The Tools for Fixing Modern Management

By Brett Derricott

Every year, millions of Americans start new jobs—in October alone, the U.S. economy added roughly 128,000 jobs. Unfortunately, inattentive managers and poorly designed line management structures are driving thousands of employees away before they’ve reached their full potential. Businesses are wasting the opportunity to properly develop and retain these new hires, but there are tools and platforms that can improve the employee experience and help them grow. As part of a solid modern management strategy, companies, regardless of size or structure, need to invest in these digital solutions.

Successful and happy business team

Modern workers leave their jobs sooner than previous generations. Many don’t want to, but they often end up feeling they have no choice when their managers don’t engage with them. Currently, managers aren’t dedicating enough attention to their employees’ professional needs.

In a recent Gallup survey, more than half of respondents who left their jobs said their manager or organization could have done something to get them to stay. A majority of employees report not being asked about their job satisfaction or career goals by their employer in the three months before their departure. This lack of individualized attention isn’t entirely the fault of managers—the average manager has nine or more direct reports. That doesn’t excuse the problem, but it shows that the issue won’t be fixed by attending a management best practices seminar.

A cultural and structural shift is clearly necessary, but that will take most companies years of deliberate work. In the meantime, companies can invest in tools that improve management structures and help employees feel heard and respected. There are three simple but effective steps companies should take to solve this workplace problem.

The first is creating a formalized succession plan that includes everyone from executives to lower management. When it comes to modern business management, more than half of all business owners lack a succession plan for the top echelon of their company; even fewer have one for the middle managers who run things on a day-to-day basis. When employees leave, businesses should be able to quickly identify how gaps can be filled, especially if the ex-employee had direct reports. If their direct reports are quickly and seamlessly assigned new managers, it keeps them engaged, rather than working rudderless, without a manager for months. Additionally, employees also get a better idea of their growth potential, assuming they are made aware of the roles they could eventually fill. Upward mobility keeps people interested, and succession planning ensures employees are aware of the career paths available.

The second is building an accessible and easy-to-understand organizational chart. This may seem like a common-sense step, but it’s amazing how properly visualizing a system can help you identify problems. Over the years, a number of my clients have used my company’s org chart software to identify and address problem areas (e.g. managers with too many direct reports, managers whose direct reports kept leaving, etc.). It wasn’t that they hadn’t thought about these problems, they had just never seen the issues laid out in front of them so effectively.

The third is developing an internal skills platform. Aside from LinkedIn, most companies don’t have a way to easily identify their various employees’ capabilities. If they don’t have a record of an employee’s skill set or professional history, they risk not taking full advantage of their employee’s potential. Traits like fluency in a foreign language, familiarity with a past client, or professional certifications could prove valuable. Because most managers have far too many direct reports, they don’t have the time to learn every detail about each person’s skill set. An internal platform, where managers can easily see who has what skills and who has worked on relevant projects can go a long way toward solving that.

The challenges that come with improving retention rates and addressing the concerns of dissatisfied, unfulfilled employees can be daunting. But they aren’t impossible to overcome. In-depth cultural conversations are necessary and can take time, but the tools outlined here can serve as part of the solution. High-performing employees are the single most important asset for any business. Investments to keep these talented employees around and help them grow are well worth it.