What Employees in Market Research Seek from Their Line Managers

The annual staff satisfaction survey reported in the Q1 edition of Asia Research highlighted the broader needs of market research staff in relation to what they look for in their line manager, and the extent to which their manager is delivering on these needs.

We dug a bit deeper to see how the required management qualities vary by type of employee. Most relevant and actionable are the qualities that researchers look for according to the seniority of the line manager. Here we examined the differences in whether someone reports to a CEO/‘group’, an MD/country manager, a director, or a unit manager.

The most important qualities that are universal to all management levels are the ‘honesty/sincerity’ of the line manager, and related to this is their ‘fairness/accountability’ and their setting of ‘realistic targets’. Other factors that are important and expected of all line managers are their ‘cultural understanding’, their ‘experience’, and their ‘work ethic’, including their own ‘reliability’ and ability to uphold ‘discipline within the team’.

However, the qualities that people look for in their line manager differ in some respects according to the line manager’s seniority. Those reporting to the most senior management (e.g. the CEO) place more importance on their manager having a ‘vision’. Many other attributes are not expected from a CEO (e.g. ‘mentoring’, providing ‘daily solutions’, and helping out by ‘mucking in’), presumably because the person reporting to the CEO does not need mentoring, or has other resources to assist them.

In contrast, those reporting to managers are looking not just for mentoring but for their manager to provide ‘ongoing solutions’ (e.g. helping out if a project is going wrong), while at the same time being ‘fun to work with’.

We also looked at different types of researcher – for example, if they are more qualitative or quantitative. The needs of these two types of researcher are broadly similar, although quallies place more importance on their line manager being ‘fun to work with’. A more distinctive group is the researchers who manage a roughly equal proportion of qualitative and quantitative research. A niche group of just 15% of researchers, they place more importance on their line manager providing ‘day-to-day solutions’, ‘training and mentoring’, and ‘mucking in’ from time to time. It seems that people in this position might be ‘forced’ into a role of multi-tasking and multi-skilling with which they are not entirely comfortable, and therefore need this additional support from their manager.

Finally, we also looked at the needs of female vs male researchers. The results are somewhat influenced by the more senior profile of male researchers compared to females in our sample, and we have already commented on the different needs of those reporting to more senior line managers. However, indicatively, females’ needs are different from males’, tending towards needing more realistic targets and solutions to day-to-day work problems from their manager. They can also be more discerning about their own manager’s capabilities, talent, and expertise, and want more training and mentoring from their line manager.