You may have a generous recognition program, a flexible work-from-home policy or a special fund for professional development.
But is that what employees experience when they work for you? Or do they suffer buyer’s remorse when they realize that, for their particular team, things are not as advertised?
The reality is your policies are only as good as your managers.
Executives and leaders create companywide policies to shape the culture and spirit of their organization.
But those ideals only make an impact when they are experienced every day — especially in the way managers interact with employees.
Here are some questions to ask yourself about your organization:
1. Does flexibility depend on the team manager?
Flexibility is a very attractive benefit in today’s talent marketplace.
Fifty-one percent of employees say they would change jobs for flextime, and 35% say they would change jobs for a flexible working location.
To be a talent magnet, you have to offer flexibility. But you have to make sure managers are delivering on it in a one-on-one, personalized fashion that is meaningful to the individual.
All too often, however, a flexible policy is placed into an inflexible team culture.
How easy is it for someone to get time off for a medical appointment? Is it technically allowed but subtly discouraged?
Do some managers allow lots of flexibility while others allow none?
While there must be natural variation based on business demands, a consistent employee experience of flexibility is critical for an effective talent brand.
2. Are remote workers treated as equals?
There are obviously many benefits to working remotely — no commute stress, greater flexibility and fewer in-office distractions. However, some employees may be penalized for remote work in hidden ways.
Two major concerns for remote workers are relationships and development.
Do your managers actively seek out relationships with remote workers?
Do they show they care about them personally, and do they connect them with other team members?
Regarding career development, are remote workers included in recognition programs and do managers have career coaching conversations with them?
Compared with employees who spend at least some time in the office, fully remote workers are 30% less likely to strongly agree that they have talked with their manager about steps to reach their goals in the past six months.
3. Do managers know how to manage in a matrixed environment?
Eighty-four percent of U.S. employees today participate in matrixed teams to some extent.
But claiming to have a matrixed organization is not the same as having an effective one.
According to Gallup’s research, there are two significant challenges to this new style of work.
First, employees struggle with prioritization.
They may be working on multiple requests for multiple projects, and it may be difficult for them to prioritize what to work on next. Managers play a key role in helping employees plan their work — and also step in as their advocate when workloads become unmanageable.
Second, highly matrixed employees say they spend a third of their day in meetings.
This leaves little time for actually getting work done. Are there ways that your managers can limit unnecessary meetings so individual contributors can be more productive?
4. Do managers understand gig workers?
According to Gallup’s recent gig economy perspective paper, 36% of all U.S. workers participate in a gig work arrangement in some capacity.
As organizations become more dependent on temporary, gig and contract work, there is a need for managers who can manage gig workers in a way that makes you their employer of choice.
Gig workers are as likely to work for your competition as for you.
For this reason, in a very short period of time, managers must create a compelling employee experience for these workers, while also conveying the purpose, brand and culture of your organization.
They must also foster social cohesion among long-term and short-term workers in order to get the work done well.
5. Are development programs personalized in meaningful way?
Do your managers know their employees’ dreams? Have they had conversations with their employees about their personal and career growth?
By nature, a corporate development program can only be generic.
But professional development is personal.
Managers are the ones who bridge that gap by connecting your development offerings with real people who have specific desires and hopes.
The job of the manager is to understand each person’s aspirations and abilities and help them develop their career in the direction they want to go.
6. Are employees routinely encouraged to participate in well-being programs and other benefits?
A 2016 Society for Human Resource Management survey found that there is a wide gap between the benefits companies offer and the benefits employees think their company offers.
No doubt this is due to the fact that onboarding or orientation is the first and last time many employees hear about your organization’s benefits.
For this reason, many benefits are wasted — even when those benefits were developed to attract and retain employees.
Here again, managers are the solution.
Managers know their employees best, and they should be able to connect benefits with the specific situation and stage of life for their employees.
When managers can recommend specific benefits to employees that directly impact their employees’ well-being, that’s truly a policy that can retain great talent.
Managers Bring Your Policies to Life
For many of these policies, like flexibility and remote working, it can feel safer to dabble rather than risk cultural transformation.
However, this lack of commitment just as often leads to a confusing, erratic employee experience.
Leaders must ask: Do the intended benefits of our policies reach the individuals they were meant to reach? And how are they really experienced?
Knowing what your employees and managers think, see and experience on a daily basis is the first step to answering these questions.