Your skill and success as a manager can greatly impact an employee’s overall performance, engagement, and even how long a person stays in their job. Research conducted by Gallup found that managers account for 70 percent of the variance in employee engagement among employees and that 50 percent of employees leave their job “to get away from their manager.” Although there’s a sizeable opportunity to make a positive impact on your employees’ engagement and commitment to their work, anybody who’s ever managed people knows that it’s not always easy. Thankfully, exercising some key skills can go a long way toward helping you to become a successful manager. Here are four ways to sharpen your employee management skills:
A good place to start in strengthening your employee management skills is to focus on how you communicate with your direct reports. Communicating well as a manager of people requires not only sharing information and delivering feedback, but also listening, demonstrating empathy, and asking questions that show employees you care about their work and their ideas.
Some examples of how to become a better communicator with your team include regularly meeting one on one with each direct report, reaching out to offer help and support to an employee who seems frustrated or unhappy at work, and using collaboration technology that helps you connect with your employees in meaningful ways.
Goal-setting is an important part of every manager’s role, but it’s how you set goals and communicate expectations that will define your success as a manager. Instead of giving employees a list of deliverables, you can achieve goal-setting success by discussing expectations up front to be sure that everyone is on the same page about what needs to be accomplished. Involving employees in setting and tracking their own goals helps encourage ownership and accountability for delivering them, and also reduces the likelihood of confusion or misinterpretation of expectations.
Here are some specific actions you can take to provide greater clarity around performance expectations:
Communicate and revisit goals regularly so that everyone remains on track and goals stay front-of-mind.
Speak with your direct reports one on one and in meetings about why certain goals are important to the team and company.
Giving feedback is one of the most important things you’ll do as a manager. However, for many, it’s a struggle. In one survey, 44 percent of managers said they found giving negative feedback was difficult and stressful, and 37 percent said they also avoided giving positive feedback. Although there are many reasons some managers don’t give feedback, giving regular, balanced feedback is a necessity because it lets employees know that you recognize good work and that you want to help them perform better.
Here are some of the key ways you can sharpen your employee management skills by giving balanced feedback:
Recognize employees that meet or exceed expectations, via a note of thanks or a shout-out in a team meeting or in front of a client.
Give timely feedback (positive and negative), which helps to ensure that employees don’t have to wait for praise and problems don’t have a chance to fester.
Deliver constructive feedback with empathy and show employees you care about their success.
An excellent way to build your employee management skills is to show your direct reports you support their career development and growth. When employees see you as more than someone who delegates work, but also someone who can help them achieve their career goals, they may be more motivated to do their best at work.
You can support employee career development in the following ways:
Ask your employees about their career aspirations.
Identify and discuss training, stretch assignment, and other opportunities for employee learning.
Help to position your direct reports in roles and on work projects that play to their strengths and interests.
Effective employee management isn’t something that is mastered overnight. However, when you practice communicating, giving feedback, and showing employees you want them to succeed, you’ll sharpen your employee management skills at the same time that you help each employee give their best and offer ongoing value to the entire team.