A company’s greatest asset – or its greatest liability – is its people, but people management isn't always easy.
It’s not enough to say “I only hire the best” because ‘the best’ is a complex entity that goes far beyond someone’s credentials.
Strong and sustained business results depend on your ability to be a great manager who can increase employee engagement. It’s estimated that only about a third of employees are engaged (actively striving for excellence and peak performance on behalf of the organisation).
Engaged employees are the ones who build solid relationships with customers and thus drive your profits, growth and sustainability.
What’s the secret to attracting and retaining ‘the best’ and boost engagement? The answers, according to Curt Coffman, global practice leader for employee and customer engagement consulting at The Gallup Organization, go against conventional management ‘wisdom’.
1. Hire well
Conventional wisdom says to choose employees based on skills.
Great managers select employees based on talent. Skills can be learned, but is that person a natural fit for the role?
You can find many salespeople who aren’t great at communicating in their client’s preferred style. Some like phone calls, others like text messages, while others prefer emails. Not adapting to the client’s preferred style, which includes frequency of communication, can upset the client and make them feel unimportant or pressured.
Consider the example of customer service representatives – a great one will take fewer calls, but spend more time with the customer. Their instinctive desire to solve problems leads them to go the extra mile. They will even say, “I love solving puzzles” and their attitude will be cheerful and helpful.
By contrast, a person whose talents don’t lie in problem solving will use only the most basic available resources to solve the problem, and will tend to hurry on to the next call as quickly as possible.
In short, don’t hire people based on their current skills, hire them based on how their talents can match the potential of the job so they can take its responsibilities and expectations to the next level.
2. Set clear expectations
Conventional wisdom states that you should specify the exact steps an employee needs to take to accomplish a given task.
Great managers only set the expectation of the outcome and give the employee the autonomy to achieve the outcome in their own way. Tell them what to do, but not how to do it. Offer support and guidance when needed, but allow people to bring their unique skills, experience and creativity to the table.
3. Motivate in the right way
Conventional wisdom says that anyone can improve their weaknesses, so performance reviews should focus on fixing the negatives.
Great managers emphasise a person’s strengths and build on them, while at the same time using various strategies to support their weaknesses. They place emphasis on what a person already does well, instead of ‘improving’ a person into someone they are not.
When people feel you understand them and support who they are as an individual, they will be more engaged.
4. Develop the person, not the performance
Conventional wisdom says to focus on improving performance.
Great managers see performance as a metric. They focus on developing a person (again, playing to their strengths and supporting their weaknesses) and as the person develops, their performance will follow.
This also means being careful when promoting. A great salesperson doesn’t necessarily make a great manager so avoid the trap of ‘natural progression up the ladder’.
Seek the best fit for a person’s talents, reward performance, and challenge them with assignments that stimulate them and allow them to grow.
When it comes to managing employees day-to-day, your best tool is your ability to observe.
People may not verbally voice frustration, displeasure, feeling overwhelmed or conflict with another team member, but you’ll be able to spot even subtle changes in attitude and performance if you are aware and engaged with the team.
Have your finger on the pulse of the day-to-day without micro-managing and you’ll be able to prevent problems before they become too big to handle.
James Short is the founder and owner of Goals Tribe.
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