Line Managers are the key to employee experience

For all the clever stuff that HR folks think they can do in developing people policies and processes, it’s actually the line manager who is key to putting these into practice and delivering the compelling employee experience that will set an organization apart. That because it’s the interactions with their line manager that set the tone for employee experience for most of our people. It’s been said many times but remains true that people leave managers not organizations.

Unfortunately, we also know that many line managers find themselves under increasing pressure as their responsibilities expand and often, it’s the people management responsibilities that are neglected. Flatter structures, hybrid teams, raised expectations around speed of response, new business tools and processes to master and more self-service functions to cope with all add up to increased demands on line managers.

So how do we square this circle and ensure line managers are the people leaders we need them to be, retaining and engaging their teams and sustaining the inclusive work environment where people can fully contribute?

Clearly there’s the potential for a book, video, lecture tour and all the trimmings (sign me up!) on this challenging subject, not just a short blog. However, there are some simple and clear places to start:

  1. Put the right people into line manager roles. Too often we promote technical experts into people management roles they are unsuitable for because it is the only available way to pay them more. Solve that problem with a separate technical career path but select line managers with the potential and aspiration to lead others.
  2. Train line managers, not just in leadership skills but also to use the organization’s people processes effectively. Just as importantly, coach them to understand and buy into the employee experience vision that these are intended to deliver.
  3. Make sure effective people management outcomes are included in the measures of performance for line managers. it is surprising how few people performance KPIs are included in the appraisal of most line managers given this is so critical to their role. If it’s not flagged as important in performance and reward discussions, it’s far less likely to be a focus for managers.

There is a lot more to be said about setting up line managers to be successful, not least about simplifying processes (including HR!), removing administrative burdens and empowering them to do their roles, but these three actions should be a part of any plan to do so.

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