How to Drive Manager Effectiveness
Manager overload is nothing new, but the past three years have seen it become a significant issue. A study we at RedThread Research conducted in August 2022 aimed to understand the state of manager effectiveness. Unsurprisingly, we found that manager effectiveness and manager engagement have declined 12 percentage points and 5 percentage points, respectively, since 2020.
This is especially important right now as organizations look to:
- Cut costs. Employees with highly effective managers are 2.8 times more likely to give a positive net promoter score (NPS). This can encourage a more positive perception of the company and help it reduce talent attraction and turnover costs.
- Respond to market needs. Companies with highly effective managers are 2.4 times more likely to be highly agile.
- Enable employees. Employees with highly effective managers are 1.6 times more likely to be highly engaged, resulting in better productivity and enablement.
So how can organizations drive manager effectiveness?
Focus on Purpose, Coaching and Connection
Our study revealed the practices and systems that senior leaders and HR must change to better support managers and drive effectiveness. One of them is enabling the community.
Organizations can enable the community by focusing on three areas: aligning purpose, encouraging coaching, and maximizing connection.
Our study found employees are more likely to rate their managers as highly effective when they are clear on what they need to do to be successful. One way organizations can do this is by helping employees understand their purpose. Organizations can adopt various approaches here, such as:
- Communicating the organization’s purpose during candidate interviews to hire folks who understand and resonate with that purpose.
- Offering specific training or learning opportunities to connect the individual’s purpose to that of the organization.
- Providing resources to managers to help them communicate and connect employees’ work to the organization’s purpose.
For example, EY enables different businesses and practices within EY to articulate their purpose. The purpose is then nested within the organization’s overall mission and then employees are helped to connect their personal purpose to the nested purpose.
Senior leaders and executives back and support the approach. They have discovered and articulated their purpose and vision and used them in their communications and decision-making. This helps employees identify their purpose and creates an environment that supports them in seeking it. It also provides resources (beyond managers) to help them move toward their purpose.
The focus on purpose is common in organizations with highly effective managers. Sixty-eight percent help employees understand how their work connects to their organization’s purpose, compared to 40% of organizations with moderately effective managers (see Figure 1).
Organizations with highly effective managers focus on helping employees connect their work to their purpose
Figure 1: Percentage of employees in organizations with highly, moderately and ineffective managers who agree their organization helps them understand how their work connects to the org’s purpose to a “significant” or “very great” extent, n=739 | RedThread Research, 2022
Related Article: Don't Fake Your Corporate Purpose
Coaching can help activate the broader community that surrounds employees. Some of the most impactful approaches include:
- Providing external coaching: Organizations can help employees find their purpose and gain access to additional resources by providing them with external coaching. Thirty-four percent of organizations with highly effective managers do this, compared to 16% with moderately effective managers (see Figure 2).
- Engaging in regular coach / mentor conversations: External coaches are not always an option for organizations. Organizations with highly effective managers tend to provide internal coaching and mentoring to enable the community. Fifty-eight percent of employees with highly effective managers report that their organization does this, compared to 33% of those with moderately effective managers.
- Encouraging peer-to-peer coaching: Peers are another critical source of support for employees as they can help employees get insights for which they’d usually rely on their managers. Yet, peer-to-peer coaching tends to be underused. Today, 50% of organizations with highly effective managers encourage it, though only 27% of those with moderately effective managers do.
Accolade, a healthcare technology company, wanted to make its coaching culture more accessible and inclusive. It decided to use a coaching solution that enabled peer-to-peer coaching instead of hiring paid external coaches. The solution used a data-driven algorithm that matched employees based on their profiles and helped set up bi-weekly video conversations. As a result, employees could work toward their purpose and receive practical guidance on improving performance.
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Organizations with highly effective managers provide many different coaching resources.
Figure 2: Percentage of employees in organizations with highly, moderately and ineffective managers who agree their organization does each item to a “significant” or “very great” extent, n=739 | RedThread Research, 2022
Related Article: Employee Coaching Comes to the Masses
As employees return to the office, organizations need an intentional strategy for enabling connection. Organic connections are less likely to happen given the different work schedules of hybrid employees, so intentionality is key here.
Organizations with highly effective managers realize the importance of designing for connection. Currently 59% have a strategy for enabling it, compared to 32% of those with ineffective managers. Nearly 60% of organizations with highly effective managers provide opportunities for virtual social interaction, compared to 36% with moderately effective managers (see Figure 3).
Organizations with highly effective managers focus on helping employees connect with each other.
Figure 3: Percentage of employees in organizations with highly, moderately, and ineffective managers who agree their organization does each item to a “significant” or “very great” extent, n=739 | RedThread Research, 2022
Our enabling connection research shows there are many ways for people to connect, ranging from emotional and rational connection to forming and deepening connection. Organizations must first determine what type of connection to enable. They should ask themselves if employees need to form a new connection or deepen an existing one and if the connection needs to be emotional, intellectual or both.
A Canada-based marketing agency wanted to form intellectual connections within the organization. It used an external vendor’s application embedded in the company Slack to encourage employees to connect with each other. The app is used for online water-cooler chats, enabling people to connect easily during events.
By supporting the community to discover its purpose, increase its skills and make connections with their colleagues, manager effectiveness will increase.
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