August 08, 2019
August 08, 2019
Contributor: Jackie Wiles
Connector managers extract more value from employee coaching and are more likely than other managers to create high performers. Heres how they do it.
Do you want to triple the number of high performers in your organization? Then you need to stop relying on the Always-On management style you have probably been favoring, and groom Connector managers. Connector managers boost employee performance by up to 26% and more than triple the likelihood that the employees they coach will be high performers. They also boost employees’ discretionary effort by up to 38%, and can improve employee engagement by up to 40%. Connectors drive these critical outcomes regardless of industry, function or region. So how do these standout managers do it?
“Connectors foster meaningful connections to and among employees, teams and the organization to develop an employee’s specific capabilities — at the very moment that employee is primed to learn,” says Jaime Roca, Senior Vice President, Research & Advisory, Gartner HR Practice. “Connectors don’t presume to coach their direct reports on everything,” adds Sari Wilde, Managing Vice President, Research & Advisory, Gartner HR Practice. “They expose employees to the best opportunities to acquire experience, skills and capabilities — at the time they are needed.”
Learn more: Building Connector Managers
The success of Connector managers is surprising given that today’s fast-shifting work environment seems to call for an Always-On style of managing, which can respond to employees who crave (and at times need) frequent coaching and feedback. But research shows that Always-On managers actually degrade employee performance by up to 8%. This happens for various reasons — most of which hinge on some popular myths about the virtues of continuous coaching and feedback. Avoid steering your manager population in the wrong direction by debunking these myths — especially these three favorites:
In working to debunk these myths, you are also unleashing the power of the Connector manager, who doesn’t try to be everything to everyone, but rather focuses on making three core development connections for their employees to reap and deliver benefits.
What is it? Managers have myriad interactions with employees, from providing direct feedback and coaching to sharing performance expectations. Connectors dedicate extensive time and energy to this employee connection, building a deep and rich upfront relationship with employees and helping them accurately identify needs, interests and aspirations.
What does the employee connection look like? Connectors don’t offer feedback on every project, interaction and activity. They invest in upfront work to understand the employee’s specific needs and then find ways to empower them to be proactive about their own development.
What’s the result? Connectors provide more targeted development at the right times and on the right skill needs — feedback that employees can actively use to improve their performance and drive their own career development.
How to drive the employee connection?
What is it? Connectors take their foundational understanding of what drives and motivates each employee and use it to tailor the broader team environment — and set employees up to more intentionally share skills and boost each other’s performance within team interactions. What does the team connection look like? Connectors build a team environment that is grounded in trust and a deep understanding of employee needs. Team members are encouraged to discuss strengths and weaknesses with their peers — and to find peers with whom they can share knowledge and skills development. What’s the result? Our research finds that approximately one-quarter of employees count on teammates as a primary source of feedback. Instead, consider the potential harmonizing power of your own team. Let’s say you have five direct reports. With five employees per team, there are nearly 25 connections that can occur between teammates to help them improve their skills — potentially developing a whole finely tuned unit of high performers. How to drive the team connection?
What is it? Connectors look to exploit connections beyond those available within an employee’s direct reporting lines, teams or even their known professional and social networks. These skill pockets may be hard to find within the organization, and may not exist at all for smaller organizations or niche job areas.
What does the organization connection look like? Best-fit development connections emerge by building bridges across and outside of the enterprise to make the best (not just the most) connections. Possible sources are “benevolent outsiders,” such as peer companies that share industry, geography, orientation or growth stage, app and technology partners with a vested interest in seeing your organization thrive, and customers with an emotional connection to your business.
What’s the result? Best-fit development connections are critically important in boosting employee performance, grooming high-potential employees, and providing high-performing employees with development opportunities that keep them growing and engaged.
How to drive the organization connection?
The role of the manager in coaching and developing people has rightfully become a high priority for organizations in today’s era of heightened change and complexity. Managers serve as the key conduit between an organization and its staff, helping employees continuously align to changing performance standards, learn new skills, grow in their careers and much more. In this environment, Connector managers are a critical asset for HR and other senior leaders who want to keep their organizations agile in a time of significant business flux and for learning and development managers looking to extract better returns from their development and coaching programs. To improve your organization’s chances of grooming high performers, commit to these three things today to take the Connector manager approach:
Learn more: The Connector Manager
Join your peer CHROs and senior HR executives from leading organizations to discuss specific HR challenges and learn top HR trends and priorities.
Recommended resources for Gartner clients*:
How Connector Managers Coach to Drive Performance.
*Note that some documents may not be available to all Gartner clients.