How would the corporate world look if employees were to choose managers?

I love our team’s morning stand-up call! Apart from updating critical deliverables, being a 100% remote workplace, we use this time to know what’s happening with the rest of the team outside of work, engage in some friendly banter, or participate in lively debates. Our discussions are broad in topic, but most times we focus on good-to-great practices in the world of people practice.

One such stimulating discussion was around how long key performers/contributors should stay in an organization and whether their leaving would be good for both them and the organization. The conversation then moved to what progressive measures the organization could take to make this association longer and mutually beneficial.

Employees are not tied to an organization for eternity, and vice versa. The exit of a high performer or valuable contributor affects both parties in the following ways:

For the organization, there is an opportunity cost (the estimated progress that could have been made during the gap), attrition cost (time and resources invested in both the incumbent and new person), and cost of risk (will the new employee be on par or higher, or will they topple the perfectly stacked apple cart or elevate it?).

For the employee, they will need to earn trust and prove their capability, take time to build goodwill or risk the reputation of a fly-by-night employee, and the ability to have deep insights comes from deep understanding, which in turn comes from being a part of multiple seasons and cycles.

At the core, it boils down to the three elements that matter to employees: growth (compensation, responsibility, learning, designation/title, scope of role/work, new or different challenges), environment (physical or psychological, culture, freedom, autonomy, relationships, respect, infrastructure & resources, and simply non-toxic), and people (quantum, quality, and dynamics of interactions with their immediate team, cross-functional teams, managers and leaders, and any external interfaces).

Direct managers become the representation of all of the above, and how these elements translate as employee experience. This rests heavily on whether the managers themselves are good or horrid. We have all heard this popular quote, “People leave managers, not companies.” This quote is often attributed to Marcus Buckingham, although the earliest reference is believed to have been made in 1975. So, in the last 50-odd years, the reality as much as the influence of the role of a manager has not much changed.

A lot has been tried in the people manager development and management space, all but one!

Here’s our out-there idea..

How would the corporate world look if employees were to choose managers?

I know, it is quite radical, but we are putting together a framework in the lines of already existing HR functionalities and we believe it could work. We can’t wait to experiment it. 

Imagine the impact it would make on autonomy, a sense of satisfaction and empowerment, to the overall culture, trust, and eventually retention. 


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