Written by
Changeboard Team

Published
22 Feb 2010

Are your managers equipped to guide your company out of the recession?

22 Feb 2010 • by Changeboard Team

Employees are unhappy with managers

According to a CIPD report for winter 2010, Employee outlook: emerging from the downturn, job satisfaction has dipped to an all time low this last quarter. At the same time, employees across the public and private sectors remain less positive in their attitudes towards their senior managers.

Many reported that senior managers were unlikely to consult them on important issues, inform them about what was happening in their organisation or provide them with opportunities to feed their opinions upwards. Evidently, this signals a close link between negative attitudes towards management and job satisfaction.

In addition, a recent report from the CIPD Building productive public sector workplaces, which highlights problems in public sector management strategies, makes concerning reading. A warning to the private sector - it has drawn attention to the need for better performance management, conflict management, front line management and absence management at the very least.

Staff retention - key to organisational growth

One of the problems with poor management, in respect of its impact on job satisfaction, is that it induces workers to have little confidence in, or respect for, the people who are in charge of them or the company they work for. This in turn impacts on staff retention.

Indeed, the highest levels of staff turnover are found typically in industries reporting the lowest job satisfaction, such as hotels and catering, transport and other groups. Public sector employees, who have the highest absence rates (9.7 days a year) out of the public, private and third sectors and apparently, some of the worst management strategies according to Building productive public sector workplaces, are the most likely to look at changing their jobs in the next year (42%).

High turnovers of staff, though sometimes beneficial, can lead to problems for companies where skill-sets are scarce, where finding, inducting and training new staff is timely and costly or when a lack of consistency affects service provision.

This is especially true in the care sector. At a time when a countrys recession is drawing to a close, these problems are heightened the organisations with a shortage of staff being unable to respond to market shifts, and subsequently losing out on business to their competitors.

How can management increase staff retention?

Communicate with your employees. Two of the most fundamental qualities associated with strong leadership are communication and interpersonal skills. 

Good communication skills allow managers to convey appreciation of their subordinates and peers, share information and build a rapport with them. 

Effective interpersonal skills are also essential in getting the best from employees; realising their potential as individuals and gaining their cooperation when working as part of a team.

The importance of skills development

Aside from increasing staff retention, government officials highlight the importance of effective leadership in developing staff skills. Equipping managers with the ability to motivate and develop their team, strong leadership skills are also the route to ensuring workers utilise the correct skills in line with the specific objectives of the business.

Training of staff, in particular, is dependent on managers attitudes. While it can only be executed when managers are keen to invest in training courses, it is only when supervisors have the capacity and enthusiasm to support their staff during their training programs that workers can really get something out of the process.

Similarly, should managers implement training programs in fields that are irrelevant to the overall business drivers, training is wasted and newly acquired skills are not put to use. Incidentally, the number of employees who said that their organisation had cut-back on training in response to the recession the CIPD employee outlook report correlated this with a rise in negative attitudes towards management.

The importance of skills development, and thus, more effective leadership, was in fact reiterated by the government as a means of bringing the country out of recession in their recent report Skills for growth: the national skills strategy. Here they state not only that, investing in skills is a vital part of this governments growth plan for economic recovery, but that businesses need to contribute more to shaping demand for skills.

Implementing effective skills training

Balance the abilities of individual employees against the needs of your business.

Some of the best managers today are the ones with a good understanding of all of their employees strengths and weaknesses alongside a clear view of the aims of the business.

Armed with this information, managers can organise the most appropriate training for each individual employee, and develop a solid skills base in time for an economic upturn. Important: Skills development should always include temporary agency workers, as this will encourage temp to perm arrangements and temporary-worker loyalty. 

Delivering a high performance organisation

Part of the role of being a good manager or department leader is to build teams, drive Results and inspire employees to deliver value. It is only by delivering strong, bottom line, employee-performance and increasing business agility that companies can sustain strong levels of productivity. This is important for all businesses.

But as budgets grew tight last year, and more workers were laid off, the pressure to stretch existing resource to the maximum increased massively. Companies could no longer afford the luxury of a full and balanced workforce, and on top of being forced to cut non-essential, back-office roles, they were also compelled to increase the responsibilities and widen the job descriptions of those they kept on.

Thus, the so-called lucky employees were expected to adjust quickly and efficiently to an unfamiliar market, performing more tasks in the same amount of time and with the same level of competence. All this, while remaining motivated and innovative so as to ensure that their company remained ahead of its rivals. 

In light of the relationship between strong leadership, employee performance and commitment and business flexibility, it goes without saying that this also intensified the need for effective management strategies. Indeed, a recent report by the Centre for Creative Leadership went as far as to suggest that good leadership creates a magnet for high-performers, fosters a high-performance organisation, with challenging times magnifying that truth even more.

Maximise employee engagement & reward performance

Reward strong performance and focus on employee strengths so they feel valued within the business.

Getting the best out of employees almost always involves focusing on the positives and in providing constructive feedback regarding employee weaknesses. But during and towards the end of a recession, when office morale is particularly low but it is ever-more important for companies to keep ahead of their competitors, it becomes crucial for managers to step up their game.

Motivation is critical to keep spirits alive and ensure that your workers are ready for a sudden shift in the market. Rewarding good performance will encourage and boost positive attitudes among employees by making them feel valued within the business.

Interim managers - the answer for businesses?

One option which has been pursued by a number of companies to strengthen senior management strategies during the recession has been the use of interim managers.

Interim managers, unlike contract managers or consultants, are often referred to as an unusual breed of leaders, who tend to have a particular skill-set which allows them to filter information and implement change quickly, alongside a short attention span and a chameleonic personality.

The reason they are so appealing to businesses, and particularly, towards the end of a downturn, is because they are ambitious, driven and opportunist, able to go into a business, up-skill existing employees and transfer a wealth of knowledge they have acquired over years of experience. The legacy they leave is without a doubt valuable in driving long-lasting change.

How can interim managers add value?

Of course, some of the Benefits interim managers deliver are more important than others depending on the time-frame. Towards the end of a recession, they are particularly useful in helping companies:

  • improve staff retention
  • increase the company skills base
  • maximise their existing resource
  • identify opportunities for innovation
  • diversify their workforce (proven to create a more harmonious working environment)
  • motivate their employees
  • recognise the Benefits of fresh perspectives and more modern business practices

How to effectively recruit interim managers

Work with a specialist interim management recruitment agency. Recruitment agencies, when properly regulated, can be particularly useful in sourcing new recruits. Due to the very specific nature of interim management, agencies who specialise in this area of recruitment are the most likely to provide the best supply of interim managers.

Important: when using a recruitment agency, ensure you have clear visibility of rates, that you are not being over-charged with high-margins, and that the agency is legally compliant. Monitor performance by implementing formal service level agreements at the beginning of any partnership.