Front line managers are intrinsic to the overall success of your back office operation. But all too often they are left struggling with a range of changing and complex challenges which suck up huge amounts of their time. The result? A back office that is fighting to keep its head above water, where cost and efficiency takes second place to the practicalities of just getting the job done. However, by simply changing the behaviours and approach of front line managers, the back office can improve and sustain performance for a more secure future.
The real facts
In total, front line managers supervise up to 80% of a company’s workforce. With day-to-day responsibilities including managing individuals in their teams while overseeing quality and operational performance as well as customer care, they are not only accountable for the delivery of a company’s services, but are also key to motivating the morale and performance of the entire back office staff. To put it simply, managers are essential to the success of your back office operation and are often the crucial difference between a low-performing and high-performing operation.
The Day-to-Day Challenge
Despite their significant effect on performance, front line managers often spend a large amount of time dealing with administrative tasks, leaving no time to spare for reviewing long-term goals and performance issues. This means they have a very small window of time in which to manage both the incoming workload and staff performance. In fact, a recent study into the time spent on various tasks by front line managers discovered that 30-60% of their time was spent carrying out administrative tasks while 10-50% of their time was dedicated to non-managerial tasks. In addition, just 10-40% of their time was spent managing operations and staff, placing both the overall performance and morale of the team at risk. The outcome? Front line managers lacking the time they need to focus on the critical task of removing barriers to improve staff performance.
The Typical Solution
The typical way to address these challenges is to reduce front line managers workload by mandating their actions or centralising control, the problem is this actually disempowers them! The result of this course of action is line managers end up repeating decisions from higher up the chain to their staff, without having the chance to contribute in the decision-making process. The result is disengaged managers who are less able to respond to emerging problems or opportunities. Far from solving the problem, we have seen this standard ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach actually make things much worse.
Standard management approaches
Many organisations have no formalised approach to management which results in opportunity never being uncovered and performance stagnating. However this does not go unnoticed but as organisations don’t understand the root cause of their management problems they try to fix them with a multitude of solutions. Typically these range from training programmes to software and in some cases complete outsourcing.
Those organisations that do have a management approach in place often feel they are under performing and more could be achieved from the managers if they had the right approach in line with industry best practice. In both instances organisations need to question their management approaches and seek out external assistance with the experience to help them understand where their problems lie and have clear best practice approach to enable their mangers to achieve high performance.
Empowerment as an Alternative
We strongly believe the best practice approach to high performing managers is through empowerment. Organisations can choose to empower their managers to take responsibility for decision-making enabling them to respond rapidly to issues or opportunities. To achieve this managers need a clear framework and set of practice and principles which define how they approach and behave as managers. Combined with their intimate knowledge of their team’s specific tasks, requirements and workloads, line managers become able to make informed decisions about their team to consistently improve. By giving them the skills and frameworks they need you can give them more control which enables them to become more engaged with their staff, encouraging teams to strive for success and improve the performance of the operation as a whole.
To truly empower your managers they need:
Management frameworks – Clearly defined practice and principles to create active performance management routines carried out daily, weekly and monthly to provide a structure and consistent approach to achieve better decision making in their teams
Skills and behaviours – Its important to understand where your managers skill levels are as not all of them will be at the same level. Ensuring there is a consistent level of skills and accreditation across your managers will contribute positively towards operational improvement. For continued sustainability best practice reaccredited managers ensure a consistent approach is in place year on year.
Tools – Managers need effective and easy to use tools to help them in their role and effectively manage teams to drive efficiency and improve performance. Work force management software is key to freeing up time, providing data needed to drive improvement through fact based decisions, ensure consistent quality and service delivery as well as forecasting and planning to ensure teams can cope with existing and new business volumes.