We all know bad people management is a problem, but we're only now becoming aware just how big a problem. Not only does it affect the fortunes of employees and the companies they work for; it also adversely impacts national productivity. A 20 year investigation by the London School of Economics cited poor management (along with low investment and poor intermediate skills) as one of the key reasons why productivity in the UK drags behind that of other European and G7 nations.
As businesses continue to recover from the economic downturn this issue has never been more important. The good news is this productivity challenge isn't insurmountable. Andre Spicer, Professor of Organisational Behaviour at Cass Business School, provided some insight into how this can be achieved when he spoke at a recent Oracle event.
Spicer has defined six personas that define mangers' approaches and behaviours and six alternative personas for employees. Bad people management often comes down to conflict between these different personality types. An employee who is by nature one type of person may well be managed by a person of an altogether different mindset ? which means each has his or her own ideas about the right and wrong ways of working, thereby creating a mismatch.
On a larger scale this mismatch can impact an entire business. In this scenario there is a danger an 'us vs them' mind-set takes hold among managers and employees alike ? so great is the disconnection between a manager's idea of good leadership and an employee's.
At its heart, this is a problem of misunderstanding. Managers are not always able to see things from an employees' perspective and vice versa. The good news is today it's becoming possible to bridge this understanding gap and as a result we are beginning to see smarter talent management.
The key to success lies in taking a behaviourist approach to people management. The good thing about behaviour is it can be measured and recorded. And the more behavioural data we have, the more accurately managers can respond to the needs of their team.
Such behaviourist tactics have already scored big wins for businesses' marketing departments, where teams have proven adept at using data analysis to map customer behaviour, model their actions, quantify their responses to particular campaigns and thereby predict what action they are likely to take.
For me, the future of talent management lies in a similar data-driven approach to drawing insights from measureable human behaviour. It's about taking a more scientific view of management and listening to what the data tells you people will respond to rather than relying on hunches, best guesses, or ingrained beliefs about what does and doesn't work.
Let's be clear: this isn't a far-off dream. The tools for employers to get deeper and truer insights about employees are available today. Those that choose to use these will find they understand their staff better and as a result will find ways to get the best out of them. I can think of few better ways to immediately improve workplace productivity.