First, I am excited to take over the “Talent Tips” column from my highly regarded colleague, Roy Saunderson. I know I have big shoes to fill and will strive to do my best.
In my first column, I want to share some of my recent research on the state of management training in the United States. As part of the preparation for writing my most recent book, I surveyed both managers and employees on a range of topics, including the amount of training managers have received, the competence of managers in the eyes of their employees, and how well managers understand what employees most want from them.
Key Survey Findings
1. Many managers are woefully unprepared for the role of managing others. In a survey of a representative sample of 1,000 managers across all industry groups, I found that:
- 29 percent had received no training at all in people management.
- 18 percent had received up to no more than two hours of training.
- 25 percent had received from two to four hours of training, while 28 percent had received four hours or more of training.
Clearly, there is more to being a good people manager than the amount of official training one has received. But these results indicate that more than 70 percent of people managers in the U.S. today have received no training at all or that it was capped at four hours. Given the outsized role of people management to a manager’s overall job performance, does that seem sufficient?
2. Managers tend to overestimate their competence. For the sake of argument, let’s accept that employees are the “customers” of their manager’s people management practices. Now let’s compare how employees rate their managers to how managers self-rate. This I did with research involving 10,000 employees and more than 1,000 managers.
On the topics of work management, people management, and overall performance, managers self-rate on average 15 percent higher than the ratings from their employees. If employees are the ultimate “customers,” these customers are stating clearly that many managers are not as competent as they think. That is problematic.
3. Managers do not always understand what employees most want from them. In the same survey referenced in #1, I asked managers what they believed their employees most wanted from them.
On two of the attributes employees most want, managers were way off the mark:
- 25 percent of employees in the U.S. indicate that what they most want from their manager is that they show support and understanding. By way of comparison, only 16 percent of managers identified this same attribute as what employees most want.
- More pointedly, 16 percent of employees state that psychological recognition is what they most want from their manager. Astonishingly, only 1 percent of managers identified recognition as what employees most want.
It is not difficult to draw a straight line between managers’ lack of awareness of what their employees want and employee perceptions of their manager’s performance. Lack of awareness can be the source of many employee-manager disconnects.
The Bottom Line
My research showed that managers who are rated the highest by their employees in both the attributes employees most want and overall performance are achieving the full potential of employee engagement, team cohesion, and performance. Management training is not a panacea, but creating awareness among managers of how to provide what employees most want is key to employee motivation, commitment, and productivity. Ultimately, that is how managers are valued.