Weekly Wrap: Employees Don’t Think Much of Their Manager’s Skills

I love people who aren’t afraid to stand up and speak their mind (yes, that means you Laurie Ruettimann). And that’s why this survey of British employees is interesting to get into.

According to new research from employee survey specialist ETS , “almost half of the workers sampled (43 percent) felt that they are better people managers than their own boss and 23 percent say that management standards are getting worse. Furthermore, nearly a quarter of employees (22 percent) don’t think their boss has adequate people management skills.”

Surprised? I’m not. In fact, the only surprise to me here is that only 43 percent of workers felt they could do a better job managing than their supervisor. That seems a little low from what I have heard out of employees in the workplace.

No surprise: Employees want more feedback

The survey also found that despite the fact that 91 percent of employees said that it would be valuable  for managers to receive formal feedback from direct reports, “just 42 percent … are currently invited to provide (it) to their manager as part of their appraisal or through 360-degree feedback. Asked to highlight what single thing would improve the quality of management where they work, almost half of employees (45 percent) picked clear, honest communication from managers.”

This just goes to show (again) something that every manager on both sides of the Pond should already know: employees are desperate for more feedback about their work, and that no matter how much you are giving to them now, it probably isn’t enough.

Hannah Stratford, Head of Business Psychology at ETS, spoke to this in a press release about the survey, saying: “Line managers play a crucial role in the success of any business by driving the performance level of teams. One problem is that often high-performers are promoted into management positions without the skills, desire or support to manage a team.”

She added: “Communication skills and the ability to provide constructive feedback are widely recognised as key development areas for managers. Companies that fully understand the importance of a manager’s role in driving performance prioritise training and development to help managers be more effective.”

I wish there was more about this survey online (here is the press release talking about it), but ETS says that it comes from an opinion poll of 500 employees working in HR and was carried out in May 2012. Despite the lack of more complete data, I think we can draw a couple of conclusions from this research.

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Two obvious conclusions

No. 1 is the obvious — that managers need to provide much more feedback to workers than they are now. This is getting to be an easier proposition given the proliferation of performance management systems out there (and I just saw a slick new one from ADP at the Total Rewards conference that looks pretty promising), but the trick now is to get more organizations to invest in them and bring the performance appraisal process into the 21st century. Anyone still using paper forms and once-a-year sit down reviews might as well as be riding in a horse-drawn buggy for all the good it’s doing them.

The No. 2 conclusion I get from this survey is no less obvious but seems to be ignored: that workers not only want a lot more performance feedback, but they are dismissive of their managers when they don’t get it. To me, this explains the 43 percent who feel they could do a better job than their current boss. Give more feedback and that number could easily be cut in half, if not more.

Feedback and communication are at the heart of what being a good manager is all about, but all too many organizations don’t take it seriously. If you take the time to ask about it and perhaps do a survey like this one, don’t be surprised when your workers speak their mind and tell you how they really feel.

Yes, more workers are taking vacations

Of course, there’s a lot more going on this week than workers telling how they feel about their managers. Here are some HR and workplace-related items you may have missed. This is TLNT’s weekly round-up of news, trends, and insights from the world of talent management. I do it so you don’t have to.

  • More workers taking vacations. Here’s another sign of our slowly improving economic times: the Kansas City Star reports that, ” In a telling clue that the economy is indeed on an upswing, more workers are taking their vacations. U.S. Department of Labor data showed that in April this year 2.7 million workers were on vacation, nearly double the 1.41 million who took vacation time off in April last year. And according to the BGOV Barometer, a Bloomberg company analysis released Tuesday, the number of workers on vacation over the last 12 months jumped 4 percent, the biggest rise since 2006.”
  • Coping with a boring  job. Sometimes, graduates who have just entered the workforce find that the first job is, well, a little bit boring. What to do? According to a newly minted worker writing in The Washington Post, “In those first couple of years, develop transferable skills. This sounds obvious, but all too many first jobs involve grunt work that won’t translate well into other fields. I worked in a major bank but never thought to get assigned to a project that would have taught me about lending practices, a skill that would have helped me now. … (also), set timelines for your next move, and do your best to stick to them. One of the most surprising things I found about entering the professional world is that there are few signposts that mark beginnings and endings; few milestones that help you know when it’s time to move on.”
  • Heavier females have a tougher time finding new work. This story from the Arizona Republic in Phoenix tells us what we probably have already been worrying about: “Based on the ratings, larger women had less chance of being hired. And if they managed to pass that hurdle, they still would have faced lower salaries and limited career progression. … Males weren’t evaluated in the study, which leaves open the question of whether obese men face a similar bias. “Men certainly face discrimination as well, but the research shows that they have to get to a higher weight in order for their weight to be consequential,” said Michaela Null, a doctoral candidate in sociology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.”
  • Best Places to Work in Money Management. Know of a great place to work in money management? Well, my friend Nancy Webman and her staff over at Pensions & Investments are looking to honor the best, and you can nominate your own workplace if you think your organization has the right stuff. To participate, an official in the firm’s HR office must register. Then, Buck Surveys, P&I’s partner in the project, will send employer and employee questionnaires. You can register here, and you’ll also find answers to frequently-asked questions and a copy of the employee survey. But, you need to do it quickly; the registration deadline is June 1.
  •  Kronos Time Well Spent cartoon. Kronos, the company that probably makes your organization’s time-and-attendance systems, publishes a regular Time Well Spent workplace cartoon by Tom Fishburne. From time to time I’m posting them here in the Weekly Wrap.

John Hollon is Editor-at-Large at ERE Media and was the founding Editor of TLNT.com. A longtime newspaper, magazine, and business journal editor, John has deep roots in the talent management space. He's the former Editor of Workforce Management magazine and workforce.com, served as Editor of RecruitingDaily, and was Vice President for Content at HR technology firm Checkster. An award-winning journalist, John has written extensively about HR, talent management, leadership, and smart business practices, including for the popular Fistful of Talent blog. Contact him at johnhollon@ere.net, connect with him on LinkedIn, or follow him on Twitter @johnhollon.