Manager Enablement: Preparing Managers to Improve Employee Performance

August 16, 2018 Greg Long & Rich Bogoslaw

Have you ever thought, “We don’t get anything out of our annual reviews … they often seem to be a waste of time and our employees don’t think they’re accurate.” 

If so, you’re not alone. A recent study by Gallup found that less than one in four employees thinks their manager provides meaningful performance feedback to them — and that only one in five employees feel that their performance is managed in a way that motivates them to do outstanding work. Employees want their managers to engage with them more, but the dialogue in their feedback conversations needs to feel purposeful. They want a clear understanding of what is expected. and how well they are meeting expectations on a routine basis.

Here at Appirio, clients are using their Workday implementation to improve how managers engage with their direct reports to boost overall employee performance. 
As illustrated in our Virtuous Cycle, we believe that engaged workers creates a positive worker experience. Unfortunately, a recent State of the Virtuous Cycle study found that although engagement is considered important,  “most workers remain disconnected from their companies and each other.”

Ultimately, the key to making performance management successful at any company is for managers to adopt an interactive approach with their direct reports. But for this to happen, managers must understand how to engage differently with their direct reports. Appirio’s solution is to improve the overall effectiveness of managers in the talent process. We call this manager enablement.

Manager Enablement solution

Appirio’s Manager Enablement solution applies a blended learning experience to provide managers with the right tools to effectively engage with their direct reports. As a result, reporting employees can maintain an ongoing dialogue with their managers — giving them opportunity to become more productive and engaged. In addition, through ongoing dialogue, managers tune in to their employee’s career aspirations, strengths, and development areas. This personal relationship and knowledge gives managers the chance to coach their staff in a direction that benefits both the employees and the organization — creating a more agile workforce.   
What follows includes some of the key principles to consider when implementing a manager enablement program in your company.

1. Align your manager enablement program with your company’s strategy. 
When considering the vision and objectives of your manager enablement program, it should be in alignment with the top-down strategic vision of your leadership, core values of the organization, and company culture. Without a strong strategic alignment, you risk losing support for the program across the organization. 

2. Identify, define, and assess desired manager capabilities. 
Consider the capabilities you’d like to see in your managers. In the future, do your managers need to know how to be effective coaches? Should managers know how to give performance feedback, or how to use performance management tools? Determine the capabilities that your managers need and the level of understanding that they should possess in each capability. Then, assess your managers to determine where skills gaps exist. 
Instead of taking the time and effort to measure the effectiveness of each individual manager, think about the capabilities of broad groups of managers or personas. For example, managers of your hourly employees, managers of your salaried employees, or managers of your contingent workforce.

3. Use a blended learning approach to upskill your managers. 
After determining where capability gaps exist, build a curriculum for your managers that bridges those gaps, and consider which blended learning approach can most effectively enable your managers. Think beyond instructor-led training, and consider approaches like microlearning. 
To generate some excitement and acceptance by your managers, you might think about building an awards or certification program into your learning approach.

4. Give your managers the tools and techniques that they need to succeed. 
In addition to a positive learning experience, you should equip your managers to succeed with the right tools. 

Enable your managers with user guides (e.g., guide to calibration and the 9-box), short instructional videos (e.g., vignette on how to handle tough conversations with direct reports), and user-friendly and effective tools for documenting and tracking employee performance. 

5. Work with HR and Learning to build manager enablement into your company’s talent management process. 
Consider updating your talent management policies and procedures to formalize manager enablement. Add the new manager capabilities into job descriptions and competency maps, and include manager enablement as part of onboarding and new manager orientation. 
In essence, build manager enablement into your talent process and make it part of “the way we do things around here.”

6. Apply the manager enablement program globally across the organization. 
If you are a large or complex organization, it may make sense to pilot manager enablement within a business unit before rolling it out to the broader organization. Your implementation might even consider rolling out the program in stages, one geography or business unit at a time. But eventually, the way you do performance management ought to be adopted by managers across your organization. It will be a culture change, leading to a culture of engagement, productivity, and communication.

Empowering managers with the right tools can be daunting, especially if your entire program needs a facelift. We’ll be available to answer questions about Manager Enablement at Workday Rising 2018. But don’t wait until September, reach out to Appirio's Workday experts now to get set up on the path to success. You can contact us through our Workday solutions page.

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