West Monroe surveyed 500 managers to pinpoint their biggest challenges and inefficiencies.
Ten years after the start of the Great Recession, it’s clear the economy has improved significantly. National unemployment rates are down to 4.1 percent, the lowest since February 2001. While experts predict an economic downturn isn’t due for some time (12 to 18 months by most accounts), businesses need to use this time to prepare their teams for an inevitable recession down the line.

When business is going well, organizations often don’t see a reason to change their current processes. But executives need to acknowledge that this could all change in the blink of an eye. And they should take actionable steps now to achieve optimal efficiencies that can insulate their businesses from economic volatility. 

As a business and technology consulting firm working with clients in the upper-middle market, we find one of the most overlooked areas for efficiency is managers. Specifically, managers having the training and tools they need to streamline tasks and help the organization reach its potential.
Managers are overwhelmed and bogged down with administrative tasks, but automation technology can help

West Monroe surveyed 500 managers in the United States to pinpoint their biggest challenges and inefficiencies to help executives address pressure to grow, improve profitability or reduce cost. The survey found that managing people ranked the second most common stressor in the workplace. Additionally, the majority of managers claim they are too bogged down with administrative tasks to provide adequate feedback and direction to their team. As a result, 44 percent of managers frequently feel overwhelmed at work. Executives frequently cite that they’re unaware of just how much managers have on their plates and how much this pulls them away from managing operations and people. 

While it’s reasonable to assume some administrative tasks are inherent in any role, many executives are turning to automation technology – whether that be systems or robotic process automation – to cut down on repetitive, mindless tasks. Despite that 65 percent of companies have adopted some form of automation technology, 24 percent of managers at these companies still spend five or more hours on administrative tasks a day. 

Though enterprises and employees are seeing positive returns from automation technology, companies can only maximize ROI by reimagining the people and processes, too. For example, our survey found that 44 percent of managers have received no training on automation tools. This shows that while executives are seeing the advantages of the technology, there is a disconnect between the implementation and understanding of the technology among the staff. In other words, they’re not investing in change management. As automation tools become a mainstay in the workplace, companies will need to take the time to evaluate which tool is the right fit for their team and how they will onboard managers onto the platform.

Improve managerial training to clearly define responsibilities

Our study also identified a lack of managerial training across today’s organizations. The majority (59 percent) of managers overseeing 1 to 2 people receive no managerial training at all, along with a significant 41 percent of those who oversee 3 to 5 people. 

With no formal training in place, new managers turn to mimicking their previous bosses. Forty-two percent of new managers developed their management style through observing a previous manager, rather than through formalized training. 

What’s more, we’re seeing that today’s managers are being trained while on the job, rather than before the start as a manager. While nearly half of respondents with 10 or more years of managerial experience have received a whopping nine or more hours of training, 43 percent of those who have been managers for less than a year have received no training at all.

Though there’s clearly room for improvement when it comes to managerial and technology training, the survey showed promising results. Of managers who did receive training prior to becoming a manager, 85 percent feel the responsibilities of their role are clearly communicated, and 92 percent feel they have an adequate work-life balance. 

With these findings in mind, executives can better understand the importance of quality training for their managers – especially if they want them to better contribute to the organization’s bottom line and help insulate the business from economic volatility. Through the right training, managers will be able to ensure they are managing as efficiently as possible when the enterprise needs it most. 

Help new managers feel confident and better prepared for their role

It may be surprising to executives that many new managers don’t know what to expect from their management role (and still aren’t clear as to what their role is, exactly). More than one-third (35 percent) of managers overseeing 1 to 2 people feel that the expectations of their role are not clearly defined and communicated.

This could reveal that many organizations leave it up to managers to learn their roles as they go. Our survey found that most managers seem to figure it out over time: 56 percent of those who have been a manager for 10 or more years reported that they were either “almost never” or “infrequently” overwhelmed at work. But organizations working to insulate their organizations today can’t afford to waste any time on trial and error. 

Executives must better prepare new managers for their role by sharing the company vision and clearly outlining responsibilities to eliminate confusion, depleted morale and wasted time. This way, managers can hit the ground running with their team and contribute real results. In addition, executives should empower managers to do what they do best and find most rewarding – driving team and company success. Over 55 percent find this to be the most rewarding part of their job and 44 percent of managers believe a more appropriately sized workload would allow them to spend more time managing people. By equipping managers with the right tools, training, and skills, managers can reduce administrative time and increase time where they add tremendous value to your organization: people. 

Overall, our survey shows that if executives put in the time and effort when it comes to training their managers and seeking technology or automation solutions for administrative processes, they will reap positive results on a company-wide scale. And with a sound economy, there’s no better time for leaders to prioritize managers. 

Today, your managers have the potential to implement and execute against your strategy for growth and profitability. During a downturn, high-performing managers will be key to leading your organization through change, maximizing efficiency and productivity, and maintaining employee engagement. If you want your company to not just survive a downturn, but thrive, you cannot afford to wait. 

For more information on how to improve the effectiveness of your managers, please contact Jeff Arnold, Mike Hughes or Yves Leclerc.