What Makes a Good Manager When You Have a Distributed Workforce?

August 16, 2018 By Julie Kramer - Leave a comment

shutterstock_236130862Who’s managing your managers? It’s a serious question, because when it comes to day-to-day company leadership, your frontline managers play a key role in the success of your business— especially when you operate a distributed workforce. When employees are scattered across multiple, far-flung worksites, your managers are their lifeline to the company—for better or worse.  

Why Bad Bosses Are Bad for Business

When you think about it, your field managers have enormous power. A seminal Gallup Poll found that 50% of U.S. employees—half the American workforce!—have quit a job because their managers made life miserable.

Beyond inciting turnover, bad bosses drive down morale, drive up absenteeism and hurt productivity. They can even raise company health insurance costs—stressed-out employees suffer from higher rates of anxiety, depression and stress-related health problems.

Furthermore, in the age of social sharing, a few disgruntled ex-employees can impede your best recruiting efforts. Do you keep tabs on job-hunting sites like, which allow employees to share their views on management? Brace yourself.  

These days, it’s all about employee engagement. Fact: companies with the most engaged employees are 21% more profitable than those with the least engaged employees, per Gallup

Here’s the rub: no matter how terrific your employee engagement programs, if even a few of your managers are creating an apathetic or hostile work environment, it’s all for naught. You’d do better to invest in manager learning and development initiatives that improve leadership bench strength. You simple can’t afford to ignore weak links in your field management team.     

Five Signs of a Problem Manager  

It’s difficult to know what’s happening in the field when you oversee a distributed workforce. You depend on your frontline managers for information, which is why it often takes a while to realize when the manager is the problem.

That being said, here are five tell-tale signs to look for:

  • Higher-than-Average Turnover – If a particular shift or worksite consistently experiences turnover rates that exceed the company’s average, you need to ask: could this be a manager issue?
  • Higher-than-Average Absenteeism – Similarly, if absenteeism is unusually high for a particular group of workers, their manager may be lax—or may be driving workers away.
  • Persistent Customer Complaints - Unhappy employees are unproductive and sometimes discourteous employees. If a given work crew is triggering higher-than-normal complaints, the problem may start at the top.
  • Repeated Complaints from Employees – Some workplace griping is expected, but if multiple employees voice the same specific complaint about a certain manager, it deserves investigation.
  • Managers Who Blame their Workers - When managers consistently disparage their people and blame them for everything that goes wrong, that reflects failure to lead. Who is really responsible?
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What Makes a Good Manager: Seven Key Characteristics

When it comes to hiring or developing managers, it’s not necessarily about candidates’ degrees, hard skills or work experience. According to multiple studies and surveys—conducted by  Google and Gallup, among others—high-performing managers exhibit these shared qualities:  

  • Good managers are enthusiastic coaches who foster employee learning and development, without micromanaging.
  • Good managers create inclusive, collaborative work environments.
  • Good managers are strong communicators and listeners who give employees facetime.
  • Good managers operate transparently, encouraging open dialogue and creating trust.
  • Good managers know how to motivate and engage employees, while providing clear, no-nonsense expectations.
  • Good managers focus on employee strengths, not weaknesses.
  • Good managers take responsibility for their team’s performance.

While many of these qualities can be sharpened through learning and development, many natural-born leaders come by them innately. If you’re looking to deepen your managerial bench strength, look for people who have the gift of making those around them better. 

How EPAY HCM Can Help

EPAY’s integrated HCM system is the only HR and payroll software for the distributed workforce. It will not only make life easier for your HR team, it contains a powerful toolkit for field managers—and those overseeing them.

For example, our automated time and attendance solution and scheduling module frees managers to spend less time on admin and more time face-to-face with employees. (Our new portable WalTerTM S18 time clock even moves with work crews from project to project.) Its workforce management reports and real-time alerts keep managers on top of workforce activity, even from afar.

Furthermore, we can help you manage your managers, too. For example, our reports make it a snap to track and compare absenteeism and turnover rates across your distributed workforce. In addition, our Workforce Performance Indicator dashboard allows leadership to view key managerial performance indicators (KPIs) by worksite and manager, so you can identify common factors and problems across high and low performing worksites.

It’s important to know what makes a good manager—and to leverage technology that can make good managers great. If you manage a distributed workforce, EPAY HCM is a great place to start.

Filed Under: Workforce Management