MESSAGE FROM THE RESEARCHERS
Roles and Goals: The Keys to Manager Success
By Ragan Decker, Ph.D.
People managers play a pivotal role in achieving organizational success. Yet insights from SHRM Research reveal that approximately one-third of these key players rate themselves as not being highly effective managers (see chart above). This deficiency has profound impacts across the organization, influencing employees’ job satisfaction, organizational commitment and turnover intentions, to name just a few.
In light of these findings, we asked people managers to identify the workplace practices that have the greatest impact on their effectiveness. Clear role expectations emerged as the foremost consideration, with 43 percent of people managers saying this practice has the greatest impact on their success. This is followed by structured goal-setting and performance metrics, which 29 percent identify as having the greatest impact (see chart below).
At the foundation of these two workplace practices is role clarity, meaning the extent to which individuals within an organization have a clear understanding of the specific responsibilities, tasks, expectations, goals and performance metrics associated with their position. For optimal effectiveness, people managers must not only ensure role clarity for their direct reports but also attain clarity regarding their own roles. Amid the rapid changes in the business environment, establishing role clarity can be a challenge, as organizations implementing innovations and change initiatives may overlook the need to ensure that employees understand their evolving role expectations.
Though people managers have control over role clarity for their teams, it is often executives or upper management who delineate the managers’ roles. This is particularly pertinent because people managers often find themselves caught in the middle between strategic vision and tactical execution, which can necessitate explicit guidance from executives regarding expectations, goals and performance metrics.
Such direction becomes instrumental in helping managers prioritize effectively and provide clarity to their teams. This guidance from executives is also critical for retention. SHRM Research found that people managers who often feel caught in the middle between the strategic vision and the practical realities faced by their team are more likely to be actively searching for a new job (see chart above).
To ensure role clarity for people managers and employees across your organization, SHRM Research recommends that organizations provide:
- Detailed job descriptions. Keep job descriptions detailed and up-to-date to reflect changes in the business environment. Prioritize and allocate resources for frequent reviews and revisions, to ensure alignment with evolving responsibilities and to provide a realistic job preview.
- Clear expectations. Clearly articulate roles, responsibilities and expectations to each team member, ensuring alignment with organizational objectives. Confirm understanding and revisit regularly.
- Clear and measurable goals. Establish clear and measurable goals for each role, and communicate those goals. Identify metrics for each goal. Doing so serves as a roadmap for employees and a means to evaluate managerial effectiveness.
- Role alignment meetings. Advocate for and prioritize role alignment meetings to discuss roles, responsibilities and expectations in the team. These serve as an open forum for discussion and foster a collective understanding of roles and responsibilities.
Effective management begins with role clarity. Fostering such clarity demands strategic and proactive efforts by both managers and executives. While some degree of role ambiguity is to be expected, prioritizing and implementing these recommendations allows organizations to establish a robust foundation for managerial effectiveness.
Ragan Decker, Ph.D., is a lead researcher at SHRM.