According to a CIPD report in 2003, one of the keys to managing performance through people is triggering discretionary behaviour in employees so that employees go the “extra mile” for the organisation.
People are more likely to engage in positive discretionary behaviour when they feel motivated, are satisfied with their jobs and are committed to their employer. These outcomes are usually a result of many factors. One factor relates to the Front Line Manager and if they embrace their people management role and how well they execute this function.
The People Management function is often thought to be the sole responsibility of Human Resources and any people problem a manager experienced, the employee would be quickly referred to Human Resources. This view is quickly changing to one that holds the Line Manager responsible for people management as well.
People Management comprises activities like employee relations, performance appraisals, coaching, mentoring, developing, training, recruitment, absence management, work life balance, career management, problem solving, listening, communicating, enforcing policies and the list can go on and on.
Promotion from within is an excellent motivational tool (career mobility) and organisations sought and still seek today to ensure a proper balance of internal promotion (consistency) with external recruitment (creativity). However, when an employee is promoted to a manager role because of the great job they did in the old position, hoping they will perform equally well in the new position regardless of the fact that the new position requires a different set of knowledge, skills and abilities, this leads to a misfit and the results are disastrous to all concerned. You gain a bad manager and lose a great technical expert.
In the past, the Line commented that the people management activities made up the Human Resource function and “why Human Resources wanted to pass on their work to them, they have enough work as it is, no time to manage people”.
How do we move from the Line expressing the above sentiment to a complete turnaround of embracing the people management function with complete ownership and accountability?
One of the first things, I would recommend, is to refine the role of the manager with a specific emphasis on people management and decreasing their transactional role as a normal worker. Traditionally the job details for a manager include processing duties like that of his /her employees plus the management duties. Hence, a re-definition of the job, the expectations and the requirements to fill the role with an emphasis on the behavioural competencies are needed. Keep in mind, this must be consistent with the company’s core values and people philosophy. Anything we do in Human Resource, organisational alignment is critical.
We don’t have the luxury of starting from a clean slate, what do we do with the candidates in manager’s roles who are not best suited for those jobs? Well, we systematically compare their performance and their tool kit of skills, abilities, behavioural competencies and knowledge to what is listed in the re-defined job. We may also want to solicit some feedback on the people management aspects from their staff. This can be anonymously done and it would serve as a great source of data on the actual people management skills of the manager. The results will help identify varying degrees of job fit or gaps. A decision will have to be made on which candidates can be trained to perform or maybe from the onset, a candidate maybe seen to be a clear square peg in a round hole and may perform better in a highly technical role. It is important to note that the manager who does not perform well in the people management role but was great in the technical role may be suffering great internal chaos and may welcome reverting to one’s comfort zone.
By now, we would have identified candidates that need to be trained on how to perform their people management role. In my company, we developed a “Management Development Programme” which is aimed at training our managers according to our re-defined manager profile (emphasis on people management). Our programme is staffed by an internal faculty, that means our own Executives and selected managers are intended to deliver the training. This allows for increased networking among the staff and Executives. It gives the Executives an opportunity to showcase their knowledge of the respective discipline or area of expertise and also provides a sense of satisfaction knowing that they are helping the staff develop. The key about the training is not only about the “what” but more importantly about the “how”. The “how” speaks to the soft skills training of handling performance challenges, grievances, discipline problems, communication and the like.
Measures of success may range from turnover rates with reasons, absenteeism rates, employee feedback scores, number of employee relation issues escalated for resolution at a higher level, percentage of training gap among team, percentage of new employees confirmed on time among others that can be aligned to one’s won situation. In my company, we have a 180 degree feedback form completed by a manager’s direct reports on the manager and we also include people measures and targets on the people perspective of their respective balanced scorecards.
Line managers should specifically pay attention to conducting frequent quality performance appraisals where performance feedback is exchanged periodically. Training, coaching, guidance, involvement and communication are key areas for the manager to invest time in. One’s direct reports must feel a sense of openness to discuss matters easily. Work life balance is becoming increasingly important and as such should be respected by the manager and finally recognition is critical, a simple “thank you, great job” does not cost much. It will be wonderful if the organisation has a reward and recognition programme that is easy to use without any bureaucracy and too many authorisations to slow down the process. Rewards should immediately or as close to the action being rewarded.
Managers are people too and as much as they have a huge responsibility of managing their staff, the organisation must recognise that the managers also have needs. Too often, the organisation may take the middle level managers for granted, where they are expected to turn stone into cheese with little or minimal resources. Lack of resources, unrealistic deadlines, with conflicting tasks and deliverables only serve to manifest itself negatively in the way the employees are treated by the same manager is stressed. Organisations are well-advised to listen to their managers and treat them in much the same way they would like them to treat the general staff.