The Four Vital Ways for Managers to Be More Effective

BY Stephen Koepp | September 14, 2023

Would you enthusiastically recommend your boss to another worker? Would you say they’re an effective manager? Most people wouldn’t. In a survey, only 28% of employees said they would strongly recommend their managers to others, while 14% would not recommend them at all. 

This is a chronic problem for employers, since workers with effective managers measurably thrive on the job, while those with ineffective ones languish. The impact to the bottom line can be substantial. The good news is that managers aspire to be more skilled in their jobs. But companies will have to step up: Only 29% of managers say their company gives them the training and support to be a better people leader. 

The solution is for companies to invest more in understanding what makes good managers and investing in their development, according to Caitlin Nobes, the author of a new report, “The Foundations of Manager Effectiveness,” published by Achievers, an employee recognition and engagement platform. The report illuminates how manager effectiveness drives business results, identifies four factors of management effectiveness that provide the most beneficial effects, and suggests concrete ways to give managers the leadership development they need to do a better job.

Why isn’t this all part of corporate culture already? “I think there’s a gap between what organizations are able to do to support their managers and what managers actually want and need, as well as a gap between what HR thinks they are giving, and what managers feel they are getting,” said Nobes, lead analyst for Achievers, in an interview with From Day One. “I think this report is really crucial for saying to HR and business leaders: We’re missing the boat.”

Why Is This Problem So Pressing Right Now? 

“I think that being a manager has always been challenging. And I think that it has been underestimated because it has always been seen as just part of most career paths. When you get far enough in your career, you start managing people. That was the pattern,” Nobes said.

Caitlin Nobes, lead analyst and senior content marketing manager for Achievers (Company photo)

Insufficient training for managers was almost a tradition, but only recently did the effects become so glaring, thanks to the pandemic, the racial-justice movement, and other social factors. A study from Workday and Red Thread Research found that manager effectiveness has declined since 2020. “In the last four years, we have seen the world of work get a lot more complicated,” Nobes said. “Many managers suddenly had this remote-work piece added on, with your team in their own homes–and you have to manage them effectively from your own home,” Nobes said. “All of these are complicating factors for managers who are still under a lot of pressure to meet performance objectives. I think we have managers who are potentially more aware of some of those other factors affecting their teams, but aren’t always clear on how to help address them.”

How Manager Effectiveness Can Be Measured   

The concept of a net promoter score (NPS), which measures the willingness of a customer to recommend a product or business, can be applied to managers as well. An mNPS survey asks workers whether they’d recommend their boss, with their sentiment ranked on a scale of promoter to neutral to detractor. 

That sentiment is a powerful indicator. “The performance gap between those that would recommend their managers and those who would not is huge,” the Achievers report said. The promoters, it turns out, are many times more likely to be engaged in their work, to have a strong sense of belonging, to feel committed to their job, and to say they’re productive at work. 

What Makes a Manager Effective

Manager effectiveness is the degree to which people leaders engage and motivate their team, as Achievers defines it. Four elements stand out in the survey data as being impressive drivers of manager effectiveness, the report says:

     •Contact: My manager supports my success through regular 1:1 meetings.

     •Recognition: My manager regularly provides me with recognition that makes me feel valued.

     •Coaching: My manager provides me with guidance that helps me to be more effective in my role.

     •Professional development: My manager supports my personal and professional development goals.

When employees say their manager is good at one of these, it doubles the likelihood that they would recommend their manager. When all four are present, mNPS scores almost triple, the report says.

Of those four elements, most managers can put the first three into action on their own initiative. But the fourth, professional development, “is probably the only of the four factors that a manager cannot do on their own,” Nobes said. “A great manager in an OK company–that great manager can give recognition, can be a coach, can have great one-to-one meetings, but they can’t provide career growth and professional development without buy-in from their own manager or from HR. So, I think that is really a key area of support.”

