings.

Here’s what caught my attention, though, as it did 2 years ago, as I read through the report:  a greater percentage of the workforce trust their managers more than they trust the executives in their organizations.

This makes sense, right? Managers have day-to-day interaction with their colleagues and can get to know them in personal ways. Executives, on the other hand, rarely have one-to-one interaction with the majority of the employees their organization. And the survey results show the difference in trust levels.

I trust my manager BW 2013

I trust senior leaders BW 2013

It’s a good thing that employees in North America trust their managers more than they trust their senior leaders because there’s a high correlation between engagement and trust in managers. Or maybe it’s the other way around.  Either way, BlessingWhite points out that while engaged employees have other factors that motivate them – like interesting work, a sense of contribution and career aspirations – less-engaged employees are far more dependent on knowing their manager personally to reach higher levels of engagement.

This makes managers the tip of the engagement spear. And why we spend so much time focused on managerial effectiveness in almost every category of performance.

Not so with senior leaders, which is understandable because they don’t have the ability to interact personally with every employee, as BlessingWhite points out.  But they do have the responsibility to set the direction of the culture, communicate that direction with a “clear line-of-sight” throughout the organization, and create a culture that fuels engagement and business results. In other words, set the managers up for success in engaging their teams in more personal ways.

The CASE model, reviewed briefly at the end of the report, focuses senior leaders to fulfill four key workforce needs in building and leading their cultures:

  • Community for a sense of belonging and purpose
  • Authenticity  as a basis for trust and inspiration
  • Significance to recognize individuals’ contributions
  • Excitement to constantly encourage – and raise the bar on – high performance

It’s a good message for executives. It’s a great message for managers. It’s a call-to-action message for HR to know how to help executives drive performance and grow their culture while supporting managers to make more personal connections.

Engagement isn’t the answer to every organizational challenge. But it does seem clear that highly engaged workplaces are more productive than less engaged workforces. And almost every organizational challenge I can think of gets solved more effectively and faster with an engaged workforce working the solution and being led by managers who are personally leading the way.

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Filed under BlessingWhite, China Gorman, Connecting Dots, Data Point Tuesday, Engagement, HR Data, Managerial Effectiveness, Workforce Management

Is HR in a Bad Mood?

Results from The Fifth Annual Talent Management Study by Knowledge Infusion and Human Resource Executive® were published recently in HR Executive by Mike Brennan and some of the findings were surprising.

I didn’t find it surprising that 63% of the respondents report that they have trouble filling jobs and that they can’t find the right candidates. That’s been reported frequently.

It also doesn’t surprise me that more organizations than not will be increasing their investments in Learning/Development, Performance/Goal Management and Workforce Analytics/Planning services and technology. That’s obvious.

What really does surprise me is that 58% of HR executives believe that peer leaders in their organizations “do not buy into talent management.”

Lordy, I hope this isn’t the furniture conversation. And I’m willing to believe it isn’t because 83% of the respondents also believe that “many of our managers do not know how to manage people.” Additionally, 65% of the respondents believe that “many of our HR generalists/business partners are not equipped to consult with the organization on talent.”

Ouch. Either the HR respondents to this survey were all in a colossally bad mood, or they’re starting to look clear-eyed at their organizations and re-calibrate their challenges.

It’s clear that many organizations need to look at legacy systems and programs in the talent management arena (can you say annual performance review system?) and, according to this survey, they are. But focusing on leadership understanding and managerial effectiveness in talent management might be a strong first step.

It’s a great day for HR if the results of this survey mean a new focus on talent management effectiveness – at the top, in the middle, and most importantly, in HR.

But if it was just a systemic bad mood, we’re sunk. Because, in the words of one of my favorite movie characters in one of my favorite movies, “we have serious problems to solve, and we need serious people to solve them.”

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Filed under American President, China Gorman, HR, HR Credibility, HR Executive Magazine, HR Technology, Knowledge Infusion, Managerial Effectiveness, Talent Management