2023 Manager Effectiveness Report: 15Five

New research from 15Five reinforces the pressing need for greater communication and transparency between managers and employees, demonstrates that productivity tracking software is ineffective and fuels mistrust


15Five, the holistic performance management company, today released its 2023 Manager Effectiveness Report, revealing that productivity tracking software—such as webcam surveillance or data from apps like Slack and Microsoft Teams—is ineffective and even damaging. More than ⅓ of managers responded that monitoring had no impact, ¼ said that it led to employees looking for a new job, and 20% acted out or sabotaged the company.

15Five surveyed 1,000 employees and 1,000 managers across the United States on productivity tracking, manager effectiveness and training, and career growth and development. The company has tracked trends in manager effectiveness issues and career development opportunities based on its surveys going back to 2019.

The survey’s findings reveal a significant challenge for HR—the severe disconnect between managers and employees—including how each group views one another, what is most important to them, and their disparate expectations around leadership, productivity, and growth and development.

Key findings from 15Five’s 2023 Manager Effectiveness Report include:

Productivity tracking doesn’t lead to increased employee engagement and performance

While most managers (68%) think productivity tracking software improves performance, nearly three-quarters of employees (72%) think it either diminishes performance or has no impact. Twenty-four percent of employees said it improves well-being compared to 45% of managers.

One of the startling data points is that nearly three-quarters (72%) of managers said they use tracking software to monitor employees; however, only 35% of employees report their organization is using it. In other words, employees don’t know they are being spied upon.

“HR departments must strategically create feedback cultures that build trust between the two groups and prioritize the manager-employee relationship,” said Jennie Yang, VP of People & Culture at 15Five. “This would include organizational imperatives around onboarding experiences, regular check-ins and 1-on-1s, career conversations, and performance reviews. Providing managers with software paired with training enables consistency, fairness, and conversations that advance business outcomes.”

Increasing manager effectiveness – and decreasing regrettable turnover

More than half of employees (56%) cite supportive management or a good boss as one of the most critical factors for remaining at a company. But only about half of managers have yet to receive training at their current job in critical human skills, including creating a psychologically safe workplace, setting and tracking goals, and conducting a fair and effective performance review. That deficit shows. Nearly two-thirds of managers are highly confident about their ability to lead, but only about one-third of employees share that confidence in their managers.

The onus is on leadership and HR departments to provide managers with enough time to build strong relationships with employees and coach performance forward. Instead, the survey shows strong evidence that managers are burnt out, with too many direct reports and insufficient downtime. Over half are managing 10 or more people, and 28% have more than 15 direct reports. Almost three-quarters (73%) of managers often or very often think about work when off the clock, compared to 42% of employees.

“In 2023, manager training and coaching will be paramount, as many organizations have the unique experience of simultaneously reducing their workforces while retaining people and hiring for crucial open roles,” said Jon Greenawalt, SVP of Customer Transformation at 15Five. “According to our research, managers still lack the management skills to drive engagement and performance in the new world of work. This will only become more acute during an economic downturn as employees look to stay put and are asked to do more with less.”

Career development and the need for more employee coaching

Employee professional development is elemental to the long-term health of any organization. But there is a clear disconnect around career discussions between managers and employees. When asked whether they’ve had at least one conversation with their manager about their career vision, only half of employees (52%) said “yes,” compared with 85% of managers.

While a majority (57%) of managers said that their organization offers clear tracks for advancement, only 36% of employees agree. Nearly half of the employees (47%) said their organizations didn’t provide clear advancement tracks or were unsure if they did. And more than a third of employees (40%) report that they aren’t being offered learning and growth opportunities (such as subject matter training, seminars, guest speakers, leadership training, and online courses).

The strategic alternative to productivity tracking is building a plan that includes select touchpoints between managers and employees, and upskilling managers on how to coach performance and career development forward. Instead of micromanaging people, HR can put the right structures in place so that there is visibility, and transparency and that people are set up for success. For example, weekly check-in’s and regular 1-on-1s keep people on track, and fair and objective performance assessments let them know how they are doing.

15Five’s product suite, which includes its flagship product Perform and management coaching and training program Transform, are aligned with the sound HR strategy to gather performance data and then drive engagement and high performance for improved business results.

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