Low morale, poor productivity, bad customer service, and high employee turnover can often times be related to the way in which your employees are managed. Here are questions you can ask to find out if your management is causing these problems and steps you can take to address the issue.
Could your management team be creating unnecessary employee issues that are leading to:
- Low employee engagement
- Low employee morale
- Poor productivity
- Poor customer service
- The need for voluminous policy and procedure manuals to ensure that the manager follows the rules, and
- High turnover
While not so comfortable to ask, and even more challenging to be accountable for, here are seven key questions to help you determine if your management is causing the above common concerns:
1. Does every member of your management team know (internalize) the company’s Mission/Purpose and Vision (ideal future state)?
2. Can every member of your management team describe the company Values, (that is, the key ways in which you go about your work, such as excellence in customer service, innovation, teamwork, respect…)? And, can every member of the management team give some examples of how the company values are demonstrated on a day-to-day basis?
3. Do you have a succession plan – that is, an approach for and/or development of high potential/successor candidates?
4. Do new people promoted to or hired for a management position clearly demonstrate the company values?
5. Do you have an effective way to transition new managers into their positions (or do you just assume the transition will happen)?
6. And, do you remove poor and ineffective managers quickly?
If you said ‘NO’ to any of the questions above then you likely have employee issues as a result of your management problems.
When Addressing Employee Issues, Ensure You Have Sound Management First
How can you improve your business when you have employee issues and conflicts getting in your way of running an effective, productive and efficient organization? First, change your approach and take a macro view.
That is, understand that often, employee issues are symptoms of inconsistent or failing management.
Your strongest assets and your key resources are your employees. (Yes, even stronger than your brand. Brand creates awareness and a promise. But it’s the employees that deliver on that promise.) And, while painful to acknowledge, it is the most talented employees that leave first.
If you want to improve your business, you must start with your managers.
These are the people who are the direct link to your front line employees.
These managers include:
- Department managers
- Assistant managers
- Shift supervisors
- Store managers
- Team leaders
Yet unfortunately, the role and impact of the direct supervisors are often overlooked when senior management or business owners contemplate improvement questions such as:
- How can we improve morale?
- What’s a good compensation system?
- How can we recruit and retain better employees?
- How do we improve our customer service?
Simply stated, as long as you do not deal with supervisor/manager competency and impact, you cannot effectively deal with any of the questions raised above. It’s like trying to come up with a model to explain how our solar system works using the earth as the center of the system. It just won’t work, no matter how hard you try. Replace the earth with the sun and it works beautifully. Money spent to improve the effects of management is wasted unless it’s spent to address poor management first.
Five Required Steps to Identifying and Addressing the Issue of Poor Management
1) First, get senior executives to function as an aligned team and to promote (by demonstration not lip service) the stated values of the business. Remember, employees watch their leadership team for cues on how to behave and how to manage. They look to managers to see what’s acceptable and what is not!
2) Carefully select employees for management positions. This means you need to have a succession plan that incorporates a management development plan for high potential candidates.
3) Support the transition from employee to manager. Not all newly promoted managers will be ready for their new role. In fact, in many organizations, it’s possible that most aren’t yet ready for prime time but are needed there. (A good coach or mentor can be very valuable in these situations.)
4) Define the standard of performance required of all your managers. Provide needed support to help your managers understand your standards and meet them. If they don’t (or won’t) after suitable support and development, replace them. Understand that “what you permit you promote.”
Tolerating poor managers and poor manager behavior is the same as condoning it. And that is the way employees will perceive it.
5) Then, insure your managers/supervisors are responsible for performance management and instilling employee accountability using these four fundamentals with their employees:
- Clarifying expectations of their role individually and within context to the larger organization
- Providing adequate training and development for them to do their job (identify and address skills, knowledge and resource gaps)
- Provide consistent feedback on their performance, expressly positive/ recognition based, and of course, addressing concerns or deficiencies (in which case you start over at A, though focusing on the concern/issue and what is needed/expected…)
- And, be consistent with upholding consequences. Similar to tolerating poor managers, unwilling or persistent underperforming employees will quickly compromise your overall results.
Service excellence, cost-effective performance and innovation start with engaged employees. And employees leave their organizations most often because of a bad boss and a poor working relationship. If you believe that your employees are not engaged to the extent you want them to be, don’t start with employee remediation efforts. Start first with the leaders and the managers. If employees don’t have a good boss and working experience with them, save your money; as nothing else will work, at least for very long. It may be the most difficult place to start, but it will be the most effective for long-term ROI.
Tony Kubica and Sara LaForest are management consultants with more than 50+ years of combined experience in helping entrepreneurs, small businesses and organizations improve their business performance.