9 ways to be a more effective manager
As a manager, your job is to help your people thrive. Here are our tips for effectively listening to your employees’ needs and turning those insights into action.
Managers play a formative role in the employee experience – whether it’s helping with (or hindering) well-being, belonging, or resilience. In fact, managers influence almost every key driver of employee engagement, meaning it’s critical that managers have the support and tools they need to not only listen to their people, but act on feedback to improve their experiences.
Here’s a closer look at the importance of being a great manager in today’s ever-changing world of work, plus tips for how to become a more effective manager and champion for your people.
Recent data suggests managers have a direct impact on employee belonging
Effective management in a new world of work
We spoke to more than 11,800 participants as part of our global 2021 Employee Experience Trends report. Our research shows that managers continue to play a pivotal role in organizations – especially during the pandemic where managers became even more critical to supporting and helping team members adapt quickly and overcome challenges.
“As the champion for their employees, managers help people understand the connection from their work to the company’s strategy, build connections to others in the organization, and recent data also suggests managers have a direct impact on employee belonging,” says Dr. Lindsay Johnson, XM Scientist at Qualtrics.
As Dr. Johnson noted, our research also demonstrated the direct influence managers have in fostering a sense of belonging in their teams. Employees who trust their managers, believe that they care about them as individuals, and listen to their perspectives experience a high sense of belonging.
Read more: Belonging: The new top driver of employee engagement in 2021
After a year of organizational disruption, physical separation, global health and environmental crises, a renewed call for racial justice, and divisive political rhetoric, what people want most is to be a part of something bigger than themselves – feedback that managers can turn into action.
XM Institute research also suggests that even before people become employees, they place a high degree of importance on their future relationship with their immediate manager. This desire ranked ahead of other employer benefits and characteristics, such as compensation and career advancement opportunities.
Effective managers demonstrate they care – and turn feedback into action
“In order for employees to feel like they belong, employers must demonstrate they care with actions,” says Thivia Mogan, XM Scientist at Qualtrics.“This is about getting the basics right. Treating employees with respect and recognizing their contributions are ways to show employees that they matter.”
A sense of belonging has a positive effect on another important aspect of employee experience – well-being. People who feel like they belong are almost three times as likely to have a greater sense of well-being: 78% versus 28%.
In addition to well-being, feeling valued as part of a team and having open communication matter a lot too – both qualities that managers can embody in their behavior and reward in their teams.
“Managers have a critical role in helping translate the ‘why’ behind changes happening in the organization and constantly pointing back to those changes being a response to employee feedback,” says Marcus Wolf, XM Scientist at Qualtrics. “A single conversation a month later doesn’t convince employees that the organization takes their feedback seriously. When your people take the time to give you feedback, it’s usually the case that they want to help make change happen.”
Managers have a critical role in helping translate the ‘why’ behind changes happening in the organization.
How to be an effective manager
Great managers do more than delegate tasks and help prioritize employees’ time. Great managers embody the company culture, represent reward and recognition, and work to distill pertinent information – while also diminishing the noise – so employees are able to do their jobs.
Effective management is a culmination of these behaviors, and more. Here are some of the other skills and behaviors managers can adopt to be more effective:
- Practicing open communication: Effective managers solicit regular feedback in order to understand the needs of their people. Listening to what your people actually need is a great first step in being a champion for them.
- Turning feedback into action: Managers hold the key to communicating about action and change, and making the link between individual feedback and company-wide action. When employees feel their company is good at turning feedback into action, their engagement, well-being, and intent to stay all rise.
- Establishing and maintaining trust: The psychological contract has come under threat due to COVID-19. Managers have been at the forefront of translating the breaches of that contract (read: asking employees to go to work during a pandemic), as well as the new terms (i.e., explaining how the organization is keeping employees safe). In order to maintain that sense of trust, managers must continue to communicate the new policies and norms that will ensure the health and safety of employees in a post-COVID workplace.
- Fostering a culture of belonging: Employees who trust their managers, believe that they care about them as individuals, and listen to their perspectives experience a high sense of belonging – a key driver of engagement.
- Providing support in weathering change: Feeling supported in being able to adapt to organizational changes is another strong influencer of belonging.
- Encouraging collaboration: Great work isn’t accomplished in a vacuum. Effective managers foster collaboration within their teams as well as seek input from stakeholders and subject matter experts.
- Supporting career development: Effective managers will leverage a performance review conversation to discuss an employee’s career aspirations, and then follow up by distributing development opportunities in a way that’s fair and equitable.
- Supporting enablement: Whether it’s navigating red tape on an employee’s behalf or approving the purchase of a job-specific tool, managers enable and empower their people by helping to remove barriers.
- Walking the walk: In order to meet your employees’ needs, effective managers need to meet their own needs first. Similar to putting your own oxygen mask on first, effective managers set healthy boundaries around work/life, promote safe workplace practices, and build trust through example setting and taking action.
Your management style will differ from your peers, colleagues, and even your own manager. Why? Because your approach will be based on listening to what your individual people need – and then actioning that feedback to meet their needs.
As a manager, your job is to help your people shine: Listen to their needs, give them the tools to be successful – and then take a front row seat as they step into the spotlight.
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