It’s been proven that effective manager-employee relationships fuel productivity, retention, and engagement.
So why are companies spending time and money tracking employees instead of investing in managers who know how to motivate their teams to achieve business results?
New research from performance management platform 15Five reveals there is a disconnect between managers and employees, including differences in leadership, productivity, and expectations between the two groups, as well as how each sees each other.
As per the company’s 2023 Manager Effectiveness Report, productivity tracking software—such as webcam surveillance or data from apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams—is ineffective and even damaging.
15Five surveyed 1,000 employees and 1,000 managers across the United States on productivity tracking, manager effectiveness and training, and career growth and development.
More than one third of managers responded that monitoring had no impact, one-fourth said that it led to employees looking for a new job, and 20 percent acted out or sabotaged the company.
The research reinforces the pressing need for greater communication and transparency between managers and employees.
Productivity tracking has no impact on employee performance
While most managers (68 percent) think productivity tracking software improves performance, nearly three-quarters of employees (72 percent) think it either diminishes performance or has no impact. Twenty-four percent of employees said it improves well-being compared to 45 percent of managers.
One of the startling data points is that nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of managers said they use tracking software to monitor employees; however, only 35 percent of employees report their organisation is using it. In other words, employees don't know they are being spied upon.
"HR departments must strategically create feedback cultures that build trust between the two groups and prioritise the manager-employee relationship," said Jennie Yang, VP of People & Culture at 15Five.
"This would include organisational imperatives around onboarding experiences, regular check-ins and 1-on-1s, career conversations, and performance reviews. Providing managers with software paired with training enables consistency, fairness, and conversations that advance business outcomes."
Increase manager effectiveness to decrease regrettable turnover
More than half of employees (56 percent) cite supportive management or a good boss as one of the most critical factors for remaining at a company.
But only about half of managers have yet to receive training at their current job in critical human skills, including creating a psychologically safe workplace, setting and tracking goals, and conducting a fair and effective performance review.
That deficit shows. Nearly two-thirds of managers are highly confident about their ability to lead, but only about one-third of employees share that confidence in their managers.
The onus is on leadership and HR departments to provide managers with enough time to build strong relationships with employees and coach performance forward. Instead, the survey shows strong evidence that managers are burnt out, with too many direct reports and insufficient downtime.
Over half are managing 10 or more people, and 28 percent have more than 15 direct reports. Almost three-quarters (73 percent) of managers often or very often think about work when off the clock, compared to 42 percent of employees.
"In 2023, manager training and coaching will be paramount, as many organisations have the unique experience of simultaneously reducing their workforces while retaining people and hiring for crucial open roles," said Jon Greenawalt, SVP of Customer Transformation at 15Five.
"According to our research, managers still lack the management skills to drive engagement and performance in the new world of work. This will only become more acute during an economic downturn as employees look to stay put and are asked to do more with less.
Career development and the need for more employee coaching
Employee professional development is elemental to the long-term health of any organisation.
However, there is a clear disconnect around career discussions between managers and employees. When asked whether they've had at least one conversation with their manager about their career vision, only half of employees (52 percent) said "yes,” compared with 85 percent of managers.
While a majority (57 percent) of managers said that their organisation offers clear tracks for advancement, only 36 percent of employees agree. Nearly half of the employees (47 percent) said their organisations didn't provide clear advancement tracks or were unsure if they did.
And more than a third of employees (40 percent) report that they aren’t being offered learning and growth opportunities (such as subject matter training, seminars, guest speakers, leadership training, and online courses).
The strategic alternative to productivity tracking is building a plan that includes select touchpoints between managers and employees, and upskilling managers on how to coach performance and career development forward.
Instead of micromanaging people, HR can put the right structures in place so that there is visibility, and transparency and that people are set up for success. For example, weekly check-in's and regular 1-on-1s keep people on track, and fair and objective performance assessments let them know how they are doing.