By David Lee
Reprinted from The Employment Times
On the subject of what influences employee productivity and retention, customer loyalty, and bottom line profitability, 2 million employees have spoken. And what do they say? According to a study spanning more than 25 years, when results from employee surveys are compared to these measures of organizational success, the message is clear… the key to your organization’s success is the quality of your managers and front line supervisors.
It All Comes Down to Your Managers and Front Line Supervisors
This finding comes from research conducted by the Gallup Organization in an attempt to identify what organizational factors most strongly predict organizational success. From this study, which has now involved over 2 million employees, 12 factors emerged as the strongest predictors of organizational success in terms of employee retention and productivity, customer loyalty and organizational profitability.
In analyzing their findings, the
They also found that in some companies where the overall score was very low, pockets of excellence existed. Even though the overall organization didn’t do well on the survey, some departments and divisions showed scores rivaling those found in world class, highly profitable companies. Thus, employee responses were influenced more by “local factors” - their supervisor or manager; than by “global factors” – the organization as a whole.
The bottom line, take away message of their 25 year study is pithily stated in the title of an interview with the two primary researchers, published in Fortune magazine. The title, and take away message: “It’s the Manager Stupid.”
Curt Coffman, the lead researcher states: “What becomes clear from this investigation is that while we tend to celebrate 'great’ companies, in reality there are only great managers. In fact, it is on the front line that the hard work of building a stronger workplace gets done.”
Employees Don’t Leave Companies, They Leave Managers
Coffman and his colleague Marcus Buckingham state that although working at a company listed in Fortune magazine’s “100 Best Places to Work” lists is great, it would be better to have a great supervisor and work at a “not so great” company than to work at a great company and have a poor supervisor. Coffman and Buckingham also make clear the critical role managers play in an organization’s ability to retain talented people. “If you have a turnover problem look first to your managers,” they assert. “People leave managers, not companies.”
To An Employee, Their Supervisor Is The Organization
The power each of your managers and front line supervisors has to influence the morale and productivity of the people they supervise is similar to the power each employee who interacts with your customers has to shape your reputation in the marketplace. To the customer, the employee that interacts with them is your organization – for better or for worse. To your employees, their supervisor is your organization – for better or for worse.
Thus, your frontline supervisors and your managers play a huge role in your organization’s success. Therefore, it is crucial that you ask: “Is our management team our secret weapon or our Achilles Heel?”
How Companies Make Their Managers Their Achilles Heel
For many organizations, the fact that managers play such an important role is reason for concern. These are the organizations that make the classic mistake of promoting people to supervisory positions based on technical expertise rather than people skills. They compound this error by scrimping on management development training. By doing this, they have a team of managers who haven’t been properly prepared to do the very challenging task of trying to bring out the best in others.
Improperly selected and inadequately trained managers often inadvertently create an environment that, at best, hampers employees from performing at their true potential. At worst, improperly selected and inadequately trained managers bring out the worst in their workforce.
How to Make Your Managers Your Secret Weapon
So, what can your organization do about this? Here are six things you can do to get started.
First, make sure everyone in management understands the central role they play in the issues that concern them the most: employee retention, productivity, customer loyalty, and overall profitability. Have them read First Break All the Rules by Curt Coffman and Marcus Buckingham (or listen to the Books on Tape version if they’re not big readers).
Second, review with your managers the
twelve factors identified by
1. “I know what is expected of me at work.”
2. “I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.”
3. “At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.”
4. “In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.”
5. “My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.”
6. “There is someone at work who encourages my development.”
7. “In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.”
8. “At work, my opinions seem to count.”
9. “The mission/purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.”
10. “My fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.”
11. “I have a best friend at work.”
12. “This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.”
Third, have your management team estimate how their direct reports would respond to these twelve items, using a scale from 1 to 5 (1= strongly disagree, 2= disagree, 3=neutral, 4=agree, and 5 = strongly agree).
Fourth, better still, survey your employees about how they feel about these factors. The Gallup Organization has this survey available for organizations to use.
Fifth, have your management team brainstorm about what they can do to make sure all of these factors will get 4’s and 5’s. Have them generate a list of practical strategies for each. Better still, involve your front line employees in this process.[i]
Sixth, invest in management development. Remember, great managers are the key to your organization’s success. If you scrimp on their development, you are shooting yourself in the foot. Make sure they are your “secret weapon,” not your Achilles Heel.
Give Your Managers The Knowledge and Skills They Need
Give your managers the training they need to do their jobs well. Help your managers learn what motivates and what de-motivates employees. Help them learn the communication skills that lead to constructive, empowering conversations with employees. Help them develop the ability to inspire high productivity, world class customer service, and fierce loyalty.
Provide them with an environment where they can feel safe enough to look in the mirror and honestly assess their interpersonal strengths and weaknesses, and provide them with the coaching to work these through.
By making sure all of your managers understand the critical role they play in your organization’s success and helping them develop the knowledge and skills to make sure their impact is positive, you will be doing the same thing that successful companies all around the world do to stay successful. You will be making your management team your secret weapon.
[i] When going through this process with
management teams, I always get raised eyebrows over Item 11 – “I have a best
friend at work.” This factor doesn’t mean an employee’s boss should be their
best friend. Rather, the
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About the Author: David Lee is a
consultant, speaker, and executive coach. The founder of HumanNature@Work, he has worked with organizations and
presented at conferences throughout
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