How to be an engaging manager
Managers are the crucial link between every business and its employees. A manager who motivates, challenges and supports team members can inspire them to give their best - improving business productivity and performance.
There is no typical manager - every individual has their own strengths, weaknesses and personal management style. However, there are some core characteristics demonstrated by managers that are more engaging with their staff.
This guide provides best practice on what makes an engaging manager and practical ideas to help you put this into practice and become more engaged with your staff.
Welcome new employees
Employee engagement can start before a new employee joins. It is important for managers to connect quickly with new staff - the quicker employees become settled the quicker they will start contributing in a positive way to the business.
How to welcome new employees
New employees should know what to expect and what is expected of them in their new job role. There are many ways new employees can be welcomed into an organisation, including:
- social events - inviting new employees to join any employee parties or major events, for example, staff away days
- new staff welcome pack - sending new employees a welcome pack including information about their new role
- welcome from current staff - briefing current employees to acknowledge new employees and welcome them to the organisation
- office equipment - making sure the basics are set up and ready before employees come in, for example, desk, phone, email, business cards
- tour of the office - walking every new employee around the workplace or at least their department so they get to meet new colleagues and know where all the basic amenities are located e.g. toilets, fire exits, kitchen area
- buddy scheme - introducing a buddy scheme where an existing employee helps a new employee settle in and answers any questions
- formal induction programme - establishing a formal induction programme to help new employees understand the business' purpose, structure and culture - induction programme: what to include
In a new starter pack for staff, you could consider including:
- a letter from you welcoming them to the organisation
- introductory information about the business including brochure or other marketing materials, your strategic narrative, any sports or social clubs or any other workplace benefits
- specific information about their role, including their job description, an organisation chart, any material about the team they will join
- logistical information, for example location maps, canteen information
Build effective relationships with your employees
It is important that managers have good relationships with employees. If a manager knows and understands an employee as an individual they will be able to better motivate them to perfrom well and meet organisational goals.
How to build effective relationships with your employees
Establishing good relationships with your staff can be done by:
- staff interests - taking an interest in team members' interests outside of work
- informal discussions - making time for informal discussions outside work discussions eg catch-ups over coffee or at social events
- keep in touch with staff - regularly visiting or holding conference calls with any employees based in different locations or satellite sites - by making sure you are in contact they will know they are involved and supported
- social events - holding social events before or after business meetings helping you get to know individual team members and colleagues get to know each other - for example - monthly breakfasts or lunches after meetings
- social events for family and friends - for example, annual parties or open days
Importance of communication with staff
Managers also need to communicate with employees and give them the chance to share their views and to contribute to defining the business' goals. You could consider:
- Regular business update meetings - with a set date, time, location and agenda to brief employees on business developments, answer their questions and discuss team objectives and activities.
- Sharing ideas - suggested by colleagues or examples of good practice you have seen within the team to recognise the individuals and inspire others to follow suit.
- Team Q&A sessions during which employees can come and talk to you about any issues or ideas, eg at lunchtime discussions or surgery sessions.
- Encourage feedback - posing regular team challenges, asking for staff views and encouraging team members to collaborate on ideas.
- Responding to feedback - by acknowledging suggestions or concerns, explaining your view - whether you agree or not - and involving employees in developing actions to address emerging issues. Taking action on issues identified and sharing the steps you are taking so that employees know their voices are being heard - establish employee voice in your business.
- Talking to individual employees on a regular basis to check their understanding of objectives or key issues and inviting them to raise any questions or concerns they haven't discussed.
Support and motivate employees
The way managers shape the roles of employees and oversee their work has a huge effect on individual well-being, commitment and performance. To help you support and motivate your employees you could consider:
- job design and responsibilities - employees who have input into shaping their work are far more engaged than those who are simply given tasks to get on with
- objectives linked to business goals so employees understand how their work and performance directly contribute to the overall strategy and success of the business
- trust in staff - giving employees the freedom to carry out their work in ways that suit them without being micro-managed
- staff decisions - giving employees the power to make business decisions - this could involve giving each employee a budget or other resources to achieve their work objectives
- performance feedback - providing regular, open and honest feedback on individual performance to help employees understand how they are progressing and motivate them to continually improve their performance in line with their objectives and business goals
- supportive behaviour - encouraging and supporting staff that exhibit positive behaviour and challenging inappropriate behaviour contrary to accepted business values or standards
- directing employees more firmly when needed to deliver the level of performance required
Coach and develop employees
Managers need to help employees identify solutions to issues they encounter so they keep developing their skills and confidence and have clear development paths. Below are some ideas to help you make this a core part of business culture.
