Would Your Employees Recommend You?

The answer to that simple question may reveal a lot about your organization.

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The success of the comic strip “Dilbert” and the television series “The Office” is testament to an enduring problem in the workplace: bad management. Most of us have at some point had direct experience with narrow-minded, egocentric or micromanaging bosses, and we have seen how much damage they can cause in a working environment.

Why is there so much bad management out there? Over the last five years, I have asked many executives for their views on this question. A common answer is that the system is to blame — dealing with corporate bureaucracy pulls us away from our role as a manager of others, and it doesn’t reward us for being good at that job either. A second view is that there is a form of knowing-doing gap: Managers know they should be delegating more and giving credit to others, but they struggle to do so because their default behavioral setting is one of control and self-promotion.

There is some truth in both these answers. But I believe there is also a third reason for the paucity of high-quality management in many large organizations: Most managers have a remarkably narrow or ill-thought-out understanding of how their employees actually look at the world. Imagine what would happen if managers could get inside their employees’ minds and relate to their genuine motivations, needs and fears. My guess is that those managers would start doing a dramatically better job. Not only would they know how to motivate each individual employee, but they would also become less self-centered. Ultimately, your role as a manager is to enable your employees to do their best work. And it is pretty hard to do that if you believe the world revolves around you.

So, if you want engaged employees who feel inspired to do high-quality work, you need to make sure you and all the managers who work for you are doing their jobs well. This sounds obvious, but it isn’t that easy to assess the quality of your managers, as there are so many different facets to the job. And many executives actually deliver results despite their poor people-management skills — something that works fine in the short term but is damaging in the longer term.


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Comments (4)
Russell Findlay
I really like this concept and have extended it to volunteer management with really insightful learnings. 

We were looking for a metric for us to understand the quality of experience for three thousand volunteers who help deliver the London Youth Games. The thinking was if they have a great experience then not only would they help deliver a great programme but also they are more likely to return and become advocates for our work. 

We surveyed all of our volunteers and got a net volunteer promoter score of around 65%. Then we needed to have a basis for comparison. and to learn from the rest of the voluntary sector.  We commissioned some research with over 500 volunteers nationwide. This gave us an indication not only of how we compared - worryingly only 4/10 gave scores of 9 or 10 - but also what learnings we and the rest of the sector could gain from this.  Typical answers included "thankless task, not valued". 

Our learnings are that whilst a great cause may help recruit first time volunteers, building a quality volunteers experience is much more about the culture of building fun Into the role and creating meaningful and innovative ways of demonstrating progress and gratitude. 

In short the principles of building fewest employee teams translate well to volunteer roles, but thought also needs to be given to some of the specifics of motivating people who aren't paid in a sector which is managed by professionals.
I believe that the biggest obstacles in achieving a larger degree of transparency between management and employees is the managers' fear of losing control. They are now judged, rather than being the judge.
Doing an NPMS study is fine and it tells you where you are.  The real challenege is taking actions to improve that score, as it requires fine management and inter-personal skills.
Larry Bradley
Just curious. Did you and Hoffman-LaRoche come up with the NMPS before or after Satmetrix came up with their e-NPS?
I agree it is important to assess the answer to the question that is posed - however the biggest reason that I have experienced for poor middle and upper management is the lack of a robust performance management system that is transparent and holds people to the same standards of conduct - this requires an active, knowledgeable, and involved HR department - 2 things that most large organizations lack.