People join organizations and leave their managers. Considering the labor market situation and the challenges that organizations are facing when trying to attract and retain top talent, employers must think more than ever about the topic of leadership quality.
For instance, Gallup’s research shows that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores. A study of 7,272 U.S. adults revealed that one in two had left their job to get away from their manager to improve their overall life at some point in their career.
Similar findings are revealed with the poll of 2,000 people in the UK conducted by Human Resources firm Investors in People: 49% of employees say that they are thinking to leave their job because of poor management – making that the most popular reason for a potential move.
A National Study conducted by Ultimate Software revealed there is a need for greater focus for Manager-Employee Relationships. For 93% of employees, trust in their direct boss is essential to staying satisfied at work, and over half of employees surveyed say if they aren’t satisfied at work, they can’t put forth their best effort. A good manager-employee relationship can play a significant role in retention too: more than half the employees say they’d turn down a 10% pay increase to stay with a great boss.
"Support from management" is also one of the aspects that affect work-life happiness. All of this goes to show that managers are definitely the key players when we are talking about employee happiness or unhappiness at work.
What makes a Great Manager?
There have been a bunch of different studies and researches that are trying to determine the qualities of best, effective, successful, or great leaders. One size definitely doesn’t fit all! The qualities of a great leader heavily depend on the organization culture as well as the behaviors of their teams.
In 2008 Google launched Project Oxygen to find out what makes a manager great at Google and determined eight different behaviors that were common among their highest performing managers. 10 years later they looked at their employee survey and found that the qualities of a great manager at Google had grown and evolved. The top ten Oxygen behaviors of their best managers include:
1. Is a good coach
2. Empowers the team and does not micromanage
3. Creates an inclusive team environment, showing concern for success and well-being
4. Is productive and results-oriented
5. Is a good communicator — listens and shares information
6. Supports career development and discusses performance
7. Has a clear vision/strategy for the team
8. Has key technical skills to help advise the team
9. Collaborates across Google
10. Is a strong decision-maker
There are a lot of touchpoints in Google findings with the research done by Sunnie Giles a few years ago when studying 195 leaders in 15 countries over 30 global organizations. Participants were asked to choose the 15 most important leadership competencies from a list of 74.
Manager Influence on Employee Happiness
When a manager is happy then most likely workers are happy too. According to Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage,
Happy workers have higher levels of productivity, produce higher sales, perform better in leadership positions, and receive higher performance ratings and higher pay. They also enjoy more job security and are less likely to take sick days, to quit, or to become burned out. Happy CEOs are more likely to lead teams of employees who are both happy and healthy, and who find their work climate conducive to high performance.
Organizations need both happy workers as well as happy managers. As we saw from the Google study and Sunnie Giles's research, there are certain behaviors and competencies that people expect from great managers. Because these factors affect happiness, you must carefully think about whom you are recruiting.
Whether hiring from the outside or promoting from within, organizations that scientifically select managers for the unique talents it takes to effectively manage people greatly increase the odds of engaging their employees. Companies should treat these roles as unique with distinct functional demands that require a specific talent set. They should select managers with the right talents for supporting, positioning, empowering, and engaging their staff.
5 Ways to Improve your Managers
1. Educate and develop your people!
A lot of organizations have created programs to train and develop their talents. At Starbucks for instance, there are several different training programs available to prepare people to take the next steps in their career. One of their programs is called the Retail Management Training program that contains information on effective management practices, including topics on motivation, delegation, problem-solving, improving performance, managing the Starbucks Experience and maximizing profits.
In addition to developing potential manager and leaders, organizations need to develop existing managers. There are a lot of organizations that are developing their managers to be better through complex training programs. Some organizations such as ISS that have gone so far to start their one Universities and Academies to train and develop its leaders up to the highest levels in the organization.
2. Promote and encourage communication!
Communication is often the basis of any healthy relationship, including the one between an employee and his or her manager. Gallup has found that consistent communication - whether it occurs in-person, over the phone, or electronically - is connected to higher engagement.
For example, employees whose managers hold regular meetings with them are almost three times as likely to be engaged as employees whose managers do not hold regular meetings.
Gallup also found that engagement is highest among employees who have some form (face to face, phone or digital) of daily communication with their managers. Managers who use a combination of face-to-face, phone, and electronic communication are the most successful in engaging employees. And when employees attempt to contact their manager, engaged employees report their manager returns their calls or messages within 24 hours. These ongoing transactions explain why engaged workers are more likely to say their manager knows what projects or tasks they are working on.
3. Favor collaboration with other leaders!
Even the very best ones can and shall learn from others. Therefore organizations should encourage their leaders to participate in different meetups, conferences, seminars or similar to meet other industry leaders and to collaborate with them.
Groups like the Estonian Startup Leaders Club, for instance, are formed with the goal to build strong relationships, provide opportunities for members, encourage communication and collaboration, as well as to develop startup entrepreneurs. Members of the club are from various famous (like Taxify, Transferwise, SportID, etc) and not so well-known Estonian startups who share information and experience on a daily bases.
4. Enroll your leaders in mentoring programs!
You can either start with your in-house mentoring program or use some public programs for that. A great example is PayPal’s Unity Mentorship program which is implemented with an aim to build a thriving work culture for female professionals. This employee-led initiative matches 100 pairs of mentors-mentees from same or different departments at any given time.
The pairs, even of mixed gender, are initially matched through a short survey, to make sure an intimate bond can be formed between individuals through the initiative. Both mentor and mentee interact with and learn from each other to build a transparent communication that’s more valuable than exercising professional etiquettes.
5. Start a book club, or create your own (e-)library!
People learn by reading books. So why not initiate a corporate book-club or have your own library from where all your people can lend books, read and learn. A lot of leaders love to read, including Eric S. Yuan from Zoom Video Communication, one of the highest-rated CEO’s in Glassdoor, who learns by reading books.
The importance of good management to the success of an organization cannot be stressed enough! Good managers heavily influence the employees they work with and will affect the overall workplace happiness of your company. Finding manager candidates with a foundation of great leadership qualities and behavioral skills is a great way to start, but remember that management training and improvement is an ongoing process. How do you educate yourself and leaders in your organization?
Helo Tamme is a People & Culture Director at ISS for Russia and Baltics.
In addition to this, she is also a speaker, an HR Lecturer, and a blogger with two different blogs – one is Estonian blog about recruitment, the other one about Workplace Happiness.