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Without Management Standards Your Company Doesn't Know What It's Doing

Businesses need a concrete set of expectations to which every manager is held accountable.
Without Management Standards Your Company Doesn't Know What It's Doing
Image credit: Caiaimage | Tom Merton | Getty Images
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There’s an old saying in business: If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it. When it comes to improving the effectiveness of an organization’s managers, many companies struggle to distinguish the good, the bad and the ugly. After all, how do you objectively assess a manager’s ability to "get to know their people" or "have difficult conversations?" These are big concepts that don’t lend themselves to convenient metrics, but they’re essential to effective management.

A universal and urgent challenge.

It doesn’t matter how big or small your organization is, what industry you’re in or at what stage of growth. The difficulty of assessing manager competence is universal. According to recent data from Wakefield Research and Grovo, 84 percent of middle managers believe their company needs a better way to evaluate manager ability.

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This is especially relevant in today’s talent-centric economy. As the health of our organizations becomes increasingly dependent on the engagement of our workforce, it’s clear we need more reliable ways to assess how managers impact the day-to-day working conditions of our people.

The problem with employee surveys.

That’s not to say companies aren’t trying to address the problem. It’s common practice to collect qualitative data on a manager’s performance by surveying their direct reports. While this is helpful, the feedback is too subjective to reliably compare one manager’s performance with his or her fellow managers at scale.

Plus, while most organizations give managers training or learning resources that provide general guidance, it’s impossible to tell which techniques and tactics each manager is actually using on the job -- and how well.

Bad management, big price tag.

With no clear benchmark for what constitutes good management, an organization leaves itself vulnerable to bad managers rising in the ranks. Of the managers we surveyed, 76 percent believe ineffective managers in their organization are frequently rewarded or promoted.

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You might be thinking yes, but are they making the company money with their decisions? Maybe. But at what cost? Half of employees who quit their jobs leave because of a bad boss, according to Gallup. As the job market rebounds and top talent enjoys greater opportunity, we need a better way to ensure our managers are performing at a baseline level across the board.

To raise the standard, set the standard.

One simple, powerful way to immediately elevate the quality and consistency of management performance throughout your organization is to create a set of management standards -- a concrete set of expectations to which every manager is held accountable.

In the same way that brand standards dictate a color palette to a designer, or coding standards dictate naming conventions to an engineer, management standards take guesswork out of the equation, informing every manager at the organization what to do, and when.

These standards codify behaviors around key manager responsibilities like one-on-one meetings, onboarding new staff, and communication of team goals. For example, committing time to weekly 1:1 meetings, providing consistent and focused feedback, asking for regular feedback from direct reports, and scheduling weekly team meetings are all behaviors that speak to a whether a manager is dedicating time to their team on a regular basis. Similarly, when gauging manager preparedness for new hires, behaviors include creating a schedule for a new hire’s first week on the job, determining and assigning onboarding training, introducing a new hire to relevant stakeholders and employees at the company, and providing role clarity with a roadmap of short and longer term goals.

Importantly, these standards are completely binary: you’ve either done them or you haven’t. There is no room for interpretation. Not only do they articulate what should be done, when, and how often, but ideally, they also link out to related learning resources. Everything is spelled out. This puts every manager on the same page and makes it easy for the organization to determine who is living into the standard and who is not.

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A simple idea, often overlooked.

If this idea seems simple, that’s because it is. But that doesn’t mean it’s the norm. You’d be surprised at how many organizations don’t take the time to precisely articulate what they expect from their managers. If your organization is already doing this, bravo! You’re a step ahead of the pack. If you haven’t, now’s your chance.

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