Reward managers who help the workforce to shine

By Ben Venter, business partner at The CONFIDANT Group

INVESTING in management effectiveness will yield attractive returns — but only if the intention is to achieve operational effectiveness and build capacity for sustainable growth.

“Plug-in” and “off-the-shelf” solutions will not work. Peter Drucker described management as the ability to convert effort into performance. Managers need to be equipped to do just that.

The training and people-process management skills are available, but successful outcomes depend on transferring the benefits to the workplace. This requires a leadership mind-set that rewards managers who ultimately manage performance and identify, develop and retain high-potential talent.

If the culture of an organisation does not demand management excellence, it will not happen. Culture will reciprocate. Once established, it will shape values and performance.

Equipping managers to control and manage the people process challenges conventional wisdom, which has seen the acquisition of talent, engagement, morale, assessment and reward functions shifted to staff departments.

Whatever the benefits of this solution, it has created an execution vacuum because the manager has been disempowered and the staff department is not accountable. Who carries the can for operational effectiveness?

There is a growing awareness of a leadership blind spot. McKinsey and other studies have lifted the lid on a problem that we cannot afford — that managers are not perceived as having any influence on workforce productivity.

A change in the perception of leaders regarding the role of the manager is a prerequisite for effective management development initiatives. This is a programme that empowers managers to:

• Structure individual roles by identifying the three to five measurable outcomes that are required of the incumbent manager if the plan’s objectives are to be delivered;

• Apply available techniques to convert the required outcomes into talent-based hiring specifications;

• Identify candidates with the talent profile required to deliver the specified outcomes;

• Personalise the management style as a result of understanding individual talents and the resultant work-related behaviours;

• Develop a dashboard of the unit’s capacity to deliver by combining the degree of job suitability and performance of each team member;

• Develop a unit plan designed to leverage the contribution of high performers and reduce the performance drag factor of others;

• Use the dashboard, or capacity grid, to develop specific actions to improve management, individual member and unit performance.

The last three management competencies acknowledge reality in the workplace.

The success of the enterprise finally depends on the performance of the team, department, division or group.

They also focus on the pivotal role of the manager in achieving success.

Building a management corps of excellence is a two-to-three-year leadership challenge. From the outset, however, there are immediate benefits that yield cumulative gains — every percentage point gained in the talent available to talent required ratio has knock-on effects.

An empowered management corps translates into sustainable improvement for the company. It is also an effective response to findings that managers have become underperforming assets who make no contribution to productivity improvement.

Managers who are equipped to manage the people process are well positioned to enable the leadership to integrate the three core processes of the enterprise: the strategic, operations and people processes.

Enterprises that attain this level of organisation effectiveness have the competitive advantage of being in a position to formulate ambitious strategy knowing that they have the capacity to execute.

Published in the Business Day on 30 September 2015.

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