Is employee development the most overlooked management function?


Let me say at the outset that I am convinced that management is not an easy task. As I have written before for Forbes, getting the job done right requires a diverse skill set. Depending on the circumstances, a good manager must sometimes be a psychologist, coach, policeman, accountant, diplomat… among many others.

That said, despite the multiple challenges of the role, there is plenty of evidence – with national studies showing that seven out of 10 employees work in various states of disengagement – ​​that too often the job is not done well, with important management functions routinely ignored and neglected.

Gallery: 10 Powerful Ways to Empower Your Employees

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Accordingly, here are my picks for “Most Overlooked Management Function,” along with a few close runners-up. As this is a purely personal “reward”, based more on opinion than data (although some supporting data is provided), I would also be interested to hear readers’ opinions on this topic.

My winner (or loser, depending on how you look at it), as you may have gathered from the title, is:

Employee development: Employee development is the classic example of a management function that is both highly valued and highly overlooked. For busy managers, who usually have too much to do in too little time, this is a very easy task to postpone until some indefinite time in the future…because calculating ROI is extremely difficult. And in a lean-and-mean environment where resources are perpetually stretched, functions without a clear return on investment are usually functions that don’t get done. Again studies in harvard business review and elsewhere show that meaningful development activities are highly valued by high-potential talent, and that the lack of such activities fuels unwanted early departures. This aligns perfectly with my own management experience: the lack of development opportunities was a frequent frustration for employees, while thoughtful development and training was always a highly valued retention factor.

There are, however, other “overlooked” worthy contenders; here are four.

Employee recognition: My days in management have taught me that it is possible to make a strong case for employee “recognition” (or lack thereof). In the two-and-a-half decades of employee surveys I’ve participated in, one management issue has repeatedly emerged as a pain point in every one of them: recognition. The employees never felt like they had enough. That’s not to say that managers should give indiscriminate recognition when it’s not deserved (because that only undermines management’s credibility), but it makes no sense to withhold it when it’s genuinely deserved. is deserved. Something as easy and free as a few informal, heartfelt words of praise, for example, costs nothing but can mean a lot to those who benefit from it.

Responsibility: It might seem like a surprising choice to include in this list, since managers are more often accused of being unfairly tough than unfairly easy. There is, however, a big difference between random authoritarianism and strong results-oriented leadership. Studies show that many managers, even senior executives, are surprisingly weak when it comes to accountability. A survey in harvard business review notes that 46% of senior managers scored poorly on the measure “Holds people accountable – firm when they fail to deliver.”

Set clear goals and objectives: It is a basic but underestimated function. Although often treated as a tedious bureaucratic exercise, an annual HR irritant that unfortunately must be dealt with! – it actually has a “long tail” with substantial implications for how employee performance is ultimately measured and evaluated. To research shows that more than half of managers do not set effective goals. My own view is that setting meaningful, measurable and mutually agreed upon goals is worth no matter how much time managers spend on it.

Communication: To put it simply, I have never met a good manager who was not also a good communicator. Open and transparent communication is essential to sound management, and studies show that it is an essential part of employee engagement. Yet the reality is that many managers are reluctant communicators at best. I am convinced that part of the problem stems from the way managers are generally chosen: promoted to the position of top technical specialist in a department. That’s not to say that people promoted this way can never be good managers. sure they can. However – and this is a big however – it is always worth bearing in mind that interpersonal skills more than technical skills (think psychologist, trainer, policeman, etc., as stated at the start) are what the work requires the most.

Thoughts? I look forward to hearing readers’ ideas and views…

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Victor is the author of The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World.


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