The Training That Managers Need from Their Employers

To become more effective, managers need a mandate to take the time to train themselves, as well as to pass along that value to their workers. The Achievers report recommends structuring manager training on a quarterly basis to provide a long-term framework. And companies should provide managers “with frequent touch points to remind them that part of their job is to upskill in this area,” Nobes said. 

“I think it’s very easy to get focused on metrics and to say, ‘Are we producing enough widgets?’ Or, ‘I really need to write that report this week, so I'm not going to do that LinkedIn Learning course that I bookmarked because I’m just too busy.’ We prioritize the short term, because that’s what feels urgent. So you need to have regular reminders to managers that a medium- to long-term view is also important–that you need to block out an hour a week, or two hours a week, to train yourself.”

Middle Managers: Where the Impact Can Be Immediate

“The idea of building a culture of recognition with managers first, I think is very powerful,” Nobes said. Achievers data shows that recognition can create a virtuous cycle: managers who recognize their workers frequently inspires their employees to do likewise, creating peer recognition as well. Robes describes this as a “middle-out” approach, rather than top-down. “Starting with your middle managers, they’re the frontline, the people who really can have an immediate impact on somebody’s day to day.”

By contrast, “your CEO, your C-suite can make a decision, but it will probably take months for that to be felt at the frontline. But if you can get your manager to just think, ‘If I recognize every employee once a month, and start paying attention to that, I can have a pretty immediate impact,” Nobes said.

No manager-effectiveness program is going to make every boss a dynamo of leadership, but just bringing the weak or average managers up to the next level can have a major impact on a workforce, Nobes said. “That’s huge internally. Those are more engaged employees. You’re getting discretionary effort, they’re not job-hunting as much. The ripple effect of investing in manager empowerment is so impactful.”

Why a Sense of Belonging Is So Important

Among the four elements of manager effectiveness, “employees’ sense of belonging at work is the ultimate driver of individual and business performance,” says the report. Research by the Achievers Workforce Institute (AWI), the company’s research arm, has identified five measurable and actionable pillars of belonging: being welcomed, known, included, supported and connected. “Each of these pillars individually doubles the likelihood that an employee feels a strong sense of belonging and in combination, all five together triple an employee’s overall sense of belonging in the workforce,” the report said.

“When people feel like they belong, it’s so powerful,” Nobes said. “It’s this feeling of acceptance and comfort and security. If you can create that experience for your employees, then you will have better business results on every metric that matters. When we think about how to drive belonging, we have these five pillars. The idea is that ‘belonging’ can sound very tenuous and eyebrow-raising, like, what does it even mean? So when you break it down to these five pillars that are pretty actionable, then HR and managers feel empowered.”

The questions that managers should ask themselves about their workers include, Do they feel known? Are they sharing parts of themselves? And do people remember things about them? Nobes offered a personal example. “You know, I'm a big reader. And I have talked to a few people about books. Somebody on my team said, ‘I need a new summer read. What would you recommend?’ I felt so known. Like, ‘Oh yeah, I can help you, I would love to recommend a book for you.’”

Glass Ceilings All the Way Up

While the Achievers report diagnosed inadequate manager training across the board, it identified a particular support gap: gender discrepancies in manager empowerment. According to AWI research, men are 26% more likely than women to say they manage people in their role and men are 22% more likely than women to say they have a professional-development plan. Once women make it to an initial management position, they are less likely to be promoted beyond middle management, partly because of a lack of support that Nobes calls “glass ceilings all the way up.”

“You break the glass ceiling, and you’re so happy and proud to have reached this level. And then you’re like, Okay, well, what’s next for me? And you look up, and there’s another glass ceiling.” Overall in corporate America, the result is that middle management has become more diverse, but the progress stalls in the higher ranks of leadership. Said the report: “If your pipeline to senior leadership is leaky, it’s time to step back and assess the overall process. How are succession plans developed and who gets shoulder-tapped for stretch assignments or fast-tracked promotion? … Remember, women in management are more likely than men to leave, whether for greener pastures or due to life pressures. Retaining managers from marginalized groups needs to be a top priority for companies focused on diversity, equity, and inclusion at every level of the organization.”

Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Achievers, who sponsored this story. 

(Featured photo by FatCamera/iStock by Getty Images)

Steve Koepp is From Day One’s co-founder and chief content officer.



Sharing Their Truths: Working Parents Reveal the Benefits That Matter Most

Each year, HR leaders ask themselves: What benefits do my employees want? And what will provide me the most ROI? But many are left without answers.In a recent survey of 2,000 working parents conducted by Ovia Health, 62% said that their employers are not family friendly enough.The need for family friendly benefits is clear. Additionally, 94% said family benefits are a top priority and 73% said they would consider making a lateral move to another organization that offered better benefits and a family-friendly culture.In a From Day One webinar, Corrinne Hobbs, general manager and vice president, employer market organization at Ovia Health, discussed the results of the survey. Hobbs offered insight on current benefits offerings, where more support is needed, and what matters most to employees. Family Benefits That Match Today’s Culture“Women’s health benefits are one of the fastest growing segments within healthcare,” Hobbs said.  This is due to changing circumstances during and post-pandemic as more and more workers experienced shifting work-life balance due to hybrid schedules. It’s also due to the increasing range of types of families that need to be accounted for as lifestyles become more diverse. In this current marketplace, “employees have more control and more power than they have had in the past,” said moderator Siobhan O’Connor, chief content officer at Atria Institute. Therefore, it’s even more critical that employers make sure these specific needs are being served.While most companies do offer some family benefits, Hobbs says, there is often a disconnect between perceived needs and actual needs of employees. “There’s a strong push for employees to have better fertility benefits in their workplace. And 38% of respondents said that they’re looking for their employer to provide alternate family planning support,” Hobbs said. This is especially true with more and more single by choice or LGBTQIA+ parents in the workforce, and an overall trend of people waiting until later in life to have children. Unfortunately, many workplaces do not offer benefits to cover the costs of these services, which can be exorbitant.Siobhan O'Connor of Atria Institute interviewed Corrinne Hobbs of Ovia Health during the webinar on family-friendly benefits (photo by From Day One)Incorporating these benefits helps build an overall inclusive corporate culture and can be a way to help retain senior level female employees. Additionally, 83% of respondents said that perimenopausal or menopausal symptoms affect their ability to work, but only 1% receive benefits to help with those symptoms, says Hobbs. In order to “make sure that whatever you’re providing is equitable and inclusive all around,” a diverse range of age and gender must also be factors incorporated into a comprehensive benefits plan.Providing Better Family BenefitsWith family benefits top of mind for employees, Hobbs says there is a clear way forward for organizations looking to provide better care. The most important, according to respondents, is family leave. Hobbs advises: “Make sure that it’s paid, that it’s for at least four months, that it’s inclusive to both parents and that you don’t have to dip into your sick leave or your PTO before taking leave. That is a stress factor for many.” And employers must account for alternate pathways to parenthood, such as adoption, which might entail different costs or timeframes, she says.Hobbs says employers should not only plan for parental leave, but also for parental return. One way to do this is by setting up a return-to-work program to make it easier for parents to re-enter the workforce, noting that it’s a smarter investment than having to endure the cost of hiring someone new. Gradual part-time schedules can ease the burden on stressed parents, as can accommodating PTO policies, flex time, and hybrid or work from home options.Additionally, managers need to be prepped on how to work with returning parents. “A manager training program to ensure a family friendly workplace and ensure that people are able to bring their full selves to work without fear of repercussions is critical,” Hobbs said. ERG support groups can also provide a sense of community support within the workplace.Incorporating Digital Healthcare and AdvocacyOvia Health uses predictive analytics to power millions of members’ care and engagement with their health. Such apps can help provide crucial education about health symptoms, Hobbs says. For example, 85% of respondents said they don’t know much about menopause and how it may affect their performance. Ovia can help fill that gap through online resources, and also provide peer support groups. “We have a community wall where people with uteruses can talk about symptoms together and really feel a sense of community and commonality with others who are going through some of the [same] things,” Hobbs said. Finally, Ovia can also match employees with proper treatment.Using health assessments and surveys, Ovia gets to know its users and can provide highly personalized information to current, expecting, or potential parents. Health alerts will pop up based on users’ reported symptoms, and the app even provides proactive healthcare outreach to guide users through any bumps on their fertility journey.“Digital solutions offer round the clock access, education, and opportunities to really delve deeper into topics,” Hobbs said. “And they also come with advocacy, helping you navigate and understand these complex situations.” The app accounts for a wide variety of families and lifestyles, helping employers provide better care to a diverse workforce. “We have 50+ personalized clinical pathways and programs to support women and families, and then we personalize the experience for each member based on the dynamic health assessments and digital symptom report,” Hobbs said, describing the data-driven service as “person-centered care.”Hobbs says that while women have increasingly reached the upper echelons of the corporate world in recent years, women’s participation in the labor market is currently at a 33-year low. Having a family-friendly workplace can help ensure talented women stay on. “It costs upwards of $75,000 to replace an employee,” Hobbs said. By offering a diverse suite of benefits companies can retain top talent, encourage a more diverse workforce, and save money in the process.Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, Ovia Health, for sponsoring this webinar. Katie Chambers is a freelance writer and award-winning communications executive with a lifelong commitment to supporting artists and advocating for inclusion. Her work has been seen in HuffPost and several printed essay collections, among others, and she has appeared on Cheddar News, iWomanTV, and CBS New York.

