Blog Managing People

Develop great people managers – five ways to help them improve

Over half all employees (57%) think their manager needs training to make them a better people manager. And relationships between managers and employees account for one in five (21%) workplace conflict situations. So it’s no wonder Gallup identifies managers as a key factor in employee engagement. But not all managers are created equal. Some are naturally gifted; others need more support. So HR managers must identify those who are struggling. And provide skills and tools to develop them into better people managers.

Many businesses have tools and frameworks to assist managers to succeed. Yet they aren’t widely shared or re-visited when people move into a new role. Instead, individuals are left to work it out for themselves. And one in four managers (26%) receive no formal management training at all. So, as HR, you must address this issue and:

  1. Identify people managers who are struggling
  2. Review tools and skills to develop better people managers
  3. Provide tailored support to make people managers more effective

Identifying struggling people managers

Managers are the reason around 50% of employees leave their job. And their influence on employee engagement is huge. Yet many managers are promoted without much, if any, people management training. So you must identify your failing people managers and take steps to develop them, before they permanently damage your business.

Poor communication, blaming others, and lack of goals and direction are all signs of bad managers. But you have systems to help you spot issues early. So take action and get them back on track:

  • Downward trends in sentiment analysis indicate a team that needs support. Where managers are failing, morale's low and turnover’s rising. So look for consistently poor results and understand what the manager's struggling with so you can provide appropriate support.
  • Gaps in goal-setting and check-ins demonstrate poor communication. Managers who feel uncertain are more likely to avoid goal-setting for their teams, and themselves. Where direction's unclear and objectives are missing, intervene and help re-establish expectations at all levels.
  • On average, only 36% of employees are engaged at work. And where they’re disengaged, it’s often due to poor management. Engagement analytics highlight business and team trends, so identify those teams falling below the average. And use internal case studies to demonstrate what great looks like for managers who are struggling to successfully engage their teams.

Five ways to develop better people managers

Identifying failing managers is step one. Step two is take action. Help your struggling managers understand what great management looks like and support them to implement it effectively.

1. Set clear expectations

Great managers give direction. They agree goals and objectives and allow employees flexibility to achieve them. But it all starts with managers understanding where they fit in the big picture. So make sure they recognise their own contribution. Help them see how their team drives wider business success. And then encourage them to explain it to their teams.

2. Regular feedback and action

Regular, timely feedback helps people perform. Good managers use weekly check-ins to celebrate achievements. And feedback provides opportunities to adjust if objectives are starting to slip. But it must be a two-way process. Employees need to raise issues and concerns. And managers must take action to help employees move forward. Start by getting managers comfortable with feedback. Encourage weekly check-ins. And sell them on the benefits of continuous performance management.

3. Build strong relationships and trust

Great relationships are built on great communication. When managers are struggling, communication's often the first thing to go. So focus them on creating strong connections with their teams. Weekly check-ins, clear goals and regular feedback all help. But encourage them to be honest and admit mistakes. And get them to ask their teams for help solving problems. It builds collaboration between team members and aids commitment and engagement at the same time.

4. Share knowledge and assign a mentor

No-one’s good at everything. So use mentors to develop skills at all levels. Focus on knowledge-sharing, not on who’s been around the longest.  And get managers to identify pairs who could benefit each other by bringing different skills to the relationship. Strengthen performance and motivation across the team. And consider mentors for managers too. HR’s not always best placed to provide the support they need. So find others with the right skills and knowledge to support their growth as they develop into better people managers.

5. Use the tools available

Performance management changes when you become a manager. New screens, increased functionality and different expectations. So start at the beginning. Check managers understand why they should set objectives and show them how to do that with their teams. Make sure they know how to use the system. Give support and guidance on what's different now they're a manager. And, if you have one, provide a user guide to help them master the new requirements.

Provide tailored support to make your people managers better

Different managers have different needs. So beware thinking one-size fits all. Use the data to identify where to focus and tailor solutions accordingly.

If feedback’s a problem, give guidance on what effective feedback looks like. Provide frameworks like FAST to help managers structure their conversations. And teach them how to use check-ins to build connections with their team members. Where systems are the issue, offer 1:1 sessions to walk them through it live for one of their team.

Whatever their challenge, check out the Weekly10 Best Practice Guides. They provide practical advice managers can use straight away. Start by checking they're getting the basics right. And get them setting clear Objectives and Key Results (OKRs) that provide the foundation for better people management.