Action Steps To Grow Management and Retain Employees

This is part 2 of 2 of the article sent to you on April 3, 2011

Actions to take
    Doing the bare minimum of training and development—just enough to keep your organization within the law, and to keep from being sued—can easily lead to behaviors that damage companies’ reputations. Once damaged, a reputation takes significant time and money to restore. Some companies never really recover. Before find yourself in a position of losing top talent or dealing with a weakened organizational reputation, you can invest in processes to improve the management capability in your organization.

    Human resource leaders are in an ideal position to influence all the elements needed to change the role of managers and to help their organizations build management capability. Many elements are needed, of course, but the first is the sponsorship of the most senior leaders to ensure buy-in and demonstrable support for the process. The rest of the elements involve your organization’s beliefs, values and culture. All of these are catalyst for change and are necessary to reinforce norms and expectations.

    Building management capability goes beyond training. It includes transforming the organization’s culture so that it values the role that management plays in attracting and retaining top talent and setting forth clear expectations for the manager’s role. As this indicates, all organizations have an underlying set of beliefs about the importance of the manager – owner - executive. Organizations that have strong management capabilities believe that managers are critical for their ability to attract, retain and motivate employees. Strong beliefs influence the values of an organization, and consequently the culture.

    Each of the motivation of change in any given model represents an area that organizations must consider if they want to build strong management capability. Just focusing on one catalyst will not bring about lasting change in management capability; the current culture will overwhelm small changes. By focusing on numerous change impulses, organizations can modify the culture and create long-term change. Briefly, the catalyst represent the following considerations:

·        Leadership: An organization’s leadership must both believe in the value of the role that managers play and must lead by example.
·        Communication: The leadership team must consistently communicate the importance of the role of the manager to the organization and its ability to achieve high performance, attract talent and retain it.
·        Competencies: Management competencies must be assessed and developed. Entry into a management role must be predicated on an appropriate, although not necessarily perfect, set of skills.
·        Measurement and rewards: Any effective strategy must be integrated into the scorecard. It must be measured and rewarded.
·        Structure and symbols: The role of a manager must be structured so that the manager can spend sufficient time with direct reports. The term "manager" must mean something in terms of role expectations.
    By focusing on these points of change, the organization will develop new norms and expectations for behavior. The organizational beliefs regarding the management role will actually conform to what the levers of change are encouraging: a belief that managers’ roles do make a difference.

Leadership first: showing the way
    Triggers for change begin with leadership; Leadership sets the tone and shows the way; How your leaders think will cast the mold for the rest of the organization.

    It must be clear to others that your organization’s leaders believe that management capability is an asset worth time and resources. Where leaders demonstrate this through their own behaviors, the organizations will have corresponding success. Having leaders publicly recognize individuals for outstanding team management (as opposed to personally exceeding business goals) will set the tone for the importance the organization places on the role of the manager in delivering results.

    When leaders spend time with their direct reports, setting clear goals and expectations, providing feedback and actively working to build bench strength in the organization, they are setting expectations for how others will act. Consider Jack Welch during his GE days; He spent a great deal of his personal time both developing his own successor (I’ve preached for years that you should always be training your replacement) and developing leadership capability throughout the organization by participating the GE’s management development programs. As a consequence, GE is constantly cited as having one of the best leadership development programs in the world. This happened because the senior leadership believed in the value of its leaders and made investments to insure they could deliver their maximum capability.

    Also, leaders are the ones who primarily create an organization’s fundamental beliefs, values and culture. Where leaders go astray, organizations often follow. Creating a powerful culture takes time. But leaders can play a powerful role in establishing the outward signs of culture and behaviors that they both embody and endorse.

Communication: Keeping everyone on the same page
    Organizations tend to undervalue communication. But communication plays a powerful role as the vehicle through which leaders demonstrate and publicly recognize the desired behaviors in the organization. How leaders talk about managers sets a clear message for what is expected in the organization. Strong communication systems can help organizations build strong cultures and enhance performance.

Competencies: The essential building blocks
    Identifying the critical competencies that make managers successful in your organization is the first step in creating the new manager role. New managers who are hired and current employees who are promoted into management roles must be selected because they have the capability to deliver on key functions of this role. These competencies include such skills as setting goals that fit the business strategy, providing coaching and feedback to others and helping employees understand how they fit into the big picture.

    Often promotions are given because someone is a good individual contributor. Good technical skills are a far cry from good management skills. We need alternative career structures if the only way to move up in the organization is to become a manager. Not all great individual contributors make great managers. The telecommunications industry in years past learned this lesson the hard way.  By having management competencies defined within an organization we can also coach and develop individuals on how to improve in these specific areas.

Measuring, rewarding and reinforcing
    It’s a cliché, but it’s true: That which gets measured and rewarded gets done. If you don’t include management competencies and results for such areas as reduction in turnover or developing staff to improve organizational bench strength in performance appraisal systems, managers will not focus on these issues. Organizations that reward their managers for being good managers will stand the greatest chance of building strong management capability over time. Rewards do not need to take the form of money. In fact, simple public recognition of strong management skills sends a message to the rest of the organization: Managers are important to us.

Organization structure: the key symbol
    When organizations design jobs so that managers must spend 90 percent of their time doing non-management work, we send a very clear message about how we view the management aspects of a manager’s role: They are not important. We need to redesign organizational structures to support managers so they can truly manage the talent within the organization.

    By involving your leaders, crafting key messages, developing managers and examining the current messages managers receive about their role in managing others, HR leaders can change how managers are viewed, and how they view themselves.

    The process of building better managers is not fast or cheap. But the rewards can be substantial and well worth the effort.
George F. Mancuso