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Accidental managers threaten workplace wellbeing

Dr Chris Golby, co-founder, and Director - Lumien

More than two thirds of managers (68%) categorise themselves as accidental managers and they are having a damaging impact on staff retention, employee mental health and productivity,

Accidental managers are managers promoted based on their service record rather than the strength of their people management or soft skills. Insight gathered from the platform over the past 18 months reveals poor management is the top reason for employees leaving their jobs. Poor management also has a significant impact on productivity.

Mental health data* reveals that 50% of employees cite bad management as their main reason for leaving a job. Untrained managers can also result in a 16% drop in productivity which translates to a financial hit of over £5,000 per employee, based on an average UK salary of £31,461.

This damaging skills gap is not necessarily the fault of the managers. Investors In People highlights that 71% of employers in the UK admit they don’t train their first-time managers.

The myth persists in some organisations that leaders are born, not made and that charisma is all you need. That’s a nonsense that has been debunked by many experts in the field, notably Warren Bennis, the late American academic, management consultant and influential writer on leadership.

Managers may have an expert knowledge of the business and be skilled at what they do but are uncertain of how to lead. They rely on their job title and the fact they are boss to drive through decisions, good and bad, without understanding the complexities of managing people and leading teams.

The impact on employees can drive many to quit.

So, how does it feel to work for an accidental manager?

  • Insecure – lacking clear goals and role
  • Exhausting – long hours, and poor work/life balance
  • Stressful – little or no support
  • Lonely or isolated
  • Disinterested – low engagement
  • Distracted
  • Misalignment with values
  • No recognition or reward
  • Poor career development
  • Bullying / harassment
  • Poor relationships and morale.
  • Lack of job security

These are significant barriers to good mental health and wellbeing in the workplace and consequently can drive down productivity by as much as 15.6%. Research[1] shows that 9% productivity loss due to stress 13% productivity loss due to low engagement and 18% productivity loss due to distractions.

Maintaining a resilient workforce during the Covid 19 pandemic has tested managers’ skills. Lumien pulse survey data from 871 employees, across 24 five to 1,000 headcount businesses, who registered more than 12,000 check ins during the pandemic, reveals:

  • 27% of people are significantly impacted by financial worries
  • 33% of people have shown indicators of depression
  • 46% of people showed signs of significant stress
  • 78% of people have had their sleep impacted
  • 52% of people showed signs of loneliness.

Poor management of staff wellbeing costs companies. It can impact on their reputation as well as the bottom line. The potential financial impact of not addressing workplace mental health is significant. A Deloitte survey from January 2020: Mental health and employers Refreshing the case for investment estimated UK business could avoid losing £45 billion a year by better supporting workers. For every £1 invested in supporting employees’ mental health, employers get £5 back by way of reduced presenteeism, absenteeism and staff turnover.

Companies need to start measuring and reporting on staff wellbeing. Team morale needs to be on boardroom agendas and reviewed regularly. Senior leaders have a duty to give their leaders the ‘tools’ and training to monitor and respond to wellbeing issues.

With many businesses struggling to fill posts, the stakes are high. According to the Office for National Statistics job vacancies are at record levels with many businesses struggling to recruit even when offering higher salaries.

The reality is, all too often, companies only think ‘it’s time to do something about mental health’ when things are already going wrong. Then they look for the quick fix, and often turn to Mental Health First Aid or Employee Assistance Programmes. However, these decisions are reactive, rather than proactively tackling the issue. In truth, they will have little impact if management issues are not addressed.

Other businesses put tools in place to manage mental health – such as offering subscriptions to mindfulness apps or programmes – without any mechanism in place to measure uptake or impact.

Tailored measurement and reporting are essential. Businesses leaders need to know where the issues lie to inform a strategy for that business before valuable team members start leaving.

When it comes to workforce wellbeing, there are no quick fixes, there is no ‘one size fits all’ or off-the-shelf solution. Neither is wellbeing a fad. It directly impacts on the performance of the business.

Top leaders in an organisation should develop an evidence-based strategy and plan which is designed to address how that whole business works, e.g., considering: activity peaks, facilities, shift working, remote working and skills development and training.

A data-led wellbeing strategy not only supports people but also improves the culture and effectiveness of the entire business.

Competing on the world stage means every business needs to be able to recruit and retain the best people as we train them to perform at world-class levels both in terms of productivity and innovation.

Taking care of staff should be the cornerstone of that ambition.

www.lumien.io

*source: Lumien

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