How to eliminate gaps between employees and their immediate bosses

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The differences between employees and their managers can be easily done away with if the managers are adequately trained in this area

Employee retention has become one of the greatest challenges for organisations today. Quite understandable, because the job market has opened up and how! With so many options and opportunities, candidates are almost spoilt for choice. So much so that HR leaders feel that employees have the liberty to choose their boss!

Well, differences between employees and bosses have existed for the longest time. In fact, such differences are the main reason for employees moving on from an organisation. Why do gaps exist between employees and their immediate bosses?

Let us look at some of the primary reasons.

“Many a time, when there is a gap, senior leaders do not sit together to discuss their differences”

Rattan Chugh, senior HR leader

Gaps and differences between employees and their immediate bosses exist at all levels in an organisation. However, the reasons for the same and the challenges of dealing with the same vary as we climb up the corporate ladder.

Rattan Chugh, senior HR leader, shares with HRKatha, that in the middle-level management, the most common reason for such differences is the lack of training or emphasis on leadership development and managerial training. “When companies hire freshers at the entry level, the emphasis is more on the skills that they bring to the table and not their ability to manage people,” points out Chugh.

He goes on to say that many companies have only now started to realise how important it is to train first-time managers when they move to roles where they have to manage people and teams. Chugh believes that more than just training managers, the evaluation process of a team leader and a first-time manager should also give adequate weightage to people-management skills. “Out of five, managers need to be evaluated on three functional goals and two people-management skills,” suggests Chugh.

In fact, many companies also follow a multidimensional process of evaluating mid- level managers. On one hand, the managers are rated on their team or individual performance on a scale of one to five, and on the other, they are also evaluated on values and people skills indicating with a grade such as A, B, C, D and E. Therefore, if the rating is something like a ‘4 D’, it would indicate that the person may be good at achieving goals but a poor people manager.

“The managers will need to inculcate the attitude of ‘care’ when it comes to establishing a bond with the employees”

Anil Gaur, chief people officer, Akums Pharmaceutical

“It helps to identify managers who are ready to go into next-level roles. Some people may be very good at achieving targets but poor managers,” cautions Chugh.

According to Satyajit Mohanty, CHRO, Crompton, most differences come with how people perceive their performance. The employees have their own way of perceiving their performance and the managers have their own view. Mohanty goes on to explain that if data reveals a performance gap, the manager will see it as a gap in performance, while the employee will see it as a failure to achieve what was expected of him/her. However, for the employee, the element of ‘context’ also exists. For instance, the employee may have been unable to achieve what was expected due to bad market conditions.

“Seldom do companies train managers on ways to identify such psychological gaps or make them aware of the same,” asserts Mohanty.

Mohanty mentions that at Crompton, they are trying to bring in the element of ‘context’ in evaluating performance data and sensitising managers towards doing the same.

More often, managers fail to understand what they really expect from their employees. Anil Gaur, chief people officer, Akums Pharmaceutical, mentions that at his firm, the practice of making managers write the job description is quite effective. It allows them to understand what they should expect from their new hires.

Additionally, the organisation also encourages its managers to hold routine morning meetings, informal meets and also bonding sessions with families of team members. “The managers will need to inculcate the attitude of ‘care’ when it comes to establishing a bond with the employees,” advises Gaur.

“Seldom do companies train managers on ways to identify psychological gaps or make them aware of the same”

Satyajit Mohanty, CHRO, Crompton

As Chugh mentions, challenges at the senior-management level are very different. At the top, mostly all are competent and the issue of skills does not exist. There, the issues and challenges primarily revolve around ego clashes and differences in opinion. “At the senior level, the only solution is to communicate as much as possible. Many a time, when there is a gap, senior leaders do not sit together to discuss their differences,” Chugh rues.

The flaws may not be limited only to the managers. At times, the employees also fail to understand the perspective of their employers due to a narrow-minded view of things. As per the HR leaders, in such a case as well, the onus rests on the managers to make the employees understand the wider perspective of things and take them along.

Informal team engagements, one-on-one sessions with the managers and skip- level meetings are some ways in which organisations can help their employees and their immediate managers to eliminate the communication gap.

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