Personal development plans
Create personal development plans for each team member. Make sure these plans have clear links with individual roles, team activities and corporate goals.
Give employees the opportunity to try new areas of work and develop new skills in line with this plan.
Read more on managing the performance of your staff.
Open discussions about goals
Encourage team members to be open about their ambitions. By doing so you can help them feel their ambitions are compatible with the business.
Encourage team members to discuss challenges they encounter so you can help them understand the issues and decide on a course of action.
Create on-the-job development opportunities eg shadowing employees in different roles or working alongside colleagues in other teams. This can help people understand more about different job roles within the organisation and improve their interaction with other teams and colleagues they wouldn't normally work alongside.
Mentors or personal managers
Give employees career mentors to help share experiences and encourage their personal development - this could be someone who joined in the same position a few years ago.
You could also consider introducing a personal management system to provide care and support.
Read more on using mentoring to increase employee performance.
Be willing to let employees move around the business. This can help individuals develop new skills and experiences that will benefit the business as a whole. If you try to hold people back it could undermine the engagement and enthusiasm of others within the team.
Handle and respond to staff feedback
Seeking and responding to feedback from employees is vital to building a strong relationship with them. The way managers handle feedback has a major influence on employee engagement, trust and confidence. Try to keep the following points in mind.
Actively listen to staff feedback
If an employee gives you feedback let them raise their point. Don't cut across them. If their point is long winded, help conclude it by rephrasing it as you have interpreted it.
Body language when receiving staff feedback
When receiving staff feedback the way you behave is as important as how you respond. Maintain open body language and keep eye contact with the employee as they explain their point to you.
Understand the other person's perspective
Try to see the issue from the employee's point of view. Try to understand why they are concerned and don't be judgemental.
Don't let one person dominate feedback sessions
If you are inviting feedback from a group of staff members, on occasions, one person can dominate the discussion and others may be reluctant to speak in front of their colleagues. This may limit good quality suggestions coming to the fore. In order to counteract this and encourage feedback from more members of staff you could try to encourage feedback by email or staff sugestions boxes, especially if anonymity is important to your staff.
Don't rush to respond to staff feedback
Take a moment to consider what has been said and form you response - rather than giving a quick response you might regret. You might find it more constructive to address staff feedback in a written manner first and then follow up with face-to-face conversations with your staff to discuss further and allow your employees to seek further clarity and ask questions.
Be calm, clear and concise with your feedback response
If you find yourself waffling in your response to staff feedback, stop. Don't pretend to have answers if you don't know them - but commit to finding out and responding in due course.
If possible, find a way to end on a positive note. Sum up any agreements you have made. Check that everyone has the same understanding. Be positive where possible and highlight any next steps.
Recognise and reward employee performance
To help motivate employees you need to show genuine appreciation for good work and recognise the improvements they make. Here are some steps you could take:
- thank you - saying thank you to staff for a job well done is a powerful way of recognising staff contribution and motivating them to keep performing to a high standard
- celebrate success - use internal publications, an email to the team or a poster to celebrate an individual's success and to show employees their commitment and efforts are appreciated by you as the manager and the business as a whole
- internal staff forum - if you have an intranet create a bulletin board or forum so employees can thank colleagues for their efforts and help with key issues
- rewards - give spot rewards for specific contributions or tasks where employees have exceeded all expectations - for example - this could be a personal reward relevant to their interests outside work
- award scheme - establish an award scheme so employees can nominate colleagues for their work and the way they have helped drive the business forward - see implement staff incentive schemes
- social events - host social events when you achieve key milestones or targets to thank your team or teams for their work
- personal celebrations - hold celebrations for employee's personal milestones or significant life events
Read more on managing staff performance.
Improve your performance as a manager
Engaging managers keep improving their own performance by seeking views and feedback from the people they work with. Here are some steps to consider.
Ask your team for their views on your performance
Ask your team members for their views on your management style and effectiveness. For example, ensure evaluation forms or cards are always available after any briefings or presentations you have given - download a template post-event feedback form (DOC, 16K).
Approach your own manager for feedback
Managers should proactively ask their line-manager for feedback against their objectives. You could also use a 360 degree feedback approach so that formal reviews include feedback from team members.
- Download a sample performance agreement - for managers (DOC, 14K)
- Download a sample performance review form (DOC, 18K)
Explore management styles
Explore your own strengths and weaknesses to help you improve your management style and encourage other managers to do the same. Your workplace may have its own approach for this, or you could use external methods - for example psychometric tests.
Set up a mentor system
Ask more experienced management colleagues to act as mentors for new managers. This helps them learn from experience and allows them to seek advice on any issues. Alternatively, you could consider hiring an external coach.
See more on performance management and staff training templates.