Managers underperform when managing underperformers

Employers need to do more to help their managers motivate poorer-performing staff, according to research by consultants Watson Wyatt.

“Managers find it easy to manage top-performing employees but are not so adept when it comes to improving poorer performers,” said Carole Hathaway, a senior consultant at Watson Wyatt. “Some of the greatest opportunities for improved organisational performance lie in helping managers raise the bar for moderate and poorer performers but it appears from our study that few employers are doing a good job of this.”

In its 2007/2008 Global Strategic Rewards study, a Europe-wide study involving over 5,500 employees and 175 companies, Watson Wyatt found that a top performer was 66 per cent more likely to say that their immediate supervisor does a good job of communicating organisational and performance management issues than a poor performer would.

The survey found that only a third of poor performers were able to say that their immediate manager does a good job of communicating expectations for organisational financial performance, that their manager does a good job of establishing goals for their individual performance that are linked to business objectives, or that their immediate manager does a good job of providing direct feedback on their individual performance. Moreover, less than 30 per cent could agree that their immediate manager does a good job of linking organisational performance to rewards or of linking their individual performance to rewards.

“It could be that managers need more support in understanding how to communicate with all their staff, not just the more motivated stronger performers,” said Carole Hathaway.

“Employees perform better if they have a clear understanding of their organisation’s goals and what they can personally do to contribute towards these. So setting good objectives and getting performance management communication right, especially for the weaker members of a team, is of vital importance.”

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