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The Elusive “Great” Manager and How to Identify Them

Managers play a critical role in organizations. Learn what challenges are faced in selecting managerial talent and how to hire the right manager.

Managers play a vital role within organizations. Today’s work environment makes their role even more critical as managers are required to engage remote staff, lead through crises, and provide a voice of stability while maintaining trust and productivity among the team.

The challenges in hiring managerial talent

Given the importance of managers, filling those roles with the right persons—whether through internal promotion or external hiring—is a critical task and a decision with repercussions beyond the immediately obvious “open role.”

Yet, it is striking how often companies lack a universal view of their management capability, hiring processes, and development paths. Even if those exist on paper and, in theory, are aligned to a common leadership competency framework, in practice, executives in each division often have different and personal perspectives on what defines “good” management for their own teams. That makes it difficult for HR to inflect better performance from talent mobility processes when a proliferation of so-called manager “success” profiles exists without a common framework.

Couple that dynamic with the fact that only about one in ten people possess high talent to manage, it is no wonder some teams are starting to struggle with retaining staff as employees flee poor managers. As the employment situations of various countries crawl back out of their pandemic woes, the challenge of finding and retaining good managers will be even more pronounced. A recent McKinsey analysis projects that demand for “Manager” roles will grow more in the post-COVID-19 world across many countries (notably China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Spain, the UK, and the US).

It is also not unusual for some manager roles to be filled primarily with internal candidates. And because of the high proportion of internal candidates, the process of hiring a manager greatly impacts career pathing and engagement. Stanford University researchers found “Increasing an aggregate measure of manager quality by one standard deviation is associated with roughly a 12% reduction in employee turnover”—a finding that held not only for lower-level employees but also professional level roles like engineers.

Objective data can help identify more diverse managerial talent and uncover those hidden gems from across your organization.

How to hire the right manager

With all the challenges laid out, what can you do to close this gap? Is there a way to identify the right candidate that possesses the needed managerial skills in this ever-changing work environment?

The answer is: Objective data.

Using objective data can help identify more diverse managerial talent and uncover those hidden gems from across your organization whom you may have otherwise missed if you would have relied just on internal promotions or recommendations. While the definitions of what it takes to be a good manager today may be shifting, the importance of measuring what your organization needs in its managerial talent has not changed. In fact, it is more important than ever.

A managers’ role is critical, especially in this current work situation. Despite that, many organizations still lack views of their management strength and fail to align their manager selection strategies across divisions. For that reason, rather than relying on a subjective perception of what a great manager is, using objective data can help identify more diverse managerial talent. Moreover, most manager selection processes were drawn up in pre-COVID times, so now is a good time to quickly upgrade your manager selection.

Contact us today for more support with selecting high-quality managers.

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Donna Weiss

Donna Weiss heads our Global Graduate and Managerial Solutions from our U.S. based Arlington, Virginia office. She has steered talent acquisition product initiatives since 2015, guiding the product development and growth of innovative hiring solutions that help companies hire the best talent. Prior to SHL, Donna spent over a decade at CEB, now Gartner creating HR product offerings and overseeing lines of business that serve Recruiting, Learning, and Talent Management executives and their teams. Prior to joining CEB, Donna held brand management and consumer and market insight roles at Unilever, and Marketing and Planning Systems (MaPS), now part of Kantar. She has been quoted and published in various publications including Talent Management Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Journal of Corporate Recruiting, and Chief Learning Officer magazine. Both her bachelor’s degree in Industrial and Labor Relations and MBA are from Cornell University.

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