Capability, confidence and consistency: the three key elements of manager empowerment

Lizzie Buxton

Written By Yvonne Wilcock, Director of People and Operations, AdviserPlus

23rd September 2019

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As HR focuses on more strategic goals, leaders need to make sure they don’t lose sight of the most important people in effective employee relations: the managers.

The HR agenda is shifting. A role that was once centred on day-to-day employee relations is increasingly taking a strategy-led approach to the ‘people experience’ across the business – which means there’s a renewed focus on how we should empower managers to support employees effectively.

As a former HR director in large corporate organisations, I know this challenge first-hand. We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that managers are the people we’re tasking with bringing our values and people policies to life every day. Though you can’t control exactly how and when they apply your policies, we need to give managers the skills and resources they need to deliver confidently and consistently.

At the end of the day, HR is always accountable. Though managers are the front line of ER delivery, we’re ultimately responsible for how they do it, and for any outcomes from the cases they handle.

It’s that trifecta of capability, confidence and consistency which ensures every employee interaction contributes to a positive work experience – and a balanced combination of all three is the only way to assure quality.

Communicating the value of autonomy

Though the HR function isn’t always as involved in the everyday of employee interactions as it has been in previous decades, that doesn’t make it any less important to the organisation.

What you might struggle with – and I’ve seen this across industries – is a perception issue for managers. Initially, it may be difficult to communicate the value of managers having this employee relations responsibility. Many see it as ‘HR work’, rather than part of their own role.

But there are so many benefits for employees, the organisation, and the managers themselves. Beyond having more autonomy and control over their respective teams, managers can develop new skills, bond with their people, and take a more active role in shaping the future of the business. As hands-on employee relations managers, they can deal with problems – such as repeated absences – more quickly, before they have a chance to become a major issue, and being able to spot and deal with ER issues earlier also supports productivity improvements.

For the rest of the organisation, there’s a major boost in terms of the much sought after employee experience. Managers have a significant influence on the environment you’re providing to new, existing and potential employees – which is vital for acquiring and retaining talent. Engaged people perform better and are willing to offer discretionary effort, plus, there’s an undeniable link between the experience your employees have and the experience they offer your customers; companies with highly engaged employees outperform their competitors by 147%, and frequently have higher customer satisfaction scores.

Supporting the three Cs

The real challenge is ensuring that the combination of capability, confidence and consistency is maintained across all your managers. Your organisation might have the most comprehensive policies in the world, but if they’re not applied fairly or accurately, it doesn’t matter.

What you need, then, is an ecosystem of support, technology and engagement strategies to help managers succeed from the moment they take on the role of managing people. Many companies are good at implementing an initial change – say, the roll out of a new system, or a management training programme – but fall down when it comes to ensuring long-term engagement and in embedding support into interventions for new managers who come on board later.

The systems and procedures you choose need to have visibility and monitoring at their core, so your HR team can be assured policies are being applied the way they should be, new managers are being onboarded correctly, and employees are being supported. This requires connected technology that’s simple and engaging for your managers to use, so they’re always recording their actions and handling cases efficiently and effectively.

That way, you can rest assured that managers are prioritising their people properly and upholding the environment and experience you’re working so hard to create – and you know when to intervene when a manager needs specialist help and support.

The system that works for your organisation might look totally different to another organisation’s – the first step is understanding what your managers might be lacking. Is it capability? Confidence? Consistency? Talk to one of our experts today, and we can help you understand (and remedy) what aspects of ER may be holding back your people experience.

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