In fact, one of my early posts on talent management boldly asserted that 'the quality of managers is the single most important thing you can get right.'
Periodically I get sidetracked by other HR-related topics but I always have a hard spot in my heart for inept managers.
Which isn't entirely fair because most managers don't set out to be bad managers. It's not the master plan, so to speak. It usually just sort of happens through a combination of stress, neglect and poor communication skills.
This is either a wake up call or a golden opportunity for HR. If talent matters, and surveys tell us that talent is both scarce and pretty disgruntled at the moment, corporate focus will inevitably start shifting to the people who manage that talent.
Mediocre managers will need to evolve into leaders who can inspire people to give their best... and it'll take more than a memo or a KBO to make that happen.
Someone will have to offer managers the same support and leadership that is expected of them. Someone will have to mentor managers and actively measure how effective they are, not just in terms of output and deadlines but also in terms of team performance, engagement and retention.
Remember this: Poor managers tend to be poorly managed themselves.
As more is expected of them, managers will also demand better tools to support their improved management style. Think about it: If you ask a manager to lead a modern global team (multi-generational, multi-cultural, remote, contingent, etc.) then saddle him or her with a cumbersome annual performance management tool or make it really hard to access workforce information from anywhere except an office computer you are failing that manager.
So here are some fun HR projects to consider that will help managers manage better and have the potential to create real business value in 2012:
- Define metrics to measure manager quality today and measure it.
- Put a manager mentoring and development program in place and execute on it.
- Provide managers with better management tools and access to relevant business data.
Did I forget anything? Please, poke holes!