The modern manager does not have a simple life. While they are combining servant leadership with performance-driven coaching to self-directing teams, colleagues are constantly giving and asking feedback. It is up to HR to support the managers in developing their teams. How can we upgrade the manager to version 2.0?

The good news: managers are aware of the challenges they are facing. Research by KPMG and the Rotterdam based Erasmus University shows that managers seek help for topics like effective communication (72%), leadership styles (55%), dealing with conflict (64%) and setting boundaries (48%). In modern performance management, the manager should no longer determine the development process of their employees, but they should focus more on facilitating it. The dialogue between the employee and the organization (through the manager) is pivotal.

Keeping the dialogue alive

An ongoing conversation is better than a single annual performance interview, says Paul Boselie (Professor of HRM at Utrecht University) in the Dutch newspaper NRC. “There is absolutely no scientific proof that one annual interview contributes to the performance of an organization, let alone the well-being of its employees”. However, it has been established that an ongoing conversation creates a good working relationship. “This will make an organization perform better”. But are managers equipped for this kind of open conversations during (or instead of!) their daily activities?

“That’s where there’s an opportunity for significant improvement” says Marianne Janssen, HR-director in the Dutch magazine ‘P&O Actueel’. “It takes a different attitude and approach from line managers. Becoming more of a coach of the team, not only focusing on the content.” Performance management remains the responsibility of the line, while HR assumes the role of advisor and coach of the line manager. An important part of this, is to provide line managers with the necessary skills. Mr. or Ms. manager 2.0 must be able to conduct conversations to transfer the norm or that are as open as possible. However, not everyone is equally proficient in this naturally.

Equipping the right skills

This development towards a continuous dialogue with employees has also been implemented at Deloitte. “We do not believe in a single annual conversation,” says L&D Manager Gwenda van Hooff. “That won’t teach you what your specific talents are and how to use them.” Research into intensifying the interaction showed that good employee performance can be predicted by three personal factors:

As a result, Deloitte is globally striving for more frequent feedback, discussion whether the work is challenging enough, what the expectations of employees are and what skills can or should be developed. Managers are trained in conducting meaningful conversations through performance coaching skills. This does not have to take up too much of their time: a few years ago, Deloitte introduced online training. Managers now practice soft skills through video role plays and acquire skills faster.

Scanning skill levels before commencing a training program means some managers might skip a certain program, while others realize that this is something they’d like to work on. What follows is not just a single skill boost, but an ongoing process of multiple months, in which a manager sharpens their skills on a weekly basis by practicing them individually through online exercises. At Deloitte, managers are exercising these skills during weekly check-in, career coaching, pulse meetings and strategic talent reviews. This will create a manager 2.0 who helps his employees develop themselves.

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