I was recently speaking at an event in Manchester as one of three speakers who had never met before and hadn’t planned what we were going to be saying.  

However, as a collective, there was one common theme in our speeches - managers are key to every aspect of your business. Sadly, there was an overwhelming agreement that organisations fail to invest in developing managers, and equipping them with the tools to do their job.

Now for me there are two types of manager: the manager responsible for processes but no people; and the manager who is responsible for people who are themselves responsible for the process. For the rest of this article, I will be concentrating on the latter – People Managers.

Why do we under-invest in management skills and what impact does this have?

Many managers are promoted from within, and that is a great business strategy, IF you have the right potential, skills and behaviours available to you. On several occasions, I have witnessed people being promoted because they are the best technical experts within the team, and the next move is of course into management, or so the director thinks.

Throughout my 20-year career, a significant number of managers have shared with me that they were offered promotion to management when, in actual fact, they didn’t see themselves becoming managers. They accepted the role because they didn’t want to let the company down and there were no other opportunities available to them.

Another scenario is where people think that being promoted to management is a sign of success even though this may not play to their strengths. Both situations need to be dealt with proactively, otherwise it could end up in a very demotivated and frustrated manager, a frustrated director because the manager is under-performing, and let’s not forget about the team.

Their team will become disengaged, which reduces their performance and impacts the bottom line. No company can afford to have a disengaged workforce.

Gallup has been studying the correlation between employee engagement and company performance for around 30 years. In their State of the Global Workplace report, a staggering 87 per cent of employees worldwide are not engaged, and companies with highly engaged workforces outperform their peers by 147 per cent in earnings per share. Managers account for at least 70 per cent of the variance in employee engagement scores.

People managers have a key part to play in employee engagement, and if they don’t have the right skills to be able to motivate, communicate, give direction, support and develop their own teams, this will have an impact on your overall business performance.

Where and how do you start to change some of this? This is a multi-faceted challenge; there are many places to look, analyse and change, however, Rome wasn’t built in a day. So, my advice would be to start having honest conversations with your managers to truly understand and assess the situation.

Do your managers need development to improve their team outputs, and if so, put a plan in place to do just that. Don’t delay, because it is costing your business money.

The other point is to look at how engaged your employees are. There are lots of employee opinion surveys out there for sale, but, for me, there are some simple observations which will give you a good indication of how engaged they are:

  • They take ownership for their work, are passionate and proud of their work and department
  • They take an interest in company performance, ask questions of their manager and volunteer for projects
  • They come up with ideas to take the business forward
  • They are not “clock watchers”, but are flexible when the business needs it
  • They lend a hand to their colleagues even when they aren’t asked

A regional manager for the Federation of Small Businesses asked me last month what advise I had for small business to make sure that engagement was high. My answer is communication.

You can’t over-communicate with your workforce, and this must be two-way communication. Taking the time to have a meaningful conversation, answer their questions, and allow them to suggest ideas, will definitely increase their workplace happiness.

So, what are you waiting for?

Claire McLean, owner of Realise HR Ltd.

Realise HR provides simple and practical HR solutions. We enable business growth by developing great places to work. Our HR consultants are people experts, commercially minded and have proven track records in adding value to businesses. If you need some people expertise give us a call on 07753654066 or visit www.realisehr.co.uk