Why have we become such crappy managers?

Just outsource them all...

The recent post entitled “Can we ever get back to the thinking workforce” focused on the poor work habits that have infiltrated many of today’s workers to create a dearth of analytical thinkers for our organizations.  However, one critical aspect we overlooked during the excellent discussions, was centered on how our corporate managers have allowed this to happen.

As if by magic, I was presented with a new survey carried out by Kelton Research, on behalf of  talent management SaaS provider, Cornerstone OnDemand, which canvassed views of 494 employed Americans over the age of 18.  It’s clear that the very attitude and approach towards talent management has shifted radically in recent years.

What stands out for me are five main aspects:

1) Managers are not being developed or trained property to nurture and develop our talent;

2) Over half of employees today are taking a short-term view of their current employment;

3) HR has become a forgotten function in the business when it comes to aligning employee performance with objectives;

4) Corporate leaders are losing interest in developing their own talent, and looking for “silver bullet” hires;

5) This short-term attitude towards talent management is surely increasing the value proposition of partnering with sourcing providers.  If they can fill your talent gaps quickly and inexpensively, then why bother developing your own?

So let’s take a closer look…

While employees still, by and large, know how their jobs contribute to the business objectives (56%), barely a third feel their performance goals are aligned with their organizations’ objectives, or are managed or trained adequately.

Question: Are managers simply too busy to devote time to their staff, and are many not being trained in the art of developing their employees’ careers?  And – even more importantly – do many corporate leaders even care?

While more than half the respondents do not view their future with their current employer for longer than a three-year period,  it’s clear the main reason for this is a lack of skilled managerial talent which can motivate and mentor their staff.  Almost half of today’s employees would take a longer view of their current organizational career track, if their manager showed them sufficient development, attention and appreciation.

Question: Employees want to be managed well, so why are so many asking for it?  Have companies forgotten the art of good staff management?  Or have many simply have lost interest in developing their staff?

The Bottom-line:  The “career employee” culture is clearly on the wane, opening the door for deeper sourcing relationships

While we can bemoan the poor progress in talent development, for which an alarming portion of the US corporate sector is now responsible, I believe there is a deeper message in all of this:  not all firms are “dropping the ball”, they simply do not have a vested interest in the future development of many staff, and their management layer doesn’t have the time to train junior staff.  Many have taken the attitude that they can replace poor performers with high-performers, if need be.  Moreover, many are also viewing their sourcing relationships as opportunities to downsize their current workforces (such as the recent Citigroup announcement).

The data also signifies that many organizations are probably already too ill-equipped to become superlative talent development environments, especially in functions that do not create a great deal of competitive advantage for the business… so maybe it’s time for them to look at new ways to manage business functions.  While we haven’t witnessed a rapid burst of outsourcing activity since 2008, it doesn’t mean business aren’t re-aligning their resources and readying for it in the future.  This data suggests they may well be.

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12 Comments

  1. Andrew Wagoner
    Posted December 15, 2012 at 7:52 am | Permalink

    Phil,

    Good observations. I am afraid this is the result of the new “short-term” organization strategy, where it’s all about quarterly earnings, immediate returns and cost-control. Managers are motivated by tangible metrics, not softer returns, such as developing a reputation as a good personnel manager. Organizations are not placing “good management” high up the corporate totem pole these days,

    Andrew Wagoner

  2. Posted December 16, 2012 at 10:26 am | Permalink

    Phil,

    I agree with your point about companies not really caring about their managers “managing”. This has been deteriorating for several years now, and this data simply highlights an alarming trend. We are developing a workforce of poorly trained individuals and managers who only know how to manage up – not down,

    Amanda

  3. Andy Mason
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    A reality check here. Almost begs the question about whether talent development is falling by the wayside. Many companies may feel, in today’s fluid job market, that the ROI is better for hiring experienced staff at, say 30% more salary cost, than investing in trainee programs for graduates. It”s so easy to go on Linkedin etc to find people to fills gaps these days,

    Andy Mason

  4. Phil Fersht
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 8:27 am | Permalink

    @andrew – completely agree. I believe there has been a subtle, but continuous decline in many organizations’ training and development programs over the years, and the 2008 economic crash has exacerbated this trend. Companies focus on what they have with the attitude that poor performers are occasionally replaced. How they are “replaced” is variable – either with staff via an outsourcing relationship, or staff from a captive, or simply a new hire. However we look at it, we’re arriving at the dispensible and flexible workforce.

    PF

  5. Phil Fersht
    Posted December 17, 2012 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    @andy – my fear is for the kids leaving the schools and colleges. Our companies are loaded with mid-career folks and baby boomers, who can fill requisite job slots. Fewer and fewer firms are taking on the junior talent with an eye for the future,

    PF

  6. Posted December 18, 2012 at 12:16 pm | Permalink

    We have passed the age of developing career within a single organization. People join, learn and leave. Returns are being looked upon on a very short term scale as pointed out by Andrew. Those who start with some fire also aims on becoming an acquisition target down the line after a few years, be it individuals or corps. Maintaining an impressive verbose profile on linkedin is considered more important then spending time thinking about a real solution.

  7. Bob Cunningham
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 5:45 am | Permalink

    Being at a career crossroads myself, I have recently been re-reading my ‘all-time’ favourite business book, ‘Good to Great’ by Jim Collins.

    The findings of this survey resonate precisely with my own experience in large organisations in the UK in recent years, and are truly depressing.

    Equally, Collins principal findings chime strongly with my experience of working for great companies, what makes them great and great places to work.

