Manager effectiveness: Why the cost of disregarding your managers is higher than you think


June 6, 2023



Studies show that manager effectiveness is a top priority for organizations looking to thrive in the new world of work, yet only 5% of businesses have turned their leadership development plans into action. To gain a competitive edge, HR leaders must empower managers to focus their efforts on the point of maximum impact: fostering talent.1 2 3

Business leaders are facing an onslaught of challenges.4 A tight labor market and economic uncertainty mean the pressure is on to hit numbers and deliver on time–all while cutting costs. Looking for results, they turn to middle managers. Despite the great expectations placed on management to drive everything from engagement to growth, leadership statistics show that support for managers has drastically declined over the past year.4 

Overwhelmed and undervalued, managers are suffering higher levels of stress and burnout, with surveys showing that they report worse physical well-being and work-life balance than those they manage.5 6 Burdened with spending the majority of their time and energy on administrative work and navigating organizational bureaucracy, managers are left with little resources to focus on the point of maximum impact: nurturing their people. It is no wonder, then, that managers are leaving their jobs at higher rates than non-managers.3 6

Despite acknowledging the value of integrated talent coaching and development programs, managers report only being able to spend a quarter of their time on tasks directly related to supporting their people–and dropping levels of engagement reflect this disconnect.3 7 An effective manager is one that takes continuous action to empower their team–ensuring everyone feels valued, heard, and has opportunities for growth. Considering the degree to which effective management impacts performance, it is distressing to learn that only 20% of managers strongly agree that their organizations help them succeed in their role.3 In fact, only 5% of companies have implemented leadership development programs at all levels–even though 83% of organizations believe managerial support is crucial for business success.2

An effective manager is one that takes continuous action to empower their team–ensuring everyone feels valued, heard, and has opportunities for growth.

Organizations looking to thrive in spite of economic volatility would do well to prioritize leadership development and start giving managers what they need to succeed: time, training, and tools.4

Time: Reassess Priorities and Accommodate for Agency 

Almost 50% of the managers who report spending less than a quarter of their working hours on talent management say they simply do not have more time to spend on it.3 When it comes to manager effectiveness and leadership development, however, the real blocker is not necessarily a literal lack of time, but the lack of authority managers have in deciding how best to allocate their time. Surveys show that managers want more agency in their roles just as much as they want financial rewards for their accomplishments.3 Organizations that empower their managers to spend the majority of their time ensuring their people are supported will see a significant impact in employee engagement and retention rates.8

For this to happen, organizations must firstly rethink their current hierarchy of priorities: is administrative and strategic work really where managers add most value?3 Secondly, they must effectively communicate that managers who spend their time and energy empowering their teams will be rewarded with what they want: increased autonomy and responsibility, followed by bonuses and raises.3

Training: Establish Continuous Leadership Development as Central to Your Culture

Manager effectiveness largely comes down to curiosity, discovery, and empowerment: caring enough to ask the right question, listening to individuals to identify their strengths, and getting out of the way to let each person do what they do best.9 These traits are rooted in servant leadership–a leadership style and philosophy where a “leader’s main goal and responsibility is to provide service to their people” and enhance their development in ways that “unlock potential, creativity and sense of purpose.”10 11 12 Research shows that this ‘servant-leader’ mentality not only improves individual engagement levels and leads to high performing teams, but it also increases satisfaction and well-being.13 On top of that, managers themselves report feeling happier and more motivated when they are able to help others.14

Research suggests, however, that only 30% of professionals are likely to become the kind of managers that prioritize talent satisfaction and well-being.14 While the importance of leadership training programs for managers cannot be overstated, recent studies show that there has been a decline in organizational practices that provide support for managers.4 As a result, only 13% of professionals say they are fully satisfied with their working experience.15 To ensure engagement and retention levels stay high, companies must support their managers with continuous opportunities for development and help them cultivate the skills needed to foster a servant-leader mentality.14

Tools: Level the Playing Field by Leveraging Tech

Understanding the nuances of employee engagement and the factors that affect satisfaction–particularly when teams start to scale–is a challenge most managers face. Leveraging technology can help managers capture representative snapshots of talent experience, empowering them to make data-driven decisions and improve effectiveness. 

