How confident are you that your company has the right people in management positions?
We pose the question because of this astonishing opening paragraph of a recent Harvard Business Review blog post:
Gallup has found that one of the most important decisions companies make is simply whom they name manager. Yet our analysis suggests that they usually get it wrong. In fact, Gallup finds that companies fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for the job 82% of the time.
Eight out of 10? If Randal Beck and James Harter’s assertion is correct, it’s a wonder any business can stay afloat, let alone thrive.
Beck and Harter, execs at Gallup, write that “managers account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement scores across business units, Gallup estimates. This variation is in turn responsible for severely low worldwide employee engagement.
“Gallup reported in two large-scale studies in 2012 that only 30% of U.S. employees are engaged at work, and a staggeringly low 13% worldwide are engaged. Worse, over the past 12 years these low numbers have barely budged, meaning that the vast majority of employees worldwide are failing to develop and contribute at work.”
A grim picture, indeed — made even more painful by the fact when managers succeed in engaging and retaining top performers, they contribute about 48% higher profit to their companies than average managers, according to the authors.
Oh, about that 82% number? Beck and Harter say Gallup research shows that only 18% of current managers demonstrate a high level of talent for managing others (although another two in 10 show some talent for it). Still, that means 82% aren’t optimally effective at motivating and engaging their people.
10% have what it takes
According to Gallup, one person in 10 has the talent needed to do an effective job. According to Harter and Beck, that means:
- They motivate every single employee to take action and engage them with a compelling mission and vision.
- They have the assertiveness to drive outcomes and the ability to overcome adversity and resistance.
- They create a culture of clear accountability.
- They build relationships that create trust, open dialogue, and full transparency, and
- They make decisions that are based on productivity, not politics.
So, if employees work in groups of 10 or more, it’s a pretty good bet there’s a bona fide managerial talent in there somewhere, right?
Yes, say Beck and Harter, but there’s a catch: Most employers don’t pick the right individual. Here’s what happens:
Most companies promote workers into managerial positions because they seemingly deserve it, rather than because they have the talent for it. This practice doesn’t work. Experience and skills are important, but people’s talents — the naturally recurring patterns in the ways they think, feel, and behave — predict where they’ll perform at their best.
Talents are innate and are the building blocks of great performance. Knowledge, experience, and skills develop talents, but unless [managers] possess the right innate talents for our job, no amount of training or experience will matter.
Use a combination of analytics and common sense
So what’s the magic formula for picking the right managers? Beck and Harter suggest “predictive analytics” — using that segment of your business intelligence program that profiles your people’s apparent strengths and weaknesses.
We might also suggest an alternate approach: Make sure they’re able to do the nuts-and-bolts work the job requires.
Here’s a rundown of the things the experts say resonate most with employees – and make them want to stick around:
- Clear expectations. Pretty simple: Workers want to know exactly what they’re responsible for, and what they’ll be judged on.
- A sense of control. Employees aren’t robots. They need to feel they have the power to decide how their jobs can be completed – and the freedom to suggest how tasks can be simplified or streamlined.
- Feeling they’re “in the loop.” Employees not only wish to know – and have input on – what’s going on in their department, but what’s happening in the business as a whole. And they want to be secure in their understanding of how what they do on a day-to-day basis fits into the overall operation – today and in the future.
- Room to grow. These include potential promotions, extra training, learning new skills and the possibility of using those new skills in a different area of the company.
- Recognition. Everyone wants to believe their extra effort won’t go unnoticed – or unrewarded.
- Leadership. Employees want to be led by people they trust. And the people they trust are those who value workers’ contributions, recognize and accept differences in people, and act with employees’ best interests in mind.
Learn what makes employees tick
Three key things managers need to know about employees:
- what they’re best at
- the “triggers” that allow them to perform at their best
- how they process new information.
That last one is critical. Research shows that people tend to learn in three basic ways. Management gurus identify these types as:
- doers, and
The analyzers need solid study materials before they jump into a task for the first time.
Doers want a hands-on approach. They should start with the basics of a particular job and then gradually move into the task’s more difficult phases.
Watchers want to do just that – watch and learn. Best bet: Let them shadow top performers for a time. That way, they won’t just learn the job – they’ll see the job done at its highest level.
Doing the digging
Unlike managers from other eras, today’s managers have to perform their “due diligence” to uncover what makes each of his or her employees tick.
The key part of the puzzle: cataloging motivation. Managers should compose a checklist of the things they think motivate employees. Leave room for write-in candidates.
Managers check off the items that motivate them, and then distribute the checklist to each of their employees.
Then the manager analyzes the overall results. This often reveals a number of things that are common to most workers – recognition, perks, interesting and fulfilling work, etc. – but it can also reveal some special things that might boost the engagement levels of specific individuals.
This analysis is valuable in another way – it often indicates to managers how different their own motivators are from their employees’.
Finally, the manager meets with each employee to discuss the worker’s specific responses to the checklist – and then devises a plan tailored to meet his or her motivational factors.