Blog Article

Do managers need a ‘fit note’?

Posted by Caroline Wrobel

Caroline Wrobel

The ‘fit note’ was introduced in April 2010 with the view to support employers and employees with guidance as to employee’s fitness to work.  Although this relates to sickness and absence, it got me thinking about how similar the ‘fit note’ is to a performance appraisal outcome, and whether more is needed from an appraisal to determine someone’s fitness to work and deliver their role effectively.

I don’t always have these random similes pop up in my head – a number of organisations with whom we have run employee surveys with across a variety of industries in the past couple of years are finding similar (and consistent across years) opportunity areas which include: managers going beyond the ‘task’ of performance management, i.e. employees being supported in career and development opportunities, coaching conversations, talent within teams being used to optimal effect.  The common thread to these themes is the role of the line manager and the extent to which the manager is delivering in the ‘people’ aspect of their role.

We have been challenging these organisations around this thread to understand:

  • As a basic, are managers clear on their role as a manager?
  • Do the managers have the capabilities to support the people aspect of their roles? – are they even clear what benchmark is to aspire to?
  • Has the managers’ role changed but the manager been left behind on the journey?

Helen Giles recently wrote a piece in HR Magazine on emotionally intelligent managers  where she talked of hearing stories about managers being technically proficient but not taking their people management responsibilities seriously.  This rang true to some of the client conversations I have been having and made me wonder whether managers actually want to be managers or whether they are unaware of the expectations made of them in their role as managers.

Furthermore Harvard Business Publishing conducted a global survey of 800+ executives and senior talent development professionals which highlighted a lack of confidence and capability in organisational leaders which extends to middle managers who “are being asked to do more than ever before”.  They found that only 32% believe that their organisations have the right leadership talent and skills to achieve their organisations’ strategic goals; this lack of confidence in leaders being capable to deliver is quite shocking and makes you wonder how organisations can be competitive, grow sustainably and have a strong brand with this ‘leader deficit’.  In addition, Harvard Business Publishing highlighted, that traditionally, middle managers have been under-served by capability development programmes, i.e. communications, talent management, leadership skills, general people management, and that this was much more at the forefront for organisations than ever before.

To what extent are you seeing priorities towards middle manager capability development shifting in your organisation?

What are organisations doing to support managers’ capability and role delivery ensuring they are ‘fit for purpose’?

Some of the organisations we are working with are tackling this in different ways:

  1. Taking the route cause as the performance management process, and re-establishing this process where objectives are annually cascaded top-down to ensure manager’s scorecards comprise current and relevant business priorities.  The manager’s role essentially evolves each year and supports a focus for continual change based on the business priorities.
  2. Exploring team performance levels to better understand the behaviours and actions of the team manager in supporting success amongst the team.  Then utilising these findings to set ‘benchmarks’ for a manager’s role which are integrated into job descriptions for future recruits and scorecards for current performance evaluation.
  3. Conducting a needs analysis to understand where capability development is required and the specific needs of each manager.  Then supporting managers with capability training to fill the gaps identified and an on-the-job mentor for continuous improvement.

For a manager to deliver in their role, it seems to come down to a manager needing to:

  • Understand what is expected of him/her, how this fits into the bigger organisational picture, and the ever-changing nature of both of these things;
  • Encouraging open feedback (not just at appraisal time) from direct reports, and other colleagues to raise self-awareness and ensure continual personal and professional improvement;
  • Build networks to create a support system for the trickier performance-related issues which often managers shy away from and can leave them appearing dismissive to their team.

These seem quite simple statements and given the journey some organisations are taking, I recognise the investments organisations are making here, but given managers are an organisations’ back-bone, isn’t it worth exploring how ‘fit’ your managers are?


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1 Comment

  1. David Zinger

    David Zinger

    October 1, 2013 at 3:25 pm

    Nice job with this article. I featured it this morning on the Employee Engagement Network home page. It sure is worth exploring how fit your managers are and hopefully we go beyond exploring to helping them be more fit.

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