However, recent studies show that, in the past year, there has been a decline in the number of organizations supporting managers with data-based insights into team engagement.4 This has been cited by professionals as one of the critical reasons why managers are perceived as being less effective. In the long run, the lack of tools afforded to leaders comes at a cost to companies, with 82% of professionals saying they would quit their job because of a bad manager.8

Companies that give managers the tools to leverage data can help them not only identify issues such as disengagement, but also empower them to take targeted actions and increase retention rates. Listening tools such as short, regular pulse surveys, and more extensive, biannual surveys can help managers measure levels of talent engagement, while corresponding analytics can provide practical intelligence. Actionboards that centralize data from across the organization and offer accessible and actionable insights are also fundamental, as are tools that facilitate regular 1:1 meetings between a manager and their direct reports, ensuring connection and well-being stay high.

Considering that 74% of professionals report they are more effective at their job when they feel heard, and that managers who check in weekly with their direct reports have been shown to drive engagement up 77% and actual first-year voluntary turnover down 67%, giving managers the tools they need to support their people can boost productivity and drive business growth.16 17

Managers are often resilient, versatile professionals willing to take on an array of responsibilities. But the constant pressure to succeed is starting to take its toll. Unsupported and unappreciated, managers are calling it quits.34 3 6 Companies that make manager empowerment and leadership development a priority will be the ones to reap the rewards. Giving managers the time, training, and tools they need to focus on the most important part of their role–fostering talent–will allow them to create a working environment where professionals can deliver their best work.

When it comes to empowering managers with tools, StarMeUp provides a comprehensive solution for companies. Founded on three Fundamentals designed to ensure people feel valued, heard and have growth opportunities, the platform provides an array of features that managers can leverage to put their servant leadership principles into action. These include engagement surveys, 1:1s, a disengagement detector, continuous feedback, 360° recognition, and an actionboard for leaders. Deployed together, StarMeUp enables managers to put people first, ultimately helping organizations create a values-driven company culture that fuels business success.

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1. Gartner, 2022, “Top 5 Priorities for HR Leaders in 2023.”

2. Zippia, 2023, “36 Powerful Leadership Statistics.”

3. McKinsey & Company, 2023, “Stop wasting your most precious resource: Middle Managers.”

4. MIT Sloan Management Review, 2023, “What’s Holding Back Manager Effectiveness, and How to Fix It.”

5. Gallup, 2023, Culture Shock.

6. MIT Sloan Management Review, 2022, “Middle Managers Are Exhausted. Top Teams Need to Listen.”

7. Gallup, 2023, “U.S. Employee Engagement Needs a Rebound in 2023.”

8. Harvard Business Review, 2022, “To Retain Your Best Employees, Invest in Your Best Managers.”

9. Harvard Business Review, 2005, “What Great Managers Do.”

10. Greenleaf Center for Servant Leadership, 2021, “What is Servant Leadership?”

11. Forbes, 2022, “Energizing Your Workforce With A Strong Corporate Culture And Servant Leadership.”

12. SHRM, 2018, “The Art of Servant Leadership.”

13. National Library of Medicine, 2022, “Does Servant Leadership Stimulate Work Engagement? The Moderating Role of Trust in the Leader.”

14. McKinsey & Company, 2020, “The boss factor: Making the world a better place through workplace relationships.”

15. Gartner, 2023, “Improve the Employee Experience.”

16. Forbes, 2021, “New Survey Shows The Business Benefit Of Feeling Heard – 5 Ways To Build Inclusive Teams.”

17. The Wall Street Journal, 2022, “Annual Reviews Are a Terrible Way to Evaluate Employees.”


Burnout, Management, Quiet quitting


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