Gartner Survey Reveals Connector Manager Approach Best for Improving Employee Performance

Experts Identify What the Best Managers Do to Develop Employees in Today's Work Environment

ARLINGTON, Va.--()--Only 40 percent of employees believe their managers help them develop the skills they need for their current role, according to CEB, now Gartner. Even fewer employees agree their manager is effectively preparing them for their future careers. As a result, a large number of employees feel unprepared for both their current and prospective career paths.

Gartner surveyed 7,300 employees and managers across 25 industries and interviewed and surveyed more than 300 HR executives to categorize managers' development approaches, and pinpoint what managers can do to better serve the emerging development needs of their employees.

In studying the connection between development approaches and employee performance, the research revealed one clear winner: Connector Managers. In fact, employees under the direction of Connector Managers are three times as likely as those of other types to be high performers.

Connector Managers give targeted coaching and feedback in their areas of expertise, otherwise, they connect employees with others on their team or within the organization who are better suited to the task. Compared with the other three approaches identified, these managers focus more on assessing the skills, needs and interests of their employees, and they recognize that some skills are best taught by people other than themselves.

"Most people think that a great manager is about providing ongoing, continuous coaching and feedback across all aspects of an employee's work," said Jaime Roca, HR practice leader at Gartner. "However, our research finds that approach can actually reduce employee performance by up to 8 percent. The 'Always-on' manager often provides misguided, irrelevant or too much feedback."

"In the case of Connector Managers, their coaching puts more weight on asking the right questions, giving tailored feedback and being the link between them and other colleagues who can help the performance of their employees," said Sari Wilde, research leader for Gartner's HR practice.

Gartner experts identified three other manager approaches to employee development:

Teacher Managers develop employees on the basis of their own experience and expertise, offering advice-oriented feedback and personally directing development.

Always-On Managers provide frequent coaching and give feedback across a wide variety of skills. These managers treat upgrading their employee's skills as a daily part of their job.

Cheerleader Managers have a more hands-off approach, giving positive feedback and putting employees in charge of their own development. They are approachable and supportive, but they are not as proactive as the other manager types when it comes to developing employee skills.

To help managers implement a Connector Manager approach, Gartner urges them to focus less on the frequency of their conversations surrounding development and more on connecting them with the right individuals and experiences for development.

"Managers should focus on diagnosing individual employee needs and motivations," said Ms. Wilde. "Connector Managers create an environment that encourages transparency and skill sharing within their teams so that employees can learn from one another, not overrelying on managers for everything."

"For managers, the development of their employees doesn't stop with them, but expands in the valuable connections they make on their behalf," Mr. Roca said.

To learn more, listen to our webinar on June 28, 2018. Gartner for HR Leaders clients can also read about the New Manager Mandate.

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Sarah Morris, +1 (571) 458-3022


Sarah Morris, +1 (571) 458-3022