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Webinar Recap: Bridging the Gap with ‘Listening’ in Manager Enablement

What's Behind the Manager Enablement Crisis?

In our recent webinar, Joseph Freed, VP of Product, and Katy Tynan, VP and Principal Analyst for Employee Experience and Future of Work at Forrester shared their unique perspectives on the “complicated moment” managers now find themselves in, and how the requirements for manager learning and enablement have changed as a result.

Tynan and Freed’s discussion spanned a number of related topics, including:

  • The unique development needs of managers today
  • The importance of feedback + action for manager enablement, and 
  • The role of a ‘behavioral listening’ product like Perceptyx’s Cultivate to deliver manager enablement at scale and foster greater self-awareness for individual leaders.

Here are some highlights of their conversation, which you can watch on-demand here:

Talent Trends and Their Impact on Managers

Katy Tynan, Forrester: “Let's begin with a broad overview, a 50,000-foot view of the current talent landscape. We're living in peculiar times, particularly if you're in HR or management. It's essential to understand the data behind this strangeness we're experiencing to better comprehend its impact on managers and their workforce, and how we can enable them more effectively.”

“In 2021, there was much talk about the ‘Great Resignation,’ and the struggle to retain and attract talent became a significant concern. Analyzing the quit rates over time reveals an interesting trend. These rates have been steadily rising due to the departure of the baby boomer generation from the workforce. However, in 2020, amidst the uncertainties of the pandemic, quit rates plummeted as those with jobs clung to them. This precipitated a bounce in 2021, fuelling the narrative of the ‘Great Resignation.’ However, it's important to note that this trend has now returned to its previous trajectory.”

The Talent-Constrained Recession

Katy Tynan: “To further illuminate the current situation, let's consider the relationship between the unemployment rate and annual GDP growth. Historically, these two figures have always been inversely related. However, in a unique turn of events, both are decreasing simultaneously in 2022 — a phenomenon we at Forrester refer to as a ‘talent-constrained recession.’ The traditional strategies that organizations have used during recessions may not work in this unprecedented scenario.”

“This brings us to the role of managers in these challenging times. Managers, especially those at the frontline, have a profound influence on employee engagement and overall workplace experience. However, they are also grappling with the same uncertainties, stresses, and complexities as everyone else. It's crucial to remember that in times of uncertainty, employees often turn to their direct managers for guidance and direction. Research from Forrester confirms this, showing that during the confusion of 2020, employees overwhelmingly looked to their direct managers for guidance. Therefore, the focus should be on the relationship each individual has with their manager, rather than external factors or broader business strategies. In these complex times, the role of the manager is more critical than ever.”

Why Is It So Hard to Enable Managers?

Katy Tynan: “The challenge in leadership today comes from a significant shift in the tools and information available to leaders in organizations. In the past, processes were simpler and more manual, like paper-based annual reviews. However, the digital revolution has equipped us with an abundance of data and platforms for performance, learning, coaching, goal setting, culture and recognition, skills, and engagement. While this might appear to simplify things, it often results in an overwhelming amount of data for managers, without necessarily equipping them with the right tools to make sense of it all.”

“The problem is exacerbated by the fact that many organizations are not significantly investing in leadership development. In fact, 65% of companies are spending less than $2,500 per leader per year. This may seem like a reasonable amount, but considering the investment made in the team they're leading, it can feel insufficient. However, the amount of money spent is not as important as how it's spent. It's crucial to help managers understand human motivation and engagement, and how to connect this understanding with the available technology to make meaningful, actionable insights.”

What Managers and Leaders Truly Need

Katy Tynan: “What we're seeing, however, is a struggle within companies to bridge the gap between understanding human behavior and the technological tools that can support it. This causes friction, making leadership seem hard. A part of the problem lies in the transformation of how we work. Managers today are expected to build their own mini cultures, be responsible for their teams' wellbeing, trust, and prevent burnout, often without the support of a physical office and its inherent structure.”

“Interestingly, while the workload of managers has increased, investment in leadership development has remained flat. This raises the question of whether companies have changed what they're investing in. Traditionally, leadership development investments were primarily in instructor-led workshop training, which proved to be ineffective. Fortunately, there has been a shift towards continuous learning and just-in-time learning opportunities. However, this approach also has its limitations. What leaders need is in-the-moment guidance, opportunities to practice, and feedback on their performance. As organizations grapple with these challenges, they need to consider not just the technological complexity, but also the organizational culture that surrounds their leaders.”

What Are the Most Mature Organizations Doing?

Katy Tynan: “Some organizations have changed their approach to leadership development, while others have not. When I mentioned that workshops are a poor method, it's because they don't lead to behavior change. You may learn a lot in a workshop, but without reinforcement or habit changes, you're likely to forget what you've learned within a day or two. The problematic part is that this is hard to detect, because if you ask attendees or facilitators, they'll say they enjoyed the workshop. The only unhappy ones are those managed by the attendee, who see no change in their behavior.”

