HR Insights
April 6, 2020

Taking care of yourself and the people you manage

From delivering positive feedback to offering learning and development programs, here's how managers can support employees and build productive and engaged teams. 

Table of Contents

Great managers consistently engage their teams to achieve outstanding performance. They create environments where employees take responsibility for their own — and their team’s — engagement and build workplaces that are engines of productivity and profitability. But not every team is led by a great manager.

As Gallup has reported, only 30% of U.S. employees are engaged at work, and a staggeringly low 13% worldwide are engaged. However, research also shows that people who feel supported by their managers and organizations are more engaged and productive at work. And a productive team will free you up to take on more varied, visible, and higher-level tasks and to avoid being swamped at work. Here are just a few ways to offer support to employees in your daily role as a manager.

Build a high-performance team

Put the power of positive feedback to work for your team. Gallup research shows that employee engagement increases and employee turnover decrease when managers focus on what’s right, rather than what’s wrong. Commit to positive feedback, focusing on people’s strengths. Let them know when they’re making progress. Show that you appreciate their work, even if it’s in a small way — a word, a note, a call to say “thank you.”

Believe in people. Make sure the people you manage understand that you believe in them. Extensive research supports the relationship between positive expectations from managers or teachers and positive outcomes. Say explicitly, “I know you’ll do a great job with this assignment” or “I know you’re the right person for the job because you handle data well, and you’re also able to see the big picture.”

Keep the environment positive. Ensure that people stay engaged in their work. Don’t let favoritism, negativity, or group conflicts interfere with people’s productive energy.

Give people responsibility and accountability. Encourage the people you manage to take ownership of their performance. Avoid micromanaging, but at the beginning of an assignment, establish a system for keeping informed of the individual’s progress, so you can give feedback and criteria for measuring success. Work together with employees allowing them to set some of the deadlines, goals, and processes for reviewing their work.

Remember your off-site employees. Since they may be missing out on interactions at work, be sure they get weekly positive feedback, too. Show them that you have positive expectations for them, and ensure they receive support from co-workers.

Acknowledge that people have needs outside the workplace

Generally, people whose family and personal needs are being met will focus better and be more engaged when they are at work. Some managers work with employees to design flexible schedules that allow them to attend to family and other personal issues.

When there is a problem, you might refer an employee to your organization’s work-life or employee assistance program (EAP) for help. Or, without being intrusive, you might simply make sure, in big and small ways, that employees know that you are respectful of their commitments and priorities outside work.

Make ongoing learning a priority for every member of your team

  • Make on-the-job growth part of every employee’s development plan. Develop employees by having them work in a variety of assignments if possible.
  • Provide opportunities for employees to do more challenging work or move into higher-level positions.
  • Promote continuous learning and encourage employees to look for development opportunities outside the company by attending seminars, classes, workshops, or pursuing a degree.
  • Keep on learning so that you grow and improve as a manager.

Commit to building a positive and supportive work culture

An organization’s work culture refers to the work environment and how employees feel about it. It encompasses everything from a manager and employee communication to the support employees think they have to balance work and personal commitments. Here are questions to consider as you examine how employees feel about the culture in your workgroup and organization:

  • Do your employees feel “in the loop”? Surveys indicate that employees almost always want more communication.
  • Do employees feel that their opinions count? In workplaces with positive cultures, employees feel they have a voice and that their opinions matter, regardless of title or seniority?
  • How receptive are you when responding to employees’ work and personal needs?
  • Do your employees feel comfortable taking time off from work to attend to family matters?
  • Do you have a coverage plan in place so that people feel confident that work will be handled when someone needs to be away? Are important documents on shared drives or otherwise accessible to all?
  • What kind of role model are you when it comes to work-life integration? Spending late hours, coming into the office when ill, not taking time off, or responding to work emails during your vacation is not only unhealthy for you but may also send to others the wrong signals about work schedules and habits.
  • Do your employees feel you care about them as well as about the bottom line?
  • Are you familiar with the signs of overload and stress in yourself and others?

Support employees through times of challenge and change

Here are ways to offer support:

  • Be familiar with your organization’s benefits and resources. Become familiar with your EAP or other available confidential counselling services and encourage employees to use it. Contact your human resources (HR) department for information on how to access the program’s website or its toll-free number and share the information and reminders regularly with your team.
  • Review your organization’s policies on flexible work arrangements and time off. Learn how to handle requests and where to get answers to questions about flexible work hours, part-time work, working from home, and other flexible work arrangements. Contact your HR representative for more information.
  • Let employees know that it’s OK to ask for help, especially during a work crunch or times of overload.
  • Remember to ask for help when you need it, too.
  • Be more available during times of challenge and change. Check in with people daily, however briefly. Remember to be available to those who work remotely as well.

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