What’s Holding Back Manager Effectiveness, and How to Fix It

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Manager effectiveness is a top priority for HR leaders and executive teams, but research shows organizational support for managers is in decline.

Organizations are facing an unusual set of challenges brought on by the combination of a tight labor market and the widespread expectation of a recession. Companies need to cut costs, enable teams to deliver results more effectively, and keep employees engaged and satisfied, or they risk the very real possibility of losing them. The latest job figures show that the number of employees quitting continues to vastly outnumber those being laid off, with 1.7 job openings for every unemployed person.

To make this happen, organizations are counting on managers. A recent Gartner survey found that manager effectiveness was the top priority of HR leaders going into 2023.

For the new RedThread Research study “Managing Better in 2023,” we conducted a deep dive into the factors that make managers more or less successful in guiding their teams. What we found is likely to serve as a wake-up call for companies: When it comes to the practices that managers themselves engage in to ensure that their work is effective, little has changed in recent years. But when it comes to certain practices that organizations are responsible for — practices to support managers — there has been a marked decline over the past year.

We surveyed more than 700 employees representing a wide range of industries and asked them about how effective their managers are and how things have been evolving within their organizations. We asked respondents to detail various practices that are important for managers to engage in. Using regression analysis, we then identified seven practices that are most important in driving manager effectiveness. (See “Seven Factors Drive Manager Effectiveness.”)

Four of these practices are under the control of managers themselves: treating employees with respect, managing difficult conversations, removing barriers to getting work done, and fostering connections within the team.

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