“Several organizations have evolved in response to data and emerging technologies, and by involving experts in learning design. But this change is not universal. A sign of maturity in a company is when training, which is reactive and often under HR, evolves into a learning and development (L&D) process, which acknowledges the need for continuous development. The most mature organizations see learning as an enabling function for the whole organization, recognizing that change, innovation, and day-to-day work all involve learning. However, not every organization has reached this level of maturity.”

The New Model for Human Capital Management

Katy Tynan: “Many companies approach technology investment in a way that is actually backwards. Instead of understanding how the organization works and how managers are supported, they purchase technology solutions hoping to fix their problems. But without a strategy, the right organizational culture, and appropriate technology, these solutions rarely work. The ideal structure involves an individual leader at the center, surrounded by the organization, which creates the culture and sets the goals. The next layer is the technology ecosystem that provides crucial data to these leaders. The outer ring is the analysis and understanding of this data in a meaningful way to help the organization and the individuals achieve their goals.”

“The old model of human capital management had HR at the center, with disparate chunks of talent acquisition, learning management, and talent management. But these processes were siloed, and there was no real communication. The evolving model puts the employee at the center, harmonizing all the systems around them to align the goals of the organization and the individual. Some organizations have already matured in their approach, while others are still on the journey. The focus should be on incrementally progressing towards a more mature place, particularly in supporting managers who are the fulcrum of many processes.”

Balancing Scalability and Personalization

Joseph Freed, Perceptyx: “At Perceptyx, our focus is on rethinking the ways in which technology can assist in the development of employees and managers. We understand the necessity of adopting an employee-centric, manager-centric approach to leadership development. The key challenge we face when building technology to facilitate this shift is the balancing act between scalability and personalization.”

“Traditional methodologies often present a trade-off. On one hand, you have personalized training sessions and human-led coaching. These are highly personalized, allowing for detailed insights and development opportunities. However, they are inherently limited in their scalability. They demand a significant investment of time and resources and can't be realistically implemented for a large number of employees simultaneously.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are scalable solutions, such as Learning Management Systems (LMS). These platforms offer a wealth of learning content that can be rolled out to large numbers of employees concurrently. The downside is that these systems often lack personalization. They may not account for individual needs, team dynamics, personal circumstances, or the specific goals and competencies of the company. Our goal is to bridge this gap, which requires us to think differently about how we architect technology solutions and it presents a significant challenge, but one we are actively working to overcome.”

Creating a Continuous, Iterative Process of Learning

Katy Tynan: “The stakes are high because we are dealing with human experiences on a day-to-day basis. Especially for new leaders, there is a hesitancy to make mistakes. The key to developing leadership in a personalized, action-oriented way is to create an environment where managers can safely learn from their actions. It's about creating a continuous, iterative process of learning, where managers can take actions, assess outcomes, receive feedback, and adjust their approach accordingly. Unfortunately, many organizations struggle to establish such a continuous learning rhythm for managers.”

Joseph Freed: “At Perceptyx, we aim to provide this safe, continuous learning environment through our Cultivate product. Cultivate is designed to marry the benefits of scalability and personalization to facilitate a continuous feedback loop for managers. Cultivate achieves this by combining perceptions — gathered through surveys and 360 feedback — with behaviors, which are tracked via digital platforms like Email, Slack, and Calendar. This blend of perceptions and behaviors helps managers understand how their actions are perceived and how they can adjust their behaviors to improve their performance.

“Cultivate employs AI models to identify common behaviors of people leaders, like giving recognition or avoiding after-hours messages. This allows managers to understand and modify their behaviors based on data-driven insights. For instance, if high-performing managers at a company are found to give more recognition, we can coach managers who do it less often to adopt this behavior, and then measure if this change results in improved performance.”

“Cultivate looks for digital behaviors that can impact your blind spots, providing insights on your own behaviors at work. This information is only for the leader and must be opted into. Cultivate is about giving you a comparison of how you behave with different members of your team, enhancing self-awareness.”

Leadership Methodologies and Cultivate

Joseph Freed: “Cultivate is flexible and doesn’t align with a particular leadership or competency model. It allows leaders to understand their behaviors and compares them with others. These behaviors can then be mapped onto a company's competencies, linking these signals to what's important to your company. This provides personalized data for leaders to make informed decisions.”

Katy Tynan: “Leadership models should always be connected to an organization's values and culture. Being able to connect the dots with any technology you implement is crucial for consistency and understanding. This empowerment shift puts data into the hands of the leaders. This shift from assigning tasks and monitoring to empowering leaders is crucial for building resilience and adaptability.”

Perceptyx Can Help Your Organization Transform Managers Into Leaders

To listen to this discussion in its entirety, access the on-demand recording here. To learn more about Cultivate Intelligent Coaching, schedule a meeting with a member of our team.


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