    If Collins and his team revealed some persistent truths about human behaviour in corporate settings, the importance of ‘Level 5′ leadership and getting the ‘right people on the bus’ seem to be paramount. I wonder, then, where the great organisations of tomorrow are going to come from if leadership/managerial behaviour is such that we are not laying the foundations for tomorrow’s success?

    I am grateful that I am not starting out on a managerial career today.

  8. Diana d'Ambra
    Posted December 21, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Permalink

    Lets assume we are in the process of training, or perhaps not training, the next generation of managers so they are even worse than we are, that is, your crappy managers. And, part of the answer is to outsource more.

    This makes two assumptions: first the outsourcing firm is better at managing than we are, which I am not sure has been proven, and second, we still have enough talent left in our firms to properly manage the outsourcing relationship.

    As so much of the latest research has shown, you can not overemphasize the importance of good communication, governance and relationship management in sourcing. So, first, it is unclear that the outsourcer are better at cultivating managers, or I have not seen anything showing they are. And even if they are, it takes two to tango. There is no way around needed good managers on “our” side of this, so the problem is broader and deeper than portrayed.

  9. Posted December 22, 2012 at 2:20 am | Permalink

    Almost all comments tend to agree and despite that there are/must be some organizations that are trying hard to do things differently, the reality is that it is more of an exception and so few folks have pointed any such examples that may show a reverse trend. The reference to training & development, to outsourcing being a fix etc ; somehow not convinced, these are all part of the picture sure but agree with Diana that this trend is very consistent across and the root of the problem goes deep.

    I suspect this is one situation that can be easily spotted by looking at the data and yet may not be easy to explain all the reason/s that led to this- we need a good well thought hypothesis and then validation… what led to this? Was it mostly because the past decade was about velocity, short-term strategy (driven by quarterly focus), here and now and the future workforce will take care of itself, we always have options etc. kind of thinking?

    What does the “new normal” bring, this age of uncertainity hold for organizations? Looking into the past does not always foretell the future, maybe the wheel will turn full circle at some point – at the core all organizations are human organizations, people matter and so things could just take a new turn as large organization rethink their people strategy and begin to invest back in and also demand more of their managers.

    Thank you for calling attention to these important issues via the recent couple of posts in your blog here.

    Manish

  10. Posted December 22, 2012 at 12:58 pm | Permalink

    Phil,

    Good timely post!. Let us not forget the fact that sourcing companies themselves will be facing the same challenge as their sources!. So, it travels…a bank or manufacturing company outsources to an outsourcer. The outsources may delegate to sub-contractor…The sub-contractor to a hiring company.. Hiring company to LinkedIn or whatever…the buck doesn’t really stop anywhere…it just travels…

    Unless Quarterly thinking attitude changes, this is not going to change…

  11. Tom Jack
    Posted January 29, 2013 at 7:03 am | Permalink

    Owners of capital and their managers have created the workforce they deserve. Maybe it is time to realign corporate goals with the overall goals of society: economic stability, reasonable transparency, investing in the wise development of human capital, and being better stewards of the environment. I am amused by the question on on line job applications, “Reason for leaving”
    What do HR people expect job seekers to say; that there previous boss was a poor developer of talent? HR and their firms force applicants into generic, boilerplate answers. Even if they hire “silver bullet” employees, what “silver bullet” employee is going to stick around at a mediocre firm?
    It takes greater effort and even greater courage to develop people into performers and winners, but the journey toward that goal and the ultimate destination help develop both the bosses and the HR minions into better people.

  12. Posted February 1, 2013 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

    I would have to agree wholly with Tom Jack about a realignment of corporate goals and for overall society. I have been roaming around on the internet today, because yet again I am concerned about the welfare and future of my children. It seems to be a recurring subject over and over how corporations or mistreating their employees.

    My husband who is a manager for a large corporation and only makes $30K a year salary is one of those mistreated. He has barely had any managerial training, other than his own work experience. When he wants to hire new people he is pushed away and has to stretch his current workforce so the quarter percentages can rise. Then the executives push lower store costs constantly and rearrange their systems to reflect positive growth which is not based on sales. He is told to write up employees constantly so they can be forced to ‘resign’ their positions before being fired especially if they want pay raises or complain about pay. We have 3 children and I graduated with my Bachelors a year ago, but no job as of yet, and we have now had to apply for foodstamps. A manager of a company and we are on foodstamps. Really? We don’t even own a cell phone. We own our cars. We don’t do much extra entertainment and we have fun as a family. We are not asking for more money. The top executives of this company take home $1 million a year in actual pay plus $2.5 million in bonus compensation.

    Are these humans beings? Do they not see what they are causing by taking in the majority of pay? Why can’t they ask for less and allow prices to fall so my husband can actually support his family off of his salary. Why must they raise profits constantly? Do they really have to grow bigger and take over more small businesses? Why must people fear the future and put money into stocks where they are taking my husbands lively hood so they can make money without the necessity of effort?

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  1. [...] The recent post entitled 'Can we ever get back to the thinking workforce' focused on the poor work habits that have infiltrated many of today's workers to create a dearth of analytical thinkers for our organizations.  [...]

  2. [...] The recent post entitled 'Can we ever get back to the thinking workforce' focused on the poor work habits that have infiltrated many of today's workers to create a dearth of analytical thinkers for our organizations.  [...]

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    [...] of which leads me back to something Phil Fersht wrote leading up to the holiday season: Why have we become such crappy managers? He makes the point [...]

  4. [...] of which leads me back to something Phil Fersht wrote leading up to the holiday season: Why have we become such crappy managers? He makes the point [...]

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