Once considered an aspirational position, the role of manager is becoming less and less attractive to young workers. This is because the role is unclear and many professionals don’t feel properly prepared for it. To reverse this trend and restore the prestige of this profession, which is so valuable to companies, they need to reinvent the role of manager. How can this be done? This article provides some answers.
The role of the manager: a symbolic function stripped of its substance
In the collective unconscious, the role of manager has become a position that offers better pay and more respect. More than just a job, this function is often confused with an honorary title or a promotion, crowning a glittering career. This is the very root of the problem: the position of manager is no longer seen as a real job, and it’s extremely important for team cohesion, employee efficiency and the smooth running of employees’ careers.
However, becoming a manager should never be a reward for a prestigious career or a way of promoting a deserving employee. Indeed, by treating the role of manager as the culmination of an exemplary career, companies are appointing more and more people as managers who can’t actually manage others. The result of this is dysfunctional organisation in companies, conflicts, strategic errors and, as a result, HR problems.
Companies expect newly appointed managers to be able to perform their duties and carry out their tasks on their own. Decision-makers often forget that a person promoted to the rank of manager without knowing the ropes ends up with responsibilities and a workload that quickly become unmanageable, with particularly harmful direct consequences for their teams.
People no longer dream of becoming a manager
An increasing number of young people are shunning careers in management. Far from being the royal road that previous generations dreamed of, the role of manager is seen as unclear, confusing and, to top it off, pretty complicated. Employees who are convinced that they have managerial mettle often stop aspiring to be managers, believing they will soon be overwhelmed by the many tasks to be done, which they often find highly bewildering. Fear of being disconnected from their core profession, of prioritising general targets over human contact and of failing to find their place in the company’s management discourage many born managers from taking up this position.
Rather than expecting managers to reinvent themselves and revive their own profession, companies should tackle the problem and find ways of giving back meaning to this function. At the root of this chronic misunderstanding of the management profession is a semantic shift. In the past, ‘managers’ were referred to as ‘directors’ of divisions or teams. The strength of the word ‘director’ lies in the notion of responsibility that it implies. Appointed directors therefore knew that the essence of their function was to supervise, support, evaluate and develop the people under their charge.
Modern managers waver between the roles of coach, expert, project manager and assessor. In order to enable them to fully grasp the dimensions of their job, companies need to give them back a sense of responsibility. Deconstructing the idea of a ‘reward job’ is the first step in reinventing the role of manager. But of course, for managers to become fully aware of this, they also need to be properly trained.
The need to train managers for businesses
Too often neglected, management training is essential for this profession to be carried out pro. Leading a team is something which is learned, like any other job. Unfortunately, we observe that many companies don’t appreciate the importance of training their managers. In many cases, the training courses that are supposed to teach the basics of being a manager fail to explore the subject relevantly and in depth. Moreover, too often these courses are compressed courses that only touch on the duties of managers in the space of a few days.
This is the main gap that companies need to plug: offering coherent and relevant training to people they want to appoint to the position of manager. It’s essential that this training is spread out over a long period of time and combines theory with practical cases that the student has to work on alone. At the end of the training, the trainee manager should have acquired the skills required for the job and be ready to start supervising their colleagues.
But this is not enough. A company that cares about the effectiveness and reliability of its management should coach its managers on a long-term and regular basis with a dedicated mentor who ensures their student progresses within the company, and who can explain to the student why and how they need to review their management practices.
Financing the training of your managers is an essential investment in your employees’ development, your teams’ efficiency and the company’s overall strategy. Directly recruiting or appointing a manager should not be done without first preparing an appropriate long-term training programme.
The management skills and responsibilities of managers
A frequent mistake with the position of manager is to exclusively focus on candidates who are natural leaders over those who are not. As a result, employers often overlook profiles that are considered, at first sight, to be incompatible with the mindset of a good manager.
A manager must undeniably possess certain interpersonal skills: they need to be a good listener and know how to defuse conflicts, relate to their colleagues and implement strategies tailored to their skills development. But these qualities can be found in a wide range of professionals, including those who have not necessarily established their career in direct contact with people. Moreover, the profession of manager can be learned and the required qualities acquired.
Companies need to learn to open up the management route to hybrid profiles from other professions. To do this, it’s important to refocus on the fundamentals of management. A manager’s effectiveness can be assessed in a very concrete way. They have to know how to manage their employees’ training, their career paths in the company, their skills development, and how to give relevant feedback to their direct reports, all within the time available to them. Without a method or action plan, all these tasks cannot be carried out correctly with management skills alone.
Incentive compensation adapted to the position of manager
Incentive compensation is ideal for managers. It encourages them to carry out their tasks methodically and effectively. It’s important to note that performance evaluated in the context of a bonus scheme should only relate to a manager’s ability to supervise their employees rather than to the success of the team.
The ultimate goal of a good manager is to empower their employees. It is therefore precisely these qualities that should be taken into account in the choice of performance targets forming the basis of the bonus system introduced to establish the manager’s incentive compensation. Fair and motivational remuneration is a decisive factor in motivating managers to improve their working methods and leadership.
Poor definitions of the role, lack of training and gaps in the remuneration system all explain why young workers have fallen out of love with the role of manager. However, it’s important not to confuse employees who refuse to take up this position for lack of interest in the job with those who simply shy away from the responsibilities it entails. The work-shy category of employees actually refuses to defend the value of their work, which can ultimately be dangerous for a company. In contrast, by revising the definition of the profession of manager, companies have the keys to reconciling many employees with this essential profession.