Why Make Managers A Strategic Priority?

Guest post from Larry Sternberg and Kim

would your organization be like if every employee had a great manager? What
happen to productivity, quality, morale and customer satisfaction? In
every organization, managers are a key leverage point to drive higher
performance and better business results. Managers maintain service and quality
standards and ensure adherence to company policies and regulatory requirements.
They also 
drive engagement and retention of employees.

influence at least 75 percent of the reasons people give for voluntary job turnover, and they account for 70
percent of variance in employee engagement. The impact managers have on turnover and
engagement go straight to the organization’s bottom line. Turnover costs range
from 48 to 61 percent of an employee’s annual salary, and disengaged employees
cost organizations $3,400 for every $10,000 in salary.
difficult to overstate the impact a great manager can have on organizational
performance. However, organizations often under invest in their selection and
training. In fact, in many organizations, the best front line employee (e.g. best
nurse, best waiter, best carpenter) is promoted as the next manager.
Furthermore, in many cases, the new manager receives zero training. One day
the person is an hourly employee, and the next day they’re managing their
former coworkers. Sound familiar?
the process for identifying and training new managers presents a low-risk, high
return, strategic opportunity to improve organizational performance. Here are
specific steps you can take to make managers a strategic business
First, change your selection criteria.
the impact of managers starts with changing your selection criteria. Performing
with excellence as a manager requires very different talents than performing in
an hourly employee role. Therefore, excellent individual performance is not a
good basis for promoting someone to a management role. Instead, look for an
employee who naturally exhibits these behaviors and attitudes.

1.  Takes
. This particular combination of behavior
and attitude is fundamental to everything else and should be a ticket to
admission for promotion to manager. Who sees ways to help, to improve things,
to add value — and takes action?

 Improves Morale. 
This should also be required. Who has a strong positive attitude and positively impacts the attitudes of
others? Things feel better in the department when this person is working. He or
she encourages others to maintain positivity and optimism in the face of

 Helps Other Employees. 
notices when another team member could use some help and just spontaneously
moves in to help them?  This person might
reach out proactively to help you as well.

 Teaches Other Employees. 
naturally shares knowledge, expertise and new learning to help other people do
their jobs better – and really enjoys that kind of teaching?

 Generates Ideas For Improvement. 
Who always sees ways to make things function more
effectively — and then speaks up? This might be annoying sometimes, but it’s a
sign of management talent.

 Demonstrates Leadership.
sees that something needs to be done, asks others to pitch in and gets results? This goes beyond simply
taking initiative. The key is in asking
and getting them to pitch in.
Again, it’s natural.

While not an exhaustive
list, it’s a great start to finding people with the natural talent to be
managers. And it’s much better than just choosing the top performer in the
current role. In fact, your best management candidate might NOT be the best
performer in the department. The person with the highest potential to be a great
supervisor or manager might be just average as a waiter or sales associate. If
you see these attitudes and behaviors, if you see an employee who does these
kinds of things without being asked … that’s the person you should
consider for promotion to manager.
provide appropriate training.
next step in making sure every employee has a great manager is to create a
training program. Once you have identified future managers, put them into a
training program. You and your colleagues should make a list of the skills and
knowledge needed to be a great manager in your organization. Possible items
might include:
  • Union contracts
  • Wage and hour law
  • Scheduling work
  • Inventory
  • Company and departmental policies
  • Coaching and counseling
  • Ordering supplies
  • Train the trainer
Whatever is on your
list, new managers will operate with a much higher level of confidence when you
train them beforehand, rather than just saying, “Congratulations, here’s your
desk.” By the way, how much easier would your
life be if every employee had a great manager?

Final step: Hold managers accountable.
companies are keenly aware of the importance of employee engagement. Many
conduct periodic engagement surveys, form teams to address issues identified by
those surveys and implement improvement strategies recommended by those teams.
That is a costly, time-consuming process. And despite those kinds of efforts,
engagement survey scores do not seem to improve materially year over year.
There is a better way to improve your
engagement scores. Focus on your managers.
you analyze data on engagement and voluntary turnover, you are likely see the
Pareto Principle in action – 80% of your low engagement or high turnover is
attributable to 20% of your managers.
solution is to remove the poor managers and replace them with great managers.
This solution is not easy or pleasant. It might require you to alter
performance evaluation criteria to hold managers accountable for engagement
scores and voluntary turnover. It might require you to replace some managers

seniority. The alternative is to ignore
the reality that certain poor managers are causing most of the disengagement
and voluntary turnover. Replacing them with great managers will improve all
your metrics, and improve them rapidly.
on managers presents a low-risk, high return, strategic opportunity to improve
organizational performance. You can do this by adopting better selection
criteria and by providing better training. Parting company with poor managers
and replacing them with highly talented managers will bring rapid improvement
in engagement and turnover, translating to better financial results.

Larry Sternberg is the co-author to Kim Turnage of the new book MANAGING TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE: How To Engage, Retain & Develop Talent For Maximum Performance. Sternberg is a senior executive at management consulting firm Talent Plus. For more information please visit www.ManageToMakeADifference.com.