How to Measure How Strong Your Managers Really Are

June 2, 2017

How to manager the effectiveness of your managers, because every employee deserves an exceptional boss.

In February, we asked 500 learning and development leaders throughout North America their main focus.

Their answer: bosses. More than anything else, learning teams are spending their time and money on developing great managers. This makes sense, as research shows great managers make a massive difference on employee effectiveness and overall business performance.

That’s great, but here’s the struggle many organizations are facing with that: yes, they want to develop strong leaders. But what exactly does a great leader look like? And how can you measure the effectiveness of your managers?

That depends on your goals. But here are a five smart ways to measure how effective your managers really are:

1. Their team’s overall performance.

Business comes down to results. And while this shouldn’t be the only metric you judge a manager on for a variety of reasons, performance matters big time.

For marketing, this means the amount and quality of their team’s leads. For sales, their team’s overall contribution. For manufacturing, their cycle time or reject ratio.

Most likely, your managers are already being judged on this now. But this is also where L&D pros can show how softer metrics like engagement and morale influence more bottom-line numbers.

A leadership program should improve leaders, which should improve overall performance. Of course, it’s difficult to tie that solely to learning. But, if managers who go through your leadership program outperform managers who don’t, that’s a number that the C-Suite is going to care about.

That said, looking only at performance is a mistake. That can lead to burn-out culture where long-term success is sacrificed for short-term wins.

2. Employee surveys.

All organizations should survey their employees a couple of times a year, period. And that survey should be anonymous, so all employees feel empowered to give their honest assessment of the organization.

Not doing this is a huge mistake. It’s intentionally putting your head in the sand, while real problems continue to fester within your ranks.

From those employee surveys, you can tell how engaged a manager’s team is. You can see if managers are implementing what you taught them – for example, if you prioritize transparency, you can find out if employees really believe their manager is transparent with them. And, they show how your managers are improving in specific areas over time.

3. Their team’s turnover rate.

The problem with this metric is it’s reactive. Great managers build teams of engaged employees who don’t want to leave, at least not right away. So, if you wait for a team’s turnover rate to spike, it might be too late.

That said, you still should track each team’s turnover rate. If there is an unexpected spike, you need to address it immediately. Maybe it’s due to factors outside of the manager’s control; but high turnover on one team is a red flag.

Here is the right way to think about high turnover on one team: not as a failure of a manager, but as an organizational failure. If you have a team at your organization that people are eager to leave from, that’s not just on the manager. It’s on the L&D team who didn’t give that manager the right tools to be successful and the manager’s manager for not intervening sooner.

4. Surveys of job candidates.

An underrated but important skill for managers to have is to be strong recruiters. And that means treating job candidates with respect and having interviews that are honest conversations, instead of one-way interrogations.

Why does this matter?

LinkedIn research shows the interview with the prospective manager is the make-or-break moment for job candidates. If they respect the manager, they’ll likely want to work for the organization. If they don’t or feel like they aren’t respected, they’ll likely look elsewhere for work.

So, in able for your organizations to bring in strong talent, you need managers who can effectively recruit and interview. By surveying job candidates – particularly ones that don't get the job – you hold your managers accountable and ensure they are helping bring in great talent, instead of hurting that effort.

5. If their employees advance.

Great leaders build more great leaders. For that reason, you want to track if a manager’s employees are promoted within your company.

Here’s where you need to be open-minded as well, particularly when it comes to turnover. Yes, you want a manager whose people aren’t leaving the company. And, ideally, if an employee is getting a higher rank, you want it to be within your company.

That said, a great leader will often develop a person to the point they are ready for a bigger role. And, if that bigger role isn’t at your company, chances are that person will move on to another organization.

That shouldn’t be held against the manager. Why not?

A few reasons. First off, ideally you should be able to promote these people within your organization. So some might go elsewhere, but it also means you have a strong leadership pipeline.

Secondarily, if someone develops at your organization and gets a job elsewhere, you just built an advocate for life. That person will refer others to your organization and generally speak positively about both your organization and your manager.

Over time, that matters, particularly when trying to win “the war for talent.” Think about it this way – yes, it’s not great you lost a strong employee. But, now you have an advocate at a new company, telling all those employees how great your organization is.

Bottom line, you want your managers developing their people, period.

The takeaway

Measuring the effectiveness of leadership training isn't easy, as L&D pros told us when we asked them. But it’s possible.

Your key KPIs are likely listed within this article. And while there are a million little things you need to do to improve any one of these five metrics, having a clear focus on what number you want to improve makes a big difference.

*Image from Lauren Mitchell, Flickr