How Better Employee Management Leads to Better Employee Engagement
A guest post written by Product Marketing Manager, Laura Green and originally published on the Cronofy Blog.
8th Nov 2021
No matter the size, without a talented and dedicated team you can’t grow your company. And retaining the best people is a competitive business. To win the war for talent and grow your team, attracting and keeping said talent is the name of the game - and to make this a success, great employee management is a must!
Retention is growing as the number one metric that matters regarding any workforce. Not surprising when, according to a Forbes Insights study, one in four CFOs state that unwanted turnover accounts for 25% to 50% of labour costs, with one in 10 saying that it consumes more than 50%. So, what’s the issue? In recent years, the perils of not investing in a great onboarding experience have been highlighted and it’s true that this is an area that deserves attention. Organised, smooth and transparent onboarding is a huge deciding factor in the length of time an employee decides to stay with your company. In fact, according to Aberdeen Group, 86% of new hires make the decision to eventually leave during their first six months. So, what about longterm, existing hires? What about after onboarding is finished? How do you ensure that your team members remain engaged and happy, while feeling respected and valued professionally? Excellent employee management is a must if you want to maintain a productive workplace. It’s no mean feat but we’ve broken it down below.
First, let’s look at why employees are likely to become disengaged in the first place and what you can do to fix it. Then we’ll explore the innovations and technology that are appearing in each area, enhancing HR operations and helping you to get your employee management right - so you can deliver a superior experience for all your employees.
Top reasons employees are disengaged and how to fix it:
The numbers don’t lie. And they are shocking when you consider the damage to the economy, business productivity and of course employee’s physical and mental wellbeing. Identifying areas of friction or where your HR systems and policies may be falling short is the first step to rectifying the problem.
The impact of good employee management
One of the top reasons that employees disengage at work is that their role isn’t clearly defined enough. According to a Gallup study, only half of employees clearly know what is expected of them at work every day. This can be intrinsically linked to their performance, and these miscommunications can lead to feelings of fear, production-paralysis and ultimately disengagement. A big cost for any company. Before a candidate is hired, right through to long-serving employees, managers should make sure that job descriptions are clear. Keep them updated and regularly communicate expectations and goals. This information needs to be stored somewhere that can be accessed by the direct report too.
Poor management is the biggest barrier to productivity, and the issue appears to be getting worse. Nearly a quarter (23%) of respondents to the ADP ‘Workforce View’ report name bad management as the biggest drain on productivity. Poor management practices can vary but are very common. They include everything from micro-managing, failure or inability to deliver feedback (constructively, or at all) as well as things like favouritism, lack of praise and recognition or outright discrimination.Some people just aren’t made to be managers or leaders – it takes a certain skillset and attitude to train, share and support a team of people. Often people are promoted because they excel in a certain aspect of their role without any consideration for how adept they may be as managers. In other instances it’s a simple case of lack of training and support by senior managers. The effect of this trickles down and impacts employees in more junior positions.Management skills can be instinctive but to produce a truly great manager training and development on best practices is vital. Make sure managers are getting the correct support and any mentoring they need, as well as clarity around what is expected of them in their role – they’re employees too!
1:1 meetings help keep employees engaged
For other team members, disengagement issues come from a lack of interaction with their manager. If employees feel that they are an inconvenience or not worthy of their manager’s time then engagement plummets.Regular face to face meetings can help an employee thrive and feel more valued. Technology can’t ever replace the human relationship an employee has with their manager. Meeting or talking regularly, in time specifically set aside for a 1:1, can solve a lot of disengagement issues. For these meetings to be most effective they should be structured but have a flexible agenda (so that one-off issues can be tackled easily) and prepared for by both parties. Schedule them as recurring in the diary and avoid rescheduling often or worse, cancelling – just because the meeting is internal it’s still important. It’s the cornerstone of the relationship with any direct report and it sends the wrong message if managers can’t make time for that. Common areas to cover include feedback or updates on current projects, health and wellbeing check-ins, company updates, development plans and aspirations as well as praise, criticism or recognition. Don’t be afraid talk about personal things if needed – sometimes sharing anecdotes can help forge a stronger relationship. Finally, for the 1:1s to be most effective, record and track that they are happening and what has been discussed. Note down actions and store the notes in a place accessible to both manager and report. These meetings are also a chance to provide ongoing performance assessment. This is far less stressful as a process for an employee but from a management perspective, issues are much more likely to be flagged earlier - which also benefits the wider team and business. Things won’t build up and can be tackled straight away and this ensures that employees are getting the best experience possible.There are great digital tools out there to assist with the aspects of 1:1 meetings that are the most admin heavy. Using technology to automate processes, track and book meetings and securely store notes means that managers save time and free up their day to focus on higher value tasks that require more of the human touch.
Measuring and monitoring performance
How to measure performance is a big HR question that’s currently being tackled – with many companies having a rethink. The traditional yearly or bi-annual performance review is under scrutiny at many companies questioning its effectiveness.
