Is employee development the most overlooked management function?

Let me say at the outset that I am convinced that management is not an easy task. As I have already written for Forbes, doing the job well requires a diverse skill set. Depending on the circumstances, a good manager must sometimes be a psychologist, coach, police officer, accountant, diplomat … among many others.

That said, despite the multiple challenges of the position, there is ample evidence – with national studies showing that seven in 10 employees work in various states of disengagement – that too often a job is not done well, with managerial functions. important systematically ignored and neglected.

Gallery: 10 Powerful Ways to Empower Your Employees

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As a result, here is my pick for “Most overlooked management function”, along with a few close finalists. As this is a purely personal ‘reward’, based more on opinion than data (although there is some supporting evidence is provided), I will also be interested to hear the opinions of readers on this topic.

My winner (or loser, depending on how you look at it), as you might have figured out from the headline, is:

Employee development: Employee development is the classic example of a management function that is both highly valued and neglected. For busy managers, who usually have too much to do in too little time, this is a very easy task to postpone indefinitely in the future … because it is extremely difficult to calculate the return on investment. And in a lean-and-mean environment where resources are perpetually stretched, functions without a clear return on investment are usually functions that don’t get performed. Yet studies in harvard business review and elsewhere show that meaningful development activities are highly valued by high-potential talent, and that the absence of such activities fuels unwanted premature departures. This fits perfectly with my own management experience: the lack of development opportunities was a frequent frustration of employees, while thoughtful development and training has always been a highly valued retention factor.

There are, however, other “neglected” contenders worthy of the name; here are four.

Employee recognition: My days in management have taught me that you can advocate for employee “recognition” (or lack of it). In the two and a half decades of employee surveys I have participated in, only one management issue has repeatedly come up as a pain point in all of them: recognition. Employees never felt like they had enough. This is not to say that managers should blindly give recognition when it is not deserved (as this only undermines the credibility of management), but it does not make sense to withhold it when it is. truly is deserved. Something as simple and free as a few words of heartfelt, informal praise, for example, costs nothing but can mean a lot to those who receive it.

Responsibility: This may seem like a surprising choice for inclusion on this list, as managers are more often accused of being unfairly hard than unfairly easy. There is, however, a big difference between haphazard authoritarianism and strong results-oriented leadership. Studies show that many managers, even senior executives, are surprisingly weak when it comes to accountability. An investigation in harvard business review notes that 46% of senior executives were rated poorly on the measure “Hold people accountable – firm when not delivering.” “

Set clear goals and objectives: It is a basic but underestimated function. While often treated as a boring bureaucratic exercise – an annual HR irritant that sadly needs to be addressed! – it actually has a “long tail” with substantial implications for how employee performance is ultimately measured and evaluated. Research shows that more than half of managers do not set effective goals. My personal view is that setting meaningful, measurable and mutually agreed upon goals is worth no matter how much time managers spend on it.

Communication: Simply put, I have never met a good manager who was not also a good communicator. Open and transparent communication is fundamental to good management, and studies show that it is an essential part of employee engagement. Yet the reality is that many managers are reluctant communicators at best. I am convinced that part of the problem stems from the way managers are generally chosen: promoted to the position of the best technical specialist in a department. This does not mean that individuals promoted in this way can never be good managers; sure they can. However – and this is a big deal – it should always be borne in mind that interpersonal skills more than technical skills (think psychologist, trainer, police officer, etc., as stated at the start) are what the job demands. most.

Thoughts? I look forward to hearing the ideas and perspectives of readers …

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Victor is the author of The Type B Manager: Leading Successfully in a Type A World.