Failing Report Card on Management!

We can learn a lot from all the surveys that are being conducted in business organizations today. But even more can be learned when we stand back and look at these studies in a collective way, especially when they reinforce one another or when they generate opposing conclusions.

For instance, looking at two current surveys, one undertaken by the Society for Human  Resource Management (SHRM) in the US and the other conducted by Wyatt Watson Canada, we see clear evidence of cynicism about management and alienation on the part of employees. Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, and the importancManagemente of perception is that it is reality for the people involved. Individually, each survey highlights some rather damning perceptions about the quality of management today, but together they are a powerful one-two punch that leaves little to the imagination.

Watson Wyatt’s study of 3000 people found that 46% of Canadian employees are  disenchanted and would consider moving if they could find something at least comparable to their current work. This is up 25% from their findings of two years ago. Only 40% of those under the bell jar feel that they have opportunities for growth, development, or advancement, and only 27% believe there is a clear link between their job performance and their pay! Even more revealing is the perception of 51% of people that their management does not hire employees with adequate skills and abilities.

SHRM’s survey on productivity, which included 478 HR professionals and 613 employees, found that productivity is most affected by poor quality of management (58% cited this as the major cause) and to a lesser extent by a lack of motivation (38%).

Is there a message here? We believe there is. On both sides of the border too many employees are in a position where they are just killing time, and the primary cause is poor quality management – managers who fail to establish and communicate performance goals, managers who fail to understand people as individuals and respond to their needs,  managers who feel that they can keep filling the pipeline with bodies rather than with committed employees, and managers who still structure the work experience as a fundamentally economic transaction rather than a process of human development.

At the end of the day, as we all know, people don’t become disengaged with companies and people don’t leave companies. They get frustrated with managers and they leave managers. It’s all very human. The reality today is that relatively few organizations can truly lay claim to building high-performance cultures, despite what they tell themselves, and until they really deal with the fundamentals of people- management and leadership, high performance will continue to be a dream rather than an achievable objective.

But high performance and higher retention don’t have to be elusive – improving on both counts is simply a matter of desire and concentrating on two improvements. It is training managers to understand people as people with feelings, needs, and aspirations, and rewarding those managers for responding to those feelings, needs, and aspirations. Essentially it is training those managers to understand people as individuals, which is not difficult, costly, or complex to do. Secondly, it is modifying performance management into a more viable, sustainable, and visible process for measuring management behaviors along with management results. High performance, like so much of what we experience in business, always comes down to the quality of management.

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