Global HR

Lattice Research Unveils What Overwhelmed Managers Really Need

June 17, 2024
July 9, 2024
Kelly Prior and Helen Morris
Lattice Team

To build and sustain high-performance businesses, you need great managers. After all, who else is better positioned to engage and inspire employees, improve performance, develop talent, maintain wellbeing, and serve as that all-important conduit with the C-suite? 

Wow, that's a lot! Managing people is hard, and it’s only getting harder. Not just because businesses are operating in uncertain times; but because a shocking 73% of managers, across all sectors, are not getting the support they need.

A recent survey of 500 UK employees by Lattice and YouGov brings “the great overwhelm” crisis into sharp focus, revealing exactly how undersupported managers are really feeling. From lack of leadership and strategic HR support, to onerous amounts of administration, and difficulties managing work/life balance — it’s crunch time for managers when it comes to surviving, let alone thriving, in the new world of work. 

The Voice Of Managers Needs To Be Heard

It’s not hyperbole to suggest that UK managers are being let down by both company leadership and HR. 

When asked if they felt leadership supported them in being effective in their role, 31% of managers disagreed or were unsure whether their company leaders have supported them to be a more effective manager. A huge deficit that needs to urgently be addressed. 

Those in the legal, medical, and education industries feel the least supported (10-16%). This lack of support does not discriminate between genders — men and women both report similar levels (31% vs 29%). It does, however, disproportionately impact younger generations, with only 37% of managers under 35 feeling supported compared to their older peers. 

If managers are to succeed, it’s clear they require much higher levels of support across the board. If managers fail, the consequences reverberate around the entire business.  But give them the tools and support they need to thrive, and everyone benefits.

Let’s look deeper at the issues that need to be addressed.

How Managers Are Being Let Down (And Ways to Solve It) 

Supporting and developing managers is a key role for HR and leadership teams alike. They’re no doubt acutely aware of the multitude of challenges managers face — challenges they likely face too — and yet 47% of managers feel simply too overwhelmed to carry out their role to maximum efficiency.

The biggest factors impacting their ability to be effective are lack of flexibility and work/life balance (28%), ineffective communication and collaboration (25%), and poor employee engagement (23%). There are of course gender and regional differences (almost 50% more managers in London feel the impact of these challenges), but broadly, it's clear that when these issues align it inevitably results in managers feeling overwhelmed. This impacts both their wellbeing and performance, and the wellbeing and performance of those around them.

With this in mind, the fact that 75% of managers need support from HR and company leadership immediately feels an even more urgent crisis to address. 

Of those feeling too overwhelmed to carry out their role to maximum efficiency, the industries most likely to be feeling the impact are IT/Telecoms (61%), media/marketing/advertising (62%), law (63%), and financial services (48%). Again, the picture varies across the country, with managers in London more likely to experience feelings of being overwhelmed than their regional counterparts (64% vs. 47% on average).

As Stan Massueras, General Manager, International at Lattice says, “In a high-performance culture, managers are the glue between performance strategy and execution. With their primary role being not to make every employee perform, but to challenge direct reports to be the best version of themselves, they are a critical piece of the performance puzzle."

So, what do managers need from HR and company leadership to be more effective at guiding their teams and giving every employee a great working experience?

Next-Generation Manager Empowerment

Our survey leaves little doubt - it’s crunch time for managers in the UK.    

A crisis point has been reached. Managers are being held back from doing the best job they can, because they are bogged down by admin and lacking the necessary resources and support to more intentionally lead their teams to high-performance driven success.

A new era of work requires a next-generation approach to manager empowerment. 

“If organisations expect their managers to drive impact in their performance strategy, they need to get in their corner — and they need to get the high-load tasks out of their managers’ way. For People leaders, augmenting managers with AI will be the biggest lever to accelerate growth, innovation, and performance within their organisations.”

  - Stan Massueras, General Manager International, Lattice 

Removing the need to do rote work and allowing for more focus on the strategic, impactful, engaging, stimulating aspects of the management role is paramount.

AI can play an especially transformative role here. Augmenting managers with data-based insights and improved clarity, thereby empowering greater impact on performance, will help them understand their teams, guide them more effectively, and personalise engagement and development.   All of which leads to improved total business performance.  

It’s empowering for HR teams too - optimising their ability to quickly and effectively drive positive change for leadership, managers and employees alike.

As Cara Brennan Allamano, Chief People Officer, Lattice says: “Making sure managers are adequately supported is no longer a “nice to have” — it’s an absolute necessity. Again and again, we are seeing the same pain points for managers trying to build thriving teams. We need to ensure that both HR and managers are set up to coach, guide, and empower employees to do their best work.” 

3 ways HR team can set up managers for success:  

  1. Managers have stated they want better access to data and analytics - so go one better and give them AI-powered engagement insights.  Empower managers to not only gain a deeper understanding of employee sentiment but optimise their ability to take action on key opportunities and areas of improvement by spotting trends faster, and providing intuitive next best actions for instant impact, as well as long-term transformation. 
  1. Managers have spoken, and they need better support for talent and performance management.  Consider whether you’re currently leveraging the right tools to prepare and support managers.  It’s about finding an approach that seamlessly connects performance management, engagement, and development so managers can more efficiently drive great performance whilst simultaneously improving entire team wellbeing.  Tools such as goals and OKR frameworks, careers paths and development plans, and those that promote a culture of continuous feedback including pulse surveys, one-to-ones, engagement surveys and growth conversations. 

Harnessing these also help augment the employee experience, which in turn helps to combat the employee engagement issue that our research shows managers are feeling the impact of so acutely. 

  1. Managers clearly need and want more training.  Let's be clear, this is not training for training's sake, or a quick fix to a growing crisis, but thoughtful, well designed management development programmes designed to strategically mitigate “the great overwhelm”. This includes constructive feedback, regular development meetings, and coaching to make lasting change both in terms of their own performance and well-being, and that of their teams.

When it comes to driving total business success, managers are the greatest point of leverage for HR and company leadership alike. And yet our research shows they are being consistently let down, and increasingly find themselves in somewhat of a no-man's land — lacking the support they need to keep their teams engaged, productive, doing their best work, all while taking care of their own wellbeing and development.

Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things. It’s time to do right by managers, because business performance is on the line.

It’s time to end “the great overwhelm”.