Are Line Managers stuck between a rock and a hard place?

We've long been blaming Line Managers for not having the skills to effectively manage their people and performance. As a result, companies tend to heavily invest in management training and development programmes. However, this investment doesn’t seem to be working. ‘Line manager capability’ is as big an issue as ever.

But are Line Managers stuck between a rock and a hard place? They are held accountable for overall team performance, usually through weekly or monthly business reporting, but they manage individual performance through annual objectives. To make it even harder, the data that they need to assess in relation to employee objectives is usually sat on different systems and updated at different times.

It's not surprising that 83% of our surveyed clients* are considering making changes to performance management in the next 2-3 years. In a bid to try something different, we've seen organisations seeking bold alternatives to the traditional performance cycle, whether it’s removing ratings, ditching the distribution curve or other headline-grabbers. However, many of them are failing to bring in systems which are more transparent for the individual or their Line Manager.

We believe that to drive an improvement in business performance, Line Managers have access to each of their teams’ real-time performance data. This would allow them to identify each individual’s specific areas of strength and development, and in turn give the business ‘in the moment’ feedback as to why certain business goals are on or off target. In short, we believe that Managers need more timely performance data to create more timely performance improvement.

We have been testing our theory at PwC. As an organisation, we rely heavily on 360 degree feedback when managing performance. However, over 90% of feedback is requested at year end. This means that our managers have very little evidence upon which to base their coaching conversations during the year. To solve this problem, we have just built and finished piloting an app that allows our people to give and receive real-time feedback; ‘Snapshot’. It allows people to quickly request and give feedback in line with our PwC capability model, giving managers timely insight in their people’s strengths and development areas across the firm.

Over a two month trial period, we saw a huge improvement in the quality of conversations between Line Managers and their people, simply through having access to up to date data which can enrich and support conversations. Due to the success of this approach, we have now rolled out real-time performance feedback across the entire UK firm.

The potential of digital led change is limitless, for business and for HR. However, it is also creating challenges for Line Managers, who are being asked to manage performance through business transformation, changing agendas, widespread cost cutting, and radically different people strategies. Let’s make things easier and give them the data they need to manage performance on the front line. And if we won’t give them the right tools, how about we give them a break?

*participants of PwC’s 2015 Transforming Performance Management report

Sarah Passmore

e: [email protected]

p: +44 (0)20 780 41732