How much of effective HR strategy relies on people managers?

Grainne Shaughnessy
Published on 10th June 2020
3 min read

Is your organization guilty of promoting people to managerial positions they’re not suited or ready for? If you are, you could be undermining the employee experience you’ve worked so hard to create.

Think about it like this: every employee has a manager, and every manager has the potential to shape their employees’ experience of the business. So, if you have 100 different managers, you will have at least 100 different employee experiences.

It therefore follows that no matter how much effort you put in to building your HR strategy and great employee experiences – if the managers in your company aren’t aligned to this, your talent is still at risk.

The scale of the problem

As the saying goes, people don’t quit companies, they quit managers. In fact, 75% of employees considered their line manager to be ‘the worst part of their job.’

“So much of HR ‘in the trenches’ is impacted by managers, for better or worse,” explains analyst Ben Eubanks.  

Jazmine Wilkes, Human Resources Generalist at Ignite Fueling Innovation adds: “Managers can make an employee leave a company faster than anything else.”

Staggeringly, Gallup discovered that companies will promote the wrong person to a managerial position 82% of the time – that could mean a vast number of managers are already in the wrong position.

Are you giving enough support to managers to ensure they’re adding – instead of detracting – to the employee experience? Here are a few things to consider.

1. Make sure they’re equipped with all the company knowledge they need

Ensure that your communication with managers focuses on giving them the knowledge, encouragement and resources they need to do their jobs well.

Teach them everything they need to know about the company. From the business’ values, to its vision. Do this in a way that helps managers feel connected to the company – involve them in it, if you can.

Remember, managers are employees too, with their own employee experiences, and won’t want to feel left out. Once they’re involved, let them know that one of their responsibilities is to shape the employee experience for the employees they manage.

2. Add a personal touch

As well as communicating regularly via official channels, HR and People teams should look to make personal contact with managers as regularly as possible.

This personal touch will help managers to feel connected to the company, more motivated and listened-to, whilst allowing HR and People teams to offer managers guidance and incentives.

Take the opportunity, perhaps once a quarter, to sit down with managers. Ask how they’re feeling – whether they could benefit from more training, or mentorship, or if they have any questions about the company itself. These catch-ups needn’t be official. They can be informal conversations taken on coffee breaks.

Ben Eubanks recalls an initiative he used to start an early dialogue between managers and HR: “Years ago, I worked with a company that was changing performance management structures. The managers had always balked at previous systems, so we locked them in a room with the HR team to create a collaborative approach. The surprising benefit of this was that the managers were on board with the approach from day one because they helped to develop it.”

By collaborating often, managers feel encouraged and empowered to contribute, making them more likely to feel invested and support solutions and initiatives.

3. Be proactive about learning and development

Offering skills-based training can help managers to feel more competent performing their normal responsibilities.

Management training in particular, however, is a must within your organization. Even more so, for employees who are managing direct reports for the first time.

Lolly Daskal, CEO and President of Lead From Within, explains: “Don’t wait for prospective leaders to come to you – instead, you should approach them. Let them know what talent and qualities you see in them, and help them see how they can utilize their gifts for growth.

“The best way to engage more leaders is to show appreciation for who they are and help them stretch themselves. Show that you believe in them and give them opportunities to prove you right.”

4. Ask for feedback

The only way to know for sure how to support managers is to ask for feedback from your management team. What do they struggle with? What would they change?

In the words of Perry Timms, Founder and Chief Energy Officer at People and Transformational HR: “Don’t work in isolation and ignorance of each other’s contributions.”

“With the best intentions, sometimes HR creates something that misfires”, he explains. “It’s too easy for us to insist managers comply with their directives when the best approach is to understand why they aren’t, and jointly review the circumstances managers find themselves in – whether that’s a busy workload, too much pressure or a disproportionate amount of time spent on task orientated jobs – and help them devote more energy towards leading, listening to and learning with their people.”

How much of HR relies on good managers?

Whilst each line manager has their individual style of managing which will inevitably result in different employee experiences, a good HR team will train, coach, guide and consult with line managers on ongoing HR issues and policies to make sure that they are operating within an agreed framework which encapsulates the company’s values. Are you?

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