Reinventing Culture: Are Managers the Missing Link we’re ignoring?

LinkedIn Talent Solution’s s recent Global Talent Trends 2022 report “The Reinvention of Company Culture” is very interesting reading. It’s also interesting to know that many of the same challenges facing our clients located in Australia and the APAC region are shared with organisations around the globe. People are people.

Reinventing Company Culture… Why? Well, employees now have a voice – or more importantly, they have feet they can use to walk out the door, so actions (or the threat of action) become the voice that speaks way louder than words. Add to that an acute labour shortage as there is in Australia (and many other countries), exacerbated by lack of immigration and net-migration out of nearly a million skilled and other visa holders, that action-based voice is screaming from the rooftops – organisations have to listen.

The report shares great case studies where companies spend lots of money, time and effort building better EVPs, employer brands, policies and procedures, flexible working policies, etc. Some organisations do all this incredibly well. However, in my wide-ranging experience across Government, the Private Sector and Not-for-Profits, the on the ground reality and real-world experience is often very different. Why is that?

The reality that people join companies, and 60% leave managers still stands true. It gets played out time and time again. People may join a company with a great EVP and policies; they may get more money; they may get more flexible working. But in time, the biggest part of the equation (60%!) is that the relationship with their manager, lack of feeling heard and valued, lack of opportunity and development that make them feel disengaged, feel they’re worth more ($ and appreciation) and start to look elsewhere.

The ‘Great Reshuffle’ cycle continues until people do find a great manager or the labour market turns (as it eventually will) and they have less choice of places to ‘reshuffle’ to (which may be even worse, as people disengage and stay put!).

The greatest single takeout from the report is reinventing culture to be Human Centred: supporting and training managers to be empathetic, enabling, and empowering leaders.  That is the future, and needs to happen regardless of a “Great Reshuffle” scenario!

The reality is middle managers and the layer below Executives are the key.

Executives set the policies, Companies reinvent culture, develop flashy new EVPs, promise things in job ads, in branding, etc, but the actual execution usually comes down to manager level (managers at every level – managers have managers, executives have managers, etc).

This is often where things break down.  Not because the manager is a bad person or is intentionally doing a bad job – usually far from it! The reality is that managers have their jobs to do too. They are under pressure from their managers to get their stuff done. They often simply don’t have time to manage. They are time poor; overwhelmed; pressured by their managers to deliver, often with increasingly limited resources due to restructures and organisations trying to cut costs/ maximise profit/ save money. I constantly hear of already overwhelmed leaders telling me there’s yet another restructure coming – reducing headcount while the workload stays the same.

With the best will in the world, when a manager is overworked, time-poor and under increasing stress and pressure, they naturally start to drop the ball on some things. Managers feel they simply don’t have time to listen to their people. They become more autocratic, telling people what to do “I haven’t got time to coach people and develop them, it takes too long… I just need the job done, I’ll polish it up myself, it’ll be quicker”.

From a neuroscience point of view, they are, understandably, in varying degrees of ‘threat state and see things through that lens – people become self-protective rather than team focused; they become problem focused – they see mistakes as disasters rather than learning opportunities; small niggles become big issues; focus and perspective narrows – it becomes harder to see the bigger picture; they are less open to trying new things – “haven’t got time for that, let’s stick to what we know, it’ll be quicker”; they become reactive rather than proactive.

Little things drop off – no time to stop and appreciate what people do (and “I don’t get appreciated, so why should others?” mentality creeps in). No time for those seemingly inconsequential chats with their people that they used to have, before or after the meeting or in passing. No time to stop ask people how they are feeling – and often scared to ask in case they get a response that requires them to give more of their already scarce time to support those people.

Sharing information becomes scarcer “I’ll do it when I have the one-on-one”. But the one-on-ones get postponed. Time slips by. Empathy starts to drop significantly. People feel their manager doesn’t care. They feel unappreciated. They start thinking “why am I bothering? Why should I care so much when my boss doesn’t really care about me – she/he doesn’t even have time to talk to me these days.” Engagement drops.

And we wonder why there’s a Great Reshuffle aka Great Resignation? Isn’t it time we change things?

What’s your thinking about what needs to change? Get in touch to share your thoughts or if if this is something your organisation is currently experiencing 

FREE: 2022 Global Talent Trend Report – The Reinvention of Company Culture