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Poor Leadership In Motivating Poorer-Performing Staff

January 29 2008 - A new European study by consultants Watson Wyatt has found that employers need to be more effective at helping managers to motivate poorer-performing staff.

Carole Hathaway, a senior consultant at Watson Wyatt commented:

"Managers find it easy to manage top-performing employees but are not so adept when it comes to improving poorer performers. Some of the greatest opportunities for improved organisational performance lie in helping managers raise the bar for moderate and poorer performers but it appears from our study that few employers are doing a good job of this."

Watson Wyatt's 2007/2008 Global Strategic Rewards study encompassed 5,500 employees and 175 businesses across Europe. The study found that, compared to their poorer-performing colleagues, top performers were 66% more likely to say that their immediate bosses did a good job of communicating organisational and performance management issues.

Watson Wyatt also found that just a third of poor performers could say that their immediate supervisors were good at:

  • communicating expectations for organisational financial performance,
  • establishing goals for their individual performance that were linked to business objectives, or
  • providing direct feedback on their individual performance.

Worse, fewer than 30% felt that their immediate manager did a good job of linking organisational performance to rewards or linking individual performance to rewards.

Carole Hathaway said:

"It could be that managers need more support in understanding how to communicate with all their staff, not just the more motivated stronger performers. Employees perform better if they have a clear understanding of their organisation's goals and what they can personally do to contribute towards these. So setting good objectives and getting performance management communication right, especially for the weaker members of a team, is of vital importance."

Poor Leadership Affecting Business Performance

A survey for RTL in 2007 indicated that UK bosses' lack of leadership skills in setting objectives, motivating employees and dealing with poor performers has an adverse effect on business performance. Commissioned by Ros Taylor Ltd, a leading firm of Chartered Psychologists, the study drew on responses from 1500 people from organizations of varying sizes throughout the UK about leadership in the workplace.

Key findings include:

  • 77 per cent of respondents said their boss was not interested in them
  • 90 per cent said their boss did nothing about poor performers
  • 79 per cent claimed their boss did not set clear objectives
  • 89 per cent said their boss lacked innovation and was unreceptive to new ideas

Ros Taylor, managing director of RTL commented:

"That's only 15 per cent of people we asked who thought their boss was any good and 8 per cent who thought they were inspirational. I wish I could say I was shocked - but the truth is it's slightly better than I expected. The fact is that while businesses are quite rightly paying attention to their cost base - squeezing every last ounce of value out of the food chain - they are not so cleverly overlooking a very real business and financial asset. Leadership. Let's forget the old clichés about 'soft skills' - bad leadership costs shareholders and stakeholders real money. While companies are spending millions on automation and the new IT architectures they could be spending thousands and saving millions by sharpening up their leadership assets.

"Think about it. Many line managers, heads of department and directors are on a minimum £100K+ pa. These people represent something of the order of a £200K+ investment for the company. As a psychologist I am intrigued that companies who bend over backwards to 'think smart' ignore this area. It's the 'one thing' they could do that would deliver tangible results - and yet the vast majority just don't do it. They probably think that, in the old cliché 'leaders are born, not made' and yet in our business we disprove that on an almost daily basis. They can't leave the innovation and blue sky thinking that comes from truly inspirational leadership to chance - or for that matter to a quirk of genetics - it's odd to think that multinational companies who factor the canteen subsidy into the cost of a sausage roll don't have a 'leadership development plan'."

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