The reasons for this vary but ultimately there are arguments of the benefits of change for both employee and company. Once or twice-yearly reviews mean you could be missing out on opportunities to receive and give feedback. They can mean employees aren’t given the chance to rectify issues before they escalate or behaviours become embedded. In terms of mental wellbeing, regular constructive feedback means there’s no sleep lost due to fear of nasty surprises at the yearly meeting. Brutal or overwhelming feedback is kept to a minimum because employees always know if they are performing well or not.In terms of employee experience, ongoing assessment is far less daunting than the traditional performance review - which can induce feelings of stress and anxietyOne thing that’s still certain is that companies need to measure and keep track of how employees are performing. What is really being called in to question here is the processes and tools for this measurement. Assess your processes - how do they make people feel? Having more frequent reviews also fits with the popular adoption of more ongoing measurement systems such as OKRs. Goals are more tangible and reachable, and it makes sense to check-in on progress more often. With something like performance, this also allows for more accurate overall measurement of work quality and delivery – efforts won’t just be stepped up when the chance of an annual bonus is just around the corner. Managers can use tools to track the necessary metrics to see if employees are struggling or succeeding – and this is somewhere that technology can really help. There is never any reason to micromanage, but it is important to monitor.Software can also make setting goals and expectations much clearer for the employee. They are stored simply and referred to easily. What really matters is how the process of communicating about performance is managed. This can be the difference between a happy and engaged employee and an unhappy, unproductive one.
Lack of trust or micromanaging
Trust is a huge part of good management. Micro-managing, which usually makes employees feel they aren’t trusted, also makes them less productive and can do your business a lot of harm. Clear guidance, expectations and support are vital but constantly looking over the shoulder of direct reports can stunt confidence and breed a culture of anxiety.
Open and approachable managers have much more engaged teams and as a result, employees are much more productive. Feeling that they are being listened to is a huge factor in determining employee engagement. The benefits actually work both ways. The people who work for you are on the front lines and if you create a safe space for sharing feedback, it won’t all just be moans and groans – you’re likely to get great insights and ideas about products or customers too.
In order to build trust and create a more positive working experience for employees, a trend for self-management of certain aspects of HR is encouraged where possible. Things like managing and tracking their own absences for sickness and holiday, flexible working hours or working from home all help to foster a culture of two-way trust.Processes for the sake of processes are another thing to watch out for – as well as ensuring that any company policies surrounding time management and other HR expectations are written down and universally understood. One way that some companies are building more trust with employees is with schemes such as unlimited holiday days or uncapped expenses. These are actually rarely abused, and often reduce the number of days taken or the amount of spending that happens – by trusting employees to manage it themselves the resulting benefits of this trust is likely increased engagement and retention. Digital HR tools usually include these self-management features and also provide the ideal place to keep documents, handbooks and policies in an easy to access place for all.
Lack of progression
It perhaps seems obvious. Employees don’t respond well to stagnating in their roles. This issue is closely linked to positive engagement and retention.Salary or appropriate compensation is a large part of that. If you’re competitive and reward employees appropriately for their role, they are less likely to look elsewhere. It isn’t just this though. Great employee management means development and coaching and ensuring a feeling of progression, whatever seniority. Recognition and if appropriate, reward, are key here. It’s important to tune in to the way that employees like to be praised. For some, if the praise isn’t in a public forum it may be meaningless. For others, public praise could be a nightmare and lead to feelings of embarrassment and unease. It’s a manager’s job to learn this about their direct reports but companywide systems can help too. Consider setting up a slack channel for recognition or encourage companywide emails to celebrate big achievements. Technology can help you to track employee performance, but it can also serve other purposes. In terms of succession planning and promotions these measurements can help to spot which employees are excelling across the business and crucially, which might have natural management flair or potential.Digital tools can help in other ways too. If your company wants to offer training but it’s too costly to run an onsite or offsite training program there are great digital learning options available. These can be completed individually on an employee’s computer, reducing cost of things like travel, venue and booking fees. For in person training it’s also much easier to track attendance at these sessions with the use of technology. If a manager identifies that their report is failing to attend or complete booked training, it could be a sign that they are disengaged.Getting people within the business to share their skills this can be another great way to help the whole team to develop – lunch and learns or video recordings to share key skills can both be good formats.
Engagement is a key metric in order to deliver better overall employee experience, but increasingly focus is shifting to other more qualitative measures. How do people feel? Do they know or think they are valued as a result of how you operate? Getting employee management right is a challenge but the benefits far outweigh the cost of investment. If this is something you feel your company is getting wrong, don’t be afraid to shake up the entire system to get it right – you’ll reap the rewards of a greater employee engagement just as soon as you make the decision to do everything you can to develop, grow and listen to your employees.We would love to hear any tips you’d like to share on how your employee management best practices. Don’t hesitate to hit us up Twitter or to email us! If you want to learn more about delivering an outstanding employee experience we’ve partnered with our software clients to create an informative graphic.Featured in the graphic are the key stages in an employee’s journey, from pre-onboarding to ongoing day-to-day employee management and development, as well as relevant data and insights on trends and best practices from experts in HR Tech. Get the graphic here.