One of the keys to retaining valued employees and talents is to provide them with an organisational experience that truly wows them to stay for more.
This article is part of a 6-week series exploring the key dimensions of the organisational experience - Meaningful Work, Supportive Management, Positive Work Environment, Growth Opportunity, Trust in Leadership, and Cross-Organisational Collaboration and Communication. Based on Deloitte’s Simply Irresistible Organisation Model, PACE developed further research to determine which factors within these dimensions are the most important.
The second dimension of our Organisational Experience research is Supportive Management. What does it mean to have supportive management, and how can our organisations measure it?
The digital age and the increasingly VUCA business environment have necessitated a shift away from hierarchy and having direct bosses to having supportive management that enables their talents to thrive in the business landscape.
However, there will always be people in the workplace who hold more managerial roles (as opposed to direct leadership). They do not micro-manage the team and ensure employees have the necessary tools and resources to produce results. They work closely with and empower employees to excel in their roles while achieving organisational goals.
According to Forbes, “bosses carry the responsibility for 70% of employee engagement variances (while) engaged bosses are 59% more prone to having and retaining engaged employees.”
Now that we’ve established that supportive management has a direct impact on the success of their organisation, let’s look at the factors that create a truly supportive management team. With reference to Deloitte’s Simply Irresistible Organisation Model, the four hallmarks of supportive management are:
- Clear and Transparent Goals
- Investment and Development of Managers
- Agile Performance Management Systems
Clear and Transparent Goals
According to our research, employees consider clear and transparent goals to be the most important indicator of supportive management. This means that employees know what is expected and that targets are well-defined, reliable, and consistent. In addition, an open flow of conversation allows clear communication to manage expectations.
When success is defined, employees are more engaged through goal accomplishment (both long and short term) and more accountable for their work.
Take the outdoor apparel designer Patagonia, for instance, which encourages their “individuals to set financial and stretch goals, and to check in quarterly with their managers” and bonuses are “based on goal attainment”. This reinforces the importance of goal accomplishment on an individual level, but also “generated better financial performance, improved individual performance, and strengthened engagement” for the company.
The next most important factor in creating supportive management is positive coaching. John Madden once cited “…What’s more important is not how high we climb the corporate ladder, but how many people we take along with us when we climb”. Employees working under a coaching culture feel cared for and in reciprocity, they care for their organisations. Research indicates that organisations tend to benefit from the following when they have a coaching culture.
- Improved staff retention
- Increased trust within the organisation
- Performance improvement
- Improved communication
In Singapore, coaching and mentoring strategies are the most common way to help poorly performing employees meet expectations, with leaders spending more than half a day per week on coaching according to 2019 research by HR Consulting Firm, Robert Half.
Investment and Development of Managers
Supportive leaders are not born, they are created. It takes training to learn to communicate clear and transparent goals as well as to provide effective positive coaching.
Organisations can develop and train their managers through clear pathways and development plans. They must provide managers with the necessary resources to allow them to improve themselves and those under them. This support should be on-going, with regular check-ins to make sure that managers have what they need to effectively represent the company. At the same time, when training new managers, companies must invest in them as though they are investing in a new position.
This creates a self-reinforcing cycle. Well-trained managers develop employees who will become good leaders in the future.
Even a company as big and established as Marriott International has had to commit to investing in their managers. Global HR officer Ty Breland noted that when General Managers completed their training curriculums, so did 80% of their staff (compared to under 30% when General Managers did not undergo training). This translated to more competitive and highly training staff - all thanks to Marriott International’s commitment to developing their managers.
Agile Performance Management Systems
Gone are the days of bi-annual performance reviews. Research shows that reducing a year’s worth of work into a single review can shift our brain into ‘fear or flight’ mode, thereby making us defensive. This stifles our creativity and openness to learning.
When employees are graded against each other, some high-performers in a team of high-performers do not get the recognition they need and deserve. Mid-level performers are also not encouraged to strive for excellence if they see that there is no room for them at the top.
This is why it is important to have agile performance management systems, a term coined by Mckinsey. This takes into account all our previous factors - clear goals, positive coaching, and investing in managers. Team objectives and individual targets should be clearly articulated and aligned.
Ongoing conversation, feedback and coaching will allow employees to receive assistance as and when they need it, as well as being rewarded with positive feedback on the go. Different achievements necessitate different rewards.
A high recognition culture is an integral part of the employer-employee relationship. This means there is a 5 to 1 ratio of encouraging feedback to criticism. Josh Bersin posits that the most “effective managers are lavish in their praise and stingy in their criticism”. Positive feedback creates more trust between people, and therefore more openness to receiving criticism at the right time.
In conclusion, the four main factors contributing to an organisation’s supportive management can be split into two segments - manager-led and organisation-led. Good managers set clear goals and are good coaches, while organisations can support them through investing and developing them as well as implementing agile performance management systems.
As the second most highly ranked of the six dimensions - Meaningful Work, Supportive Management, Positive Work Environment, Growth Opportunity, Trust in Leadership, and Cross-Organisational Collaboration and Communication, organisations must ensure that their management is well-poised to support their employees and the organisation.
How does your organisation fare in providing supportive management? Now is a great time for you to ponder over the pointers shared in this article.
For a sample copy of Real® Organisational Experience report click here.