Katie Chambers | April 10, 2024

How to Measure Employee Engagement and Spot Disengagement

When we think about engagement, we think about all of the different ways that we track engagement consciously and subconsciously. In some ways, we track engagement by just realizing things, like who’s on camera during meetings online, who has a green dot next to their name, and who has a yellow dot next to their name. These are all of the different ways to subconsciously track engagement, but there are biases in each observation because context is key. Just because a person is off camera doesn’t mean they’re less engaged. They might be in a crowded spot or have a background that’s distracting, so they’ve elected to be off-camera. Or maybe their WiFi just isn’t as strong as it needs to be on that particular day.Regardless of the industry or nature of business, maintaining a high level of team productivity is crucial, and disengagement can be a significant obstacle. Learning to recognize the signs of employee disengagement early is key to preventing its negative impact. In a recent From Day One webinar led by ActivTrak colleagues, Gabriella Mauch, VP of Productivity Lab, and Javier Aldrete, SVP of product, the speakers discussed how boosting self-awareness and manager coaching can help address disengagement before employees check out.Gabriela Mauch, pictured, led the webinar alongside colleague Javier Aldrete (company photo)We’re making all these subconscious assumptions about engagement because we know that engagement leads to great results, says Mauch. But disengagement, on the flip side, leads to harmful attrition. As such, it’s important that we find better ways to track engagement so that we can drive to a healthy work environment. Mauch shares that only 23% of employees are fully engaged in their work, leaving over 75% of employees at risk of disengagement. This can cost organizations a significant amount of money, both from an attrition standpoint, a knowledge management standpoint, and the productivity they’re not necessarily getting out of their business. The benefit of addressing employee disengagement is the ability to get a better return on workforce investments. Organizations can see up to 40% improvement in employee churn and burnout rates, plus an opportunity to gain 15% to 25% in productivity when disengagement is addressed effectively, says Mauch. “So often, disengagement and quiet quitting is a function of that individual not being properly aligned to their work, not being properly coached by their manager, or not being properly guided by their leadership team,” said Mauch. It’s  important to learn how to use insights to better inform leaders, managers, and individuals to be more thoughtful about productivity and more engaged in the work being done. As such, it’s important to have measurable indicators into our work environment. This means understanding when we have individuals performing with low focus, low working hours, and perhaps very passive participation. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the individual doesn't want to be working. Instead, there’s an opportunity to coach and guide the employee to work the right way, on the right things, at the right time. Mauch encourages employers to be thoughtful about employee behavior as a helpful indicator of engagement. This means observing things like people coming into the office, badging in, and leaving two hours later merely to show their faces. This could be because while they are expected to be in office, they might actually be more productive at home. The final thing to note is whether or not employees are making the impact you expect them to be making. Here are some questions to ask: Are they putting in the productivity that you would expect? Are you getting the output that you expect to earn, and are you ultimately getting the revenue that you would expect? By collecting insights on an ongoing basis, you can gain a level of understanding of engagement on an ongoing basis. Additionally, leaders need to identify the factors that are contributing to employee disengagement and quiet quitting in their particular context, as well as invest in measures to improve them.Editor's note: From Day One thanks our partner, ActivTrak, for sponsoring this webinar. Keren's love for words saw her transition from a corporate employee into a freelance writer during the pandemic. When she is not at her desk whipping up compelling narratives and sipping on endless cups of coffee, you can find her curled up with a book, playing with her dog, or pottering about in the garden.

