Understand how to unlock strong manager-employee relationships in order to drive better employee engagement and improve the employee experience.
Get to know why psychological safety plays an important role in managerial relationships, organizational culture, and how your people experience work.
Learn about how people analytics can boost interpersonal relationships at your business.
More HR leaders and executives are starting to realize that the key to unlocking strong manager-employee relationships is by fostering psychological safety in the workplace. When a positive culture is built and maintained, businesses see increased engagement, attract top talent, and mitigate disconnect between various levels of the organization.
To understand more about this evolving HR agenda point, and where people analytics plays a role, Kate Graham, Head of Content Labs and Insights at UNLEASH is joined by Jennie Yang Vice President of People and Culture at 15Five, and Polly Stocks, Strategic People Partner at 15Five to understand how the manager-employee relationship impacts organizational success, expectation setting, and the future of work.
Fundamentally, managers and employees are on the same team. It’s not that one is more than and one is less than.
Kate Graham, Head of Content Labs and Insights at UNLEASH
Watch on-deamnd to:
- Learn how to measure the engagement and manage expectations across the organization.
- Hear about best practices for feedback conversations between managers and employees.
- Get the inside track on how HR leaders can successfully gain executive buy-in for people analytics and relationship-building initiative programs.
The current issues with manager-employee relationships
The webinar started with a poll of attendees to see where they experienced the most frustration in their manager-employee relations. The results showed that a lack of time for development and real-time feedback was a big issue, with a lack of managerial coaching skills and psychological safety in the relationship also key frustrations. However, as Yang laid out, there are also clear issues with how the hierarchy in the manager-employee relationship also plays out, with terminology an issue here. No longer should managers be called supervisors or bosses, but seen as an advocate for their reports and a coach for their team. In fact, 15five calls for a more radical approach where senior leaders exist more to act in service and help grow their more junior employees.
With how managers deliver feedback also an issue for HR, Yang also had insight into where it’s going wrong. For one, she explained how feedback is a charged term: it carries negative connotations. Yet, feedback can be so much more: it can be recognition-centric; award-centric; and developmental. To get to a place where feedback is something that is a good thing, rather than a frustration point in the culture, Yang recommended guiding managers into how they can communicate more effectively: giving context, outcomes, and pathways to success, rather than just being critical. Here, an observation, impact, and way forward model can be useful to frame the exchange.
However, and this is an important point, it might not be easy to coach managers out of their use of previous communication and feedback models: many have spent years working in a more parental way with their employees, and some were even taught to lead teams in this way. It’s going to be hard work for HR.
Using coaching conversations
Many in HR will be aware of the central place that coaching now takes up in people agenda conversations. For many, it’s seen as a managerial panacea. For Stocks, the coaching approach is the type of model that must replace ‘old-school’ communication styles. To get good at this, managers must be interested in probing employees, asking how they are, what they need to help them achieve their goals, and be better at understanding what individual needs are.
As Graham added, this should all center around a collaborative approach and an understanding from managers that their employees are not there to threaten them, as they’re all on the same team and aiming for the same goal. Ergo: if managers help develop their employees, then their employees will help them and the organization, too.
Yet, managers need support. Therefore, it’s incumbent on HR to create frameworks and a good change management pathway to help managers on this journey and thus work to improve all aspects of work connected to this: progression, learning, engagement, and the experience of work as a whole.
Much of the webinar focussed on how managers can improve their relationships with direct reports; predicated on the understanding that, for many individuals, managers have a starring role in shaping their experience of work. And, connected to this understanding, if that experience is bad, it will have a negative impact on many key areas that HR oversees, ranging from retention to productivity.
Therefore, Yang and Stocks went through an effective checklist of how HR can help managers boost their own performance, as well as management of employees, in order to improve outcomes against metrics of central importance.
The need to be intentional and create agreements – For any employee conversation or feedback session, Yang recommended having an agreed-upon goal or outcome. It is also crucial to prepare for these sessions, with notes and an understanding of good frameworks for this feedback to be delivered in.
Timing is crucial – For many, feedback in real-time is how managers should oversee their team. However, this isn’t always appropriate. They must consider the ‘charged-ness’ of these conversations and judge whether real-time feedback will always result in good advice or a good reaction from the employee. To help, managers need to have the good emotional intelligence to make the right judgment.
Difficult conversations – Feedback and managing aren’t always easy, and some employees might reject feedback. To improve outcomes, managers need to know what they want from difficult conversations and have actionable words to drive towards that goal, as well as the skills to understand where their employees come from. They also need the skills to understand what a defensive response from employees might entail. Do they need more training? What other pressures are they carrying? What is my impact on them? All good questions.
Additionally, managers need to understand that it is okay to disagree with employees and that these conversations are chances for them to be heard, too.
Value-led management – One of the best tools to help managers is if an organization can give them a value framework to manage within. This can help guide coaching, KPI-setting, and difficult moments with their teams. Here, coaches for managers can help too: to guide them in their own behaviors and help them understand how they relate to organizational goals and values.
The place of psychological safety – Although the concept has been around since the 1990s, it is only just coming back into vogue, via the work of Amy Edmonson and Harvard Business School. Essentially, what it relates to is if a team is safe enough to take interpersonal risks. A lot of this relates to the environment-setting and demonstrations that leaders and managers take. This can be as simple as sharing failures and asking for feedback themselves, thus making the space safe for reports.