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Stacia Garr: HR Can Provide the Structure for Managers to Succeed

By Sarah Kamp
July 5, 2023
3 minute read

We know how important managers are to employee success: They are a crucial link between employees and the organization, and they’re a primary enabler of employee performance.

Managers are “the lifeblood of organizations,” said Stacia Garr, co-founder and principal analyst at RedThread Research, during the People Fundamentals webinar “How Better People Data Can Make Managing More Manageable.” 

And yet, recent research by RedThread shows a decline in managerial effectiveness. What’s going on with manager effectiveness, and how can HR leaders address it? 

The challenge starts with the unprecedented expectations placed on managers. “We’re asking them to do more training, to meet new expectations, try new leadership approaches,” Garr said. 

Garr shared advice for HR leaders who want to deliver the support and circumstances that managers need to elevate their teams.

Provide organizational support 

Managers need structured support from the business. But organizational support has declined in two important ways that affect manager effectiveness, Garr said. One, organizations are providing less clarity on what employees need to do to succeed. Two, organizations are giving managers less data-based insight into employee engagement. 

“What we see here really is the organization’s role and opportunity to provide the structure for managers to succeed,” Garr said. The benefits to organizations are threefold, as Stacia explains in this video clip.

To better support managers, train them to do more than simply check in with team members. “What we’re talking about here is actually putting in place the resources, tools, support, and the continual check-ins from HR and senior leaders to enable this behavior change,” Garr said. 

These might include processes for revisiting and refining goals on a quarterly basis or conversation prompts that guide performance feedback.

Udemy implemented Betterworks to drive transparency around team priorities, Garr said. Because everyone can see goals all the way up the organizational chart, managers could “figure out where there might be misalignment in approach across the broad organization.” That transparency helps managers have better conversations with employees — and significantly improves participation in feedback cycles.

Empower managers to connect

RedThread research found that managerial capability remains strong, even if organizational support has declined in recent years. So, what accounts for the decline in manager effectiveness, and how can managers increase their impact?

Garr emphasizes the importance of connection, which comes in multiple forms, from emotional connections to the strategic connections between people and goals that help employees work better. Making these connections does have a measurable and positive impact on how employees see the effectiveness of their managers, their eNPS score, and their likelihood of remaining with the organization, according to RedThread’s research.

Transparency is another key need for managers, although they need organizational support to do this, Garr says. An accessible technology platform makes this easier, as employees can see what’s happening across the organization. Adopting a platform like Betterworks that shows what everyone is working toward signals your commitment to manager transparency: 

“We’re making an investment in a piece of software to communicate this information, and we’re setting an expectation that everybody will do this,” Garr said.

Managers are at their best when helping employees find their path forward. “When managers remove barriers, they really help their employees succeed,” Garr said. “And so they see their job as that, as opposed to telling or always directing work.”

Bolster your process with tech

Technology is an important enabler in improving manager effectiveness, especially when implemented in line with the business strategy. “You shouldn’t necessarily be leading with 

technology,” Garr said. “You should be leading with what’s right for your organization first, and then find the technology solution that enables you to do those things.”

Watch “Cracking the Code to Maximizing People ROI with Betterworks Advanced Analytics” to discover what the right tech can do for you. One of the most important uses for technology is in providing a fair and consistent evaluation process. When managers are guided by automated prompts and relevant data points at key moments, for example, they can provide greater clarity to their teams. 

Supplying pertinent data to managers helps them make better decisions and improve their impact on employees. But this isn’t happening in nearly enough companies. “Only about 20% of organizations in our study were using performance data to assess employee performance,” Garr said. 

With the right tech support, managers can access a wealth of data (such as customer interactions, recorded conversations, or emails) to round out their understanding of employee performance. 

Empower managers, and watch how they bring out the best in themselves and their teams.

Watch “How Better People Data Can Make Managing More Manageable” on demand for the full conversation.

How Better People Data Can Make Managing More Manageable