Companies track everything from worker productivity to inventory fluctuations. Yet relatively few systematically measure the relationship between employees and their managers.
As low unemployment heightens pressure on companies to hang on to top talent, though, one tech firm’s effort to do just that highlights the difference a good boss can make.
Upon asking its 5,300 employees to rate their supervisors on more than a dozen metrics, workforce-management software provider Kronos Inc. found that managers’ scores were a strong indicator of how likely their direct reports were to leave or remain at the company. As low-scoring managers improved through discussions with their teams and individual coaching, so did their subordinates’ desire to stay, according to Kronos employee survey data.
Unlike so-called 360-degree reviews that some companies deploy—in which employees are rated by their bosses, subordinates and selected peers—Kronos’s initiative zeroes in on managerial behaviors the company identified as playing the biggest role in motivating its employees. It modeled its approach partly on Alphabet Inc.’s Google, which asks employees to take a semiannual “upward feedback survey” on managers, and Facebook Inc., where employees are encouraged to give their managers routine feedback about the way they lead.
Twice a year, employees at the Lowell, Mass.-based firm are asked to rate their bosses, for instance, on whether they talked with them about career development in the past six months. Employees also give scores on how well “my manager empowers me to make decisions” and ensures “I have the flexibility to balance my work and personal life.”
In its initial July 2016 survey, Kronos found that among employees whose bosses scored in the bottom 25% of all managers, 73% said they planned to still work there in a year’s time, compared with 94% of those with bosses in the top 25%. Experience at Kronos has shown that people who respond negatively to the question are five times more likely than others to leave.
By the third survey a year later, managers’ scores improved on average, lifting the overall percentage of Kronos staff who said they intended to continue at Kronos to 87% from 85%.
Among bosses in the bottom 25% the first time around, nearly half considerably improved their ratings, the company said. Those that remained in the bottom quartile are getting coaching.
One manager whose score improved was Dory Azar. Before the first survey, the 34-year-old director of interactive design prided himself on his easy rapport and frequent one-on-ones with his team, he says. To his shock, he scored a below-average 67%.
Sitting down with team members, he asked them to create a manifesto of what they needed. One request was to hold dedicated “office hours” for impromptu powwows and to respond more quickly to requests for meetings—he hadn’t realized his habit of waiting to confirm until he had an overview of his week’s schedule had frustrated some. Another was to give the team more power to pursue new ideas.
By the third survey this summer, his score had climbed to 95%, he says, “but it was that initial conversation that set the tone.”