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Effective manager communicates with engaged employees
8 Min Read

What is Manager Effectiveness?

Baili Bigham
Baili Bigham

Your Managers Are Struggling. Here’s What They Need To Be More Effective.

Managers have always had a tough job, but the events of the past few years have made managing even harder. In our 2020 Workplace Report, we found that most managers are struggling to perform, and direct reports are feeling the direct effects. And in our 2022 Workplace Report, we found that unsupportive management is a top reason U.S. workers are leaving their jobs.

To help leaders as they strategize new ways to uplevel their managers, we surveyed hundreds of managers and employees to understand what it is that managers truly need to become more effective.

What is manager effectiveness?

Manager effectiveness is the measure of a manager’s ability to drive support and empower their direct reports and, as a result, drive organizational impact. Elements of manager effectiveness include overseeing performance management, keeping employees engaged, setting and achieving goals at the individual and team level, and more.

What makes an effective manager?

An effective manager is one who takes a human-centric coaching approach to managing rather than simply focusing on pushing business needs forward. Effective managers don’t just motivate their direct reports to perform, they increase the capability of their teams by helping individuals hone and leverage their unique strengths, create consistent feedback loops, and challenge their reports to reach their full potential.

Our CEO and co-founder David Hassell often says that “Managers are the lynchpin of any organization’s success.” Because when managers are effective, they boost the effectiveness of the entire organization.

Great managers positively impact all areas that drive organizational success, including employee engagement, growth and development, productivity, and attrition. To be effective, however, managers need the right tools, structure, and practices–but most people leaders lack this key element.

The top issues managers are dealing with today

Managers aren’t just working through their own issues, they’re also coaching employees through theirs. This additional responsibility is significant and has lead to managers feeling less prepared and more challenged than ever before. In fact, 65% of managers say they’re finding it more difficult than usual to perform their job effectively during the pandemic, and this feeling increases to 76% with senior-level management. 

There are endless reasons why your managers could be struggling today, including personal, financial, or health problems, but our survey unveiled two primary issues: 

1. The added stress of world events

With worldwide pandemics and armed conflicts, most people are balancing more than ever before—both at work and at home. Managers have the daunting task of tending to their people’s emotional needs just as much as their work needs, and they don’t have the right practices in place to do it properly.

2. They’re spread too thin

Most managers (70%) are trying to support teams with five or more direct reports, making it more difficult to provide the psychological and job-related support employees need. 

With added stress and lack of time, managers are struggling to make the most of each meeting. But leaders can help free up time for managers and give them the tools to support their employees by encouraging regular, structured one-on-ones.

3. The rise in virtual work

The shift to virtual work has undeniably presented a host of challenges for managers, fundamentally altering the dynamics of team management. In a virtual work environment, it’s difficult to gauge employee engagement and productivity in the same way as in a traditional office setting. The absence of in-person interactions can also impact communication and collaboration, making it harder to build relationships, convey expectations, or provide timely feedback. 

Moreover, the challenges of maintaining team cohesion and a sense of shared purpose are compounded in virtual settings, where employees may feel isolated and disconnected. This new landscape calls for innovative approaches and tools to ensure effective team management, with a focus on clear communication, digital collaboration, and strategies that foster motivation and engagement among remote team members.

The importance of manager effectiveness

Many problems that may be occurring within your organization right now can be directly traced back to one source—ineffective managers. Some of the negative impacts of ineffective or underdeveloped managers can include:

  • High Turnover: Even well-meaning managers who simply do not have the necessary skills to empower their team to be their best selves and do their best work will cause employees to look for work elsewhere.
  • High Burnout and Absenteeism: The level of stress caused by ineffective management can actually lead to physical illness and burnout. When burnt-out employees have to miss work, it causes a ripple effect, negatively impacting those who need to take on additional work to cover.
  • Low Productivity: If employees aren’t receiving any clarity or guidance from their manager on what is important to focus on, they can become overwhelmed and find it more difficult to successfully prioritize and complete tasks. Beyond that, when employees don’t feel that they are growing professionally, they are less motivated to perform in their day-to-day work.

Increasing manager effectiveness through one-on-ones

Unsurprisingly, many managers find their one-on-ones very or extremely helpful in supporting their direct reports, but for direct reports to get the benefits they need, one-on-ones must be held frequently and consistently.

Over 80% of employees with at least weekly one-on-ones say they’re getting the support they need during the pandemic from their managers compared to 66% of employees with less frequent meetings. 

Whether in person or via video chat, these meetings help build trust, drive accountability, support development, and actively reduce turnover. Employees with infrequent one-on-ones are 1.4x more likely to say they are currently looking for a new job, and when compared to employees with less frequent conversations with their managers, those with at least weekly one-on-ones: 

• Express more trust in senior leaders at their organization
• Feel more comfortable bringing up problems and tough issues with their managers
• Are more frequently motivated to go above and beyond their role
• Are more inspired by the work they do
• Better understand their contributions and how they help drive the company’s overall goals 

Quality one-on-ones give people leaders uninterrupted time with their employees throughout the week. This time helps managers learn important information about their people, such as their primary goals, challenges, and unique strengths. And when managers use this information to create opportunities for employees, you’ll help them increase their overall effectiveness.

Measuring manager effectiveness

To make well-informed investments in manager enablement, it is essential to first assess the current effectiveness of your managers and identify areas of success as well as challenges and opportunities for improvement. Establishing baseline metrics is a crucial step in creating a strategic plan, and implementing ongoing measurement and improvement mechanisms is equally important. Here are some metrics to consider when measuring manager effectiveness.

Turnover and retention by manager

High turnover on a team can signal a number of problems, including ineffective management. When we surveyed 1,000 managers and 1,000 employees for the 2023 Manager Effectiveness Report, 52% of employees reported leaving a company because of unsupportive management. The survey also found that 56% of employees believe having a good manager is one of the most critical factors for staying at their company. Addressing manager effectiveness is crucial to tackling regrettable turnover.

Employee engagement by manager

Team engagement scores are based on employee engagement survey results. For the most reliable metrics, choose an engagement survey that focuses on employees’ psychological state and well-being and includes manager-specific questions. You should be able to slice and dice your data by team so you can tie employee engagement metrics back to specific managers.

Team performance metrics

Effective managers prioritize work and define measurable objectives that their direct reports or team want to achieve. Team goal completion percentage reflects how effectively a manager has guided and coached their team to meet long-term goals. A low completion percentage can indicate that team members are performing below standards. A continuous low completion percentage can also suggest that the manager sets unrealistic goals or expectations.

Performance review results

Performance review results of a manager’s team members are an excellent way to measure a manager’s effectiveness. These results provide valuable insights into how well a manager is leading, guiding, and supporting their team. When team members consistently achieve their performance objectives and demonstrate growth and development, it’s often indicative of effective leadership and coaching from their manager. Positive performance review results can signify that the manager has set clear expectations, provided necessary resources and support, and communicated effectively with their team. These reviews offer a direct reflection of a manager’s ability to motivate, empower, and lead their team toward success, making them a crucial tool for evaluating and improving managerial effectiveness.