If you want to test a man’s character, give him power. – Abraham Lincoln
Surely enough, the quote above rings a bell instantly if we think about leadership and their influence in companies. Let’s expand on it by imagining a company in a food industry whose key element in their employer branding strategy is spreading empathy and good well-being across all of their employees. We have one employee who works as a cashier in one of the restaurants, Mark, who loves working with people and has a good enough ability to deal with a lot of customers at once. His performance is top-notch and we can describe him as an exemplary employee. He’s been feeling down recently because he’s upset by his line manager Paul. Paul rarely ever gives him any feedback and when he does, he’s colder than he’s supposed to be even by common sense norms, let alone abiding by the company’s agenda. This keeps on going for a brief period of time until Mark finally decides to quit. The HR department does a quick peek into an exit interview with him and finds out that the only reason he quit was the attitude his superior showed towards him.
This is why good line managers are important if a company wants to build a stable and sustainable business. Sounds simple, right? Just find the ones who are good and we’re set. Except no, not nearly easy enough. Finding good managers who will successfully drive and instill the company’s mission and vision while being empathically invested in their employees is one of the main challenges companies face today.
What makes a good (or bad) line manager
On the surface, this is quite easy to answer. You need a person who will be able to perform in the company’s best interest as well as being able to lead their employees in the most effective way. But as always, this is easier said than done. If we crack that sentence in just two parts, what does performing in company’s best interest or leading their employees mean? First, you need a manager who shares the same views and values that the particular company is trying to project. In the above scenario, Paul wasn’t the person who wanted to portray the company’s value in terms of well-being and spreading empathy. He was completely opposite of it but was the first in the hierarchy who had the means to try and paint the picture to Mark as to what the company is all about. Expanding on the company’s purpose and goal will create better turnover amongst employees. Second, incidentally, as Mark was directly under Paul, he had a chance to create loyalty in his employee by just providing good feedback and adequate professional courtesy. We scratched the surface, but if we put the managers’ attitude in general on the site, what about their expectations in terms of employees’ competencies?
More than once, I witnessed a line manager wanting a candidate who had it all right from the beginning. A complete experience needed for the position without too much hassle of additional training. Obviously, as recruiters, we know how rare that is on the labour market and no matter how much you try and communicate the information across, there will always be higher-than-standard expectation. What that means in a nutshell is that the line manager with that kind of attitude has no desire of instilling their knowledge and coaching their prospective candidates in the future. Coaching is the keyword here and every manager should become familiarized with the term because of its importance. It has become really important because it heavily influences the onboarding process and their future performance in the companies which in turn affects the hidden costs of the entire business. Not only that, but we also have to pay attention to the generation aspect, such as Millennials and younger. Newer generations need much more attention and social calibration which requires the extra effort on managers’ part.
Aside from the questionable attitude and top-tier expectations, line managers also have to have a structured approach in terms of career path and performance management when it comes to their employees, especially if we’re talking about higher and more complex positions. They should make sure that they communicate what their particular employee can achieve in terms of career success, how to potentially get there and how to measure their performance on that path. Regular feedback is a must and should be incorporated in a week-to-week basis. It creates a good work ethic and maintains a healthy relationship between them.
The key factor is communication
All of the above points to a single factor which is the key connecting everything and that is communication. A recent study shows that if we don’t count the wage, the next most important thing to employees is undoubtedly communicating and communicating well amongst the colleagues and their superiors. It does make sense in the end because we do spend 1/3 of the day at work and we are social creatures deep in our core. If a manager is a good communicator, the above points will be met quite easily with a particular employee. They will provide feedback in a timely manner, they will monitor and instill the company’s value in their employees, they will make sure the employees know where they’re heading in terms of their career progress and most importantly, they will provide them with enough empathy so an employee wouldn’t want to leave the company.
A manager’s attitude will highly impact the company’s business outlook in the end. How they act and perceive their employees will reflect on their performance and their future in or outside of the organization. A business shouldn’t lose the human aspect, not entirely, especially in today’s times when the level of stress is at all time high and people need more support than ever. A good balance of everything just might reach that goal a company set its eyes on.