In today’s rapidly evolving labor market, 45% of managers don’t feel confident in their ability to develop the skills employees need today, according to Gartner. In addition to a lack of confidence, Gartner research also found that managers lack time to coach their direct reports, with managers spending on average 9% of their time on developing their direct reports.
These issues around employee development are particularly problematic in a multigenerational work environment. Millennials report wanting feedback 50% more often than other employees; a Gartner survey found that more than 70% of HR executives believe that managers should get more involved in coaching employees compared with three years ago.
“Today’s organizations are undergoing a digital transformation that directly impacts how they do business, and they are finding a significant skills gap within their workforces,” said Jaime Roca, senior vice president in the Gartner HR practice. “Our research found that 70% of employees have not mastered the skills they need for their jobs today, let alone the skills needed for their future roles.”
Organizations that are most successful at developing their employees have focused on cultivating Connector managers, who are able to connect employees to the right people and resources at the right time. In fact, Connector managers boost employee performance by up to 26% and more than triple the likelihood that their employees will be high performers.
“Connector managers give targeted coaching and feedback in their areas of expertise, but they recognize that there are skills best taught by people other than themselves,” said Sari Wilde, managing vice president in the Gartner HR practice. “Connectors focus on assessing the skills, needs and interests of their employees and they surface the best opportunities for their employees to acquire experience, skills and capabilities — at the time they are needed.”
Connector managers achieve unparalleled performance from their direct reports by making three essential connections:
The employee connection involves all the individual interactions managers have with their employees, including providing direct feedback, coaching and sharing performance expectations. Connector managers anchor their time in active listening and asking questions that build trust and help them understand employee context.
Developing a deep and rich upfront relationship with employees helps managers accurately identify needs, interests and aspirations, and this upfront investment ensures that Connectors provide more targeted development at the right times and on the right skill needs.
Gartner research reveals that approximately one-quarter of employees already count on teammates as a primary source of feedback. However, while most employees are willing to share knowledge and discuss strengths with their peers, very few are willing and open to sharing their skill gaps.
Making the team connection relies more on a manager crafting an open environment for skill sharing to occur organically, not the manager’s ability to explicitly match employees for coaching. Connector managers start building this team ecosystem by leveraging the intelligence they gather during the employee connection. Their foundational understanding of what drives and motivates each employee allows them to tailor the broader team environment to match employees’ individual motivators — and create a productive and trusting space.
Connector managers help their employees build bridges across and outside of the enterprise to make the best — not just the most — connections. To do this, managers must give employees visibility into skills across the organization and help them prepare to extract value from each exchange and reflect on lessons learned after the fact.
While external connections are one good option for best-fit development, in many organizations, it is equally possible to find these sources internally. Ultimately, the organization connection does not require a large internal or external network. Connectors are resourceful and become “mapmakers” for their employees, helping them determine how and where they can identify “best-fit” connections inside and outside the organization.
“The role of the manager in coaching and developing people has rightfully become a high priority for organizations today as they navigate an environment of heightened change and complexity,” said Roca. “Regardless of industry, function or region, Connector managers can increase employee willingness to go above and beyond by up to 38% and can improve employee engagement by up to 40%.”