Posts Tagged ‘Employee Engagement’

Poor management

Poor line management is recognised by workplaces as having a negative impact on the performance of the business. A report by the CIPD and the UK Government published in 2012 revealed that more than two-fifths of managers regard their own line manager as ineffective. Meanwhile, a 2012 study from the Chartered Management Institute found that 43 per cent of managers are rated as ineffective or highly ineffective by staff.

The effects of poor management can harm the growth and competitiveness of a business. Research has shown that poor management can have a detrimental impact on employee engagement levels within a business, which in turn affects employee retention and performance, customer service and satisfaction, and business performance.

To deal with these issues, the UK Government has set up a new cross-party Parliamentary Commission to examine why so many line managers are “failing” their employer. The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Management (APPGM), in partnership with the Chartered Management Institute (CMI), will examine how management can be transformed to drive growth across UK businesses to boost the economy.

The commission will attempt to highlight where employers have successfully used innovative approaches to management that have helped create growth and increase employee engagement. The most innovative and successful businesses will be invited to discuss their techniques with the Commission in Parliament. The commission plans to report on their findings in 2014.

The aim, according to Peter Ayliffe, CMI president and fellow co-chair of the Commission,’ is to identify the practical changes in line management behaviour that managers will need to make to lead and grow our businesses in the years ahead.’

For me, it is really positive to see the Government attempt to deal with the issue of poor management. Too many businesses are being held back by line managers not having the required skills to lead their people properly. Hopefully the work by the Commission will lead to the provision of training and support networks that UK businesses can tap into for their managers. This will especially benefit the smaller businesses that don’t have the expertise or resources to tackle the problem of underperforming managers.



According to L&D Manager Jeff Turner at Facebook, the social network giant has introduced a novel approach to dealing with poorly performing managers in which they are given a ‘get out of jail free card’. Instead of putting them through the normal process of performance management, Facebook managers are given the option of dropping-out from direct line management altogether.

Their approach is an attempt to lessen the gap between managers who are doing a very good job and those who aren’t. This is because poor line management can harm the development of a company. Research has shown that poor management can have a detrimental impact on employee engagement levels within a business, which in turn affects employee retention and performance, customer service and satisfaction, and business performance.

In order to support this initiative, Facebook have developed a manager philosophy – “set context, create focus, drive impact and cultivate growth” – backed up by its model for manager effectiveness. This is instead of more traditional competency models.  Their approach also supports the make-up of its workforce, in which 70% are from Generation Y. Those from Generation Y are the most high-maintenance and the most high-performing in the workforce, so a novel approach to managing performance is required.

Since Facebook introduced the initiative, ten per cent of managers have given up line management every year in favour of a role with no direct reports. Facebook’s dual career track approach allows employees to reach a senior position without managing people. They are of the belief that management should not be about getting a pay rise or other benefits, it should be about wanting to manage people.

This approach is great for a large company like Facebook, who can invest the time and resource in developing such a strategy, but most businesses don’t have this opportunity. In reality, most businesses have to rely on effective recruitment practices when hiring people managers, as there is no ‘get out jail free card’. Instead they will rely on assessing the candidate’s suitability for the role through competency based questioning and psychometric testing. Once the candidate has been hired, businesses will have to ensure that sufficient coaching and training is in place to develop their managers further.

This flexible approach from Facebook in dealing with underperformance certainly makes it easier for them, as it reduces the need for performance management, but most other businesses will just have to ensure they select the right candidate first time round.

Magnificen Seven

A recent report written by Towards Maturity has identified 7 habits of highly aligned learning and development functions that can help to add bottom line business value. The report was conducted with over 300 companies from the private, public and not for profit sectors.

Examples of bottom line business value found from the report were:

  • the ability to implement new processes or products faster
  • increased productivity
  • improved customer satisfaction
  • better compliance with new regulations and legal requirements
  • improved performance management


Although this report is based on research from companies with a specific L&D function, I believe these findings can be applied to SME’s, especially those who have the right mentoring support or networks in place. The reason being is that from my experience of providing SMEs with HR mentoring support, there is real scope to help business owners understand how investment in learning and development can help to add value.

The Magnificent 7

So from the report, what are the seven habits identified and how can they work for SMEs?

  1. Use strategic business objectives to determine learning priorities. Every small business must have specific needs or objectives they want to achieve; however, the day-to-day operations may stop leaders remembering this. When working with SMEs, I always spent time talking to them about what they wanted to achieve over the next 12 months, so we could then build HR action plans around this that would include learning and development priorities.
  2. Decide what learning interventions to use. Learning interventions could take the form of training, coaching, e-learning, distance learning or social learning. For SMEs, learning and development interventions should be regarded as an investment rather than a cost but, unfortunately, this generally is not the case. In order for this habit to work, there should be a clear return on investment expectation set at the start, so that leaders know the benefit of the return outweighs the initial investment of money or time away from work.
  3. Focus on the end results. You now know what your priorities are and the learning interventions to use, what targets do you want to set to measure against? You could have specific metrics you want in place to measure against, to ensure that the learning transfers back to the workplace. Or, you may set a minimum standard of qualification / certification that needs to be attained by certain staff within a time period.
  4. Integrate learning with performance management. To ensure that any learning isn’t lost, there should always be a follow-up through performance reviews and planning. This ensures that learning is taken seriously and reviewed with employees. Business owners should take time on a regular basis to have these discussions with their staff.
  5. Demonstrate business value. Once you have your metrics in place, you can then begin to evaluate the ROI. It may be that you can show an increase in sales performance, customer satisfaction or productivity. Or it may be you show a decrease in staff turnover, customer complaints or sick days. Either way, these are metrics that any business could begin to use with ease.
  6. Ensure staff understand their contribution. By utilising performance management techniques, you can be sure that staff are clear about how any learning they are involved in supports wider business objectives and success. This in turn can help improve employee engagement.
  7. Commit to learning and development interventions. Without any commitment from those leading SMEs, there will be very little commitment from staff to take learning and development seriously. If this happens, then any time and money invested into learning and development will be wasted.


Kick-start the habits

In increasingly competitive markets, SMEs need to get ahead of the field and the findings highlighted in the Towards Maturity report provide a framework for achieving this, so business owners really need to think about how they can put together a framework for following this.