Keren Dinkin | April 09, 2024

The Gender Penalty: Addressing Workplace Inequity

Studies show that despite recent movements for equal pay, no significant gender pay gap has been made in the last two decades. Women are still earning less than men, with some variance as high as 22%.But the discrimination extends far beyond just the pay gap: from childbirth to menopause, women are also discriminated against for their life choices and in some cases, life stages, with  42% of working women reporting facing gender discrimination at their workplace.In a From Day One webinar, Lydia Dishman, senior editor of growth and engagement at Fast Company, moderated a discussion among women in roles of leadership on how to achieve equality in the workplace.Studies show that women are 41% more likely to experience toxic workplace culture than men, underlining the need for a culture revamp in companies.According to recent research, one in three working parents stated they lacked access to a reliable workplace lactation location. The disparity shows that offering solutions is far more than checking off boxes, Teresa Hopke, CEO of Talking Talent said.“Having a pumping room is a checkbox. So even if we check the box and we get the right rooms and accommodations for people, that’s not going to move the needle in the way that we need to in terms of the systemic change that needs to take place,” Hopke said.For change, both workers and leaders need to be actively working to create the shift that they need, Hopke says.Speakers from Talking Talent and KPMG joined moderated Lydia Dishman in a discussion about the role of gender in the workplace (photo by From Day One)“There is some hard work that organizations need to do to create the right culture with the right mindsets, behaviors, conditions, and structures that will support women as they advance through their careers,” Hopke said. “There is also work that women need to do to articulate their needs and not suffer in silence when the load gets too hard.”When asked about allyship, seventy-seven percent of white employees consider themselves allies to women of color. However, far fewer replied to actively participating in allyship, with only 39 percent stating they confront discrimination when they see it, and 21 percent stating they advocate for new opportunities for women of color.“If you are not taking any of those ally actions regularly, you’re not moving things forward in a positive way,” Marcee Harris Schwartz, director of diversity, equity, and inclusion at KPMG, said. “We have to think about how we activate allyship whether that’s taking someone under your wing who comes from a different background or experiences so that it has an impact.”When asked about biases at work, 83% of employees stated that the biases they experienced were subtle and indirect. In one work case, Renu Sachdeva, head of client solutions at Talking Talent, found this to be true.“We asked leaders to pick people to actively sponsor who belonged to these identity groups. And when the results came back in, we found a majority of them had selected white women, the next most selected group was men of color, and the least selected group was women of color,” Sachdeva said.The findings weren’t surprising, Sachdeva says. Research has found that white people demonstrate a clear bias for other white people, affecting workplace processes from hiring to promotion. Challenging biases is key to moving allyship in the right direction, Sachdeva said.“If you’re talking about the majority, corporate America is usually white men in most organizations, so the highest level of comfort tends to be with white women because there’s a relational aspect to it,” Sachdeva said. “But with intentionality, we need to consciously choose to connect with [different] people to mentor, sponsor or be an ally to because that’s usually the group that gets the most overlooked and left behind.”Editor’s note: From Day One thanks our partner, Talking Talent, for sponsoring this webinar.Wanly Chen is a writer and poet based in New York City.

Wanly Chen | April 08, 2024