Everyone accepts and understands that feedback is an essential management tool, but far too regularly the process of feedback is shelved due to time pressures. Attention gets turned instead to achieving more quantifiable outcomes.
Taking time to communicate effectively with staff often gets shelved until the once a year annual review, which tends to be seen as belonging to HR rather than the workplace, or when it is too late and someone is being dismissed.
Front line managers consistently report that there is simply not the time for the “people stuff” and yet by not investing time and resources into these skills, organisations are risking an enormous penalty.
Australian business is operating against a backdrop of an increasingly urgent skills shortage, a shrinking demographic in the traditional work-age employee group, and downwards pressure on population growth through immigration.
There is also the distinct likelihood that the average unemployment rate in 2011 will be at its lowest point since 1974. In other words, we are moving to a situation of full employment, with prospective employees increasingly difficult to find.
To business, this means attracting and retaining employees becomes increasingly critical, and consequently management practices have to adapt to suit the market.
In a recent survey of Australian workers, the hands-down most important characteristic for managers was the ability to give good feedback and the recognition for individual achievement.
What should send a shiver down the spine of any business looking to grow and thrive in an increasingly difficult market is the accompanying statistic that 55% of workers polled said that they were slacking off because they feel their hard work was not recognised.
Even if managers and supervisors do actually value their staff and the individual contribution they make, if they are not feeding this information back, people don’t accept that this is the case. Perception, as employee climate surveys often show to the shock and disappointment of business, is reality.
It is an absolute truth that employees need to know what is expected from them and how they are tracking against that expectation, and the first place they look to get it is the next rung up on the ladder. If your managers are unable or unwilling to provide that information, your employees will regard any higher level assurances that “people are our first priority” as a nonsense, and you risk losing them.
It is time to shift focus and train front line supervisors and managers in the skill of giving and getting feedback. This is not just about pats on the head, this is about honest and open information concerning the performance of an employee – recognising & rewarding good performance and identifying/managing behaviour that needs improvement.
Training is a must, managers and supervisors are not necessarily natural communicators and have to be given the support they need to develop, and the tools necessary to have the “tough talk” or when and how to reward good achievement.
People skills are no longer the icing on the cake; those skills are now an essential ingredient to ensure business success.