Managers Find it Difficult to Have a Conversation on Informal Issues

According to a recent research, HR leaders say managers are less confident while having a conversation on informal issues. They are, however, found to be more comfortable discussing formal, process-driven issues with their employees. According to OpenBlend research, HR leaders are less confident in managers’ ability to hold effective conversations around informal issues compared with more formal topics such as objective-setting and development. Overall, HR respondents indicated a ‘medium’ level of confidence in managers’ ability to talk about formal issues, however for more informal matters such as employee well-being and flexible working, confidence levels were significantly lower.

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The research study, which involved 20 in-depth interviews with senior HR leaders between January and April 2022, was commissioned by OpenBlend. OpenBlend is a platform for effective conversations at work – and suggests managers need more guidance on how to broach and discuss the informal issues that have an increasing impact on employee performance in the new world of work.

Most notably, the research revealed a key correlation between high manager confidence and high organizational performance. Findings showed that the more confident a business is in its managers’ ability to have those grassroots conversations, the more likely it is to exhibit high organizational performance.

Commenting on the research study, Anna Rasmussen, Founder & CEO at OpenBlend, said – “Inevitably, managers will feel more comfortable talking about certain topics over others but if we neglect the human side, the data clearly shows that business performance will suffer. If the business can communicate the importance of enabling broad conversations that focus not just on objective-setting, but on well-being and the employee’s relationship with work, managers will become instrumental in helping to create the associated performance gains.”

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In line with this, the research also confirmed that creating an ecosystem of seven specific influences offers the best means of enabling individuals to perform at their best. These factors cover both traditional, process-driven elements as well as the “softer” themes which recognize the importance of the individual. They include:

  1. My Delivery Expectation – does the employee have clarity of expectations and realistic deliverables?
  2. My Self – is the employee able to bring their authentic selves to work, and does the organization care about their well-being?
  3. My Interaction with Work – is there a tailored and flexible working pattern that suits the individual employee’s schedule and circumstances?
  4. My Manager – does the employee receive regular coaching and feedback from their manager, and do they feel like their manager cares about them?
  5. My Purpose – does the employee understand the vision, purpose, and objectives of the organization and how their contribution supports these?
  6. My Development – do they have access to relevant training, development, and career advice?
  7. My Tools – do they have the right software and technology to support their performance?

These seven dimensions were identified as being essential to performance enablement, yet the research revealed that the provision of these enablers is also dependent on one other critical factor: the manager. In this way, the research study reveals a new and scientific formula for performance success: PE = 7D x M (performance enablement = the seven dimensions x the manager’s ability to support them).

Talking about this formula – and the role of the manager in tying each of these seven enablers together, Rasmussen added, “The notion that a manager should care not just about their employee’s delivery and capabilities, but also their welfare, is central to the delivery of nearly all these factors.

“The pandemic has changed our world of work forever. This research maps out a DNA of performance enablers – a set of guidelines we can use to navigate these challenges. What hasn’t changed is the importance of that crucial manager-employee relationship, and the honesty and clarity that each needs to give to the other. There may be more to talk about now, but the point remains the same: the more we know about what the other needs, the better we can help each other.”

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