Business development 24 November 2016

Knowledge and communication – How to get your employees listening to you

A hood manager demonstrates their expertise and makes themselves accessible

Here, chief operating officer at communications enterprise TollFreeForwarding, Jason O’Brien, tells company owners how to effectively demonstrate their knowledge and communication to get the most out of staff.

The relationship between managers and employees is the bedrock of any successful company. Whether you’re running a multinational company or a small enterprise, effective communication is the key to ensuring these relationships stay healthy and productive.

With more methods of interaction and more complex business environments to contend with, there are more obstacles than ever to overcome. It’s not just that, though – employees now simply expect better from their managers.

A recent survey  from professional HR body the CIPD found that 51 per cent of employees thought they were better at managing people than their own manager. So, how do managers contend with a savvy workforce across multiple communication methods?

Demonstrate your expertise

As with any position where you’re expected to lead, you need the respect of your team. One sure-fire way to gain that respect is by demonstrating knowledge and communication in your field.

Share your successes with them, impart knowledge, and help them learn new skills. If you don’t feel like an expert, then it’s your job to progress towards that point. You can’t expect employees to become industry leaders if the person ahead of them isn’t.

Large companies have already recognised the importance of fostering expert managers. New managers at US energy giant GE must have been employed at the company for five years or more, in order to develop a “deep expertise and a complete and total understanding of the business itself’.

For smaller businesses, though, part of the problem may be that managers simply aren’t trained well enough. According to the Harvard Business Review, the average age of a manager is around 30, but the average age managers receive leadership training is 42 years-old. So, while managers have a responsibility to skill themselves up, they also need the support at board level.

Don’t be afraid to give (or ask for) feedback

Employees appreciate feedback, but unfortunately, many managers dread even the idea of giving it. An 2016 survey  found that 69 per cent didn’t enjoy giving feedback, with a further 37 per cent specifically singling out giving direct constructive criticism as something that makes them uncomfortable.

Not only do staff want feedback, though, they need it. If your business wants productive staff who improve in their roles, then giving feedback is the only way to make it happen. Don’t be afraid to let them know what they could improve on, but just as importantly, tell them when they’re doing stuff well. Conversely, show staff you follow the same rules as them and get feedback on your own role.

Make yourself accessible

As well as being a leader, a manager is a support facilitator, but it’s hard to give support if staff don’t find you approachable. According to the same CIPD survey, only 23 per cent of respondents said their manager was accessible.

When we consider that in a survey of 7,000 employees by Gallup, where employees who felt their manager was approachable were almost twice as engaged as those who didn’t, we can recognise the problem.

Messages can get lost in the hubbub of a modern office, so ensure you are first and foremost readily accessible in person to your employees. Not every employee wants a counselling session once a week, but just knowing you’re there to help can be enough to ensure they remain confident in their role.

Involve employees in decisions

There’s a reason dictatorships never last, so don’t even try it. Build a collaborative atmosphere within your team and allow your staff to get involved in decision making, especially when it affects their role.

Management consultant, Tarah Keech, giving her thoughts on collective intellectual “ownership” of your business, said: “You need to share ownership and investment in the vision with your employees. Rather than delivering a vision or mission statement as an edict or directive, weave in the perspectives and stories of your employees.”

Managing people can be very difficult. There are egos, internal politics, and your own job role to worry about. The best way to ensure you are effectively managing employees is to keep the avenues of knowledge and communication well and truly open.

If you collaborate on projects, sort out conflicts at the root, and prove to them you’re an expert, then not only will they listen, but they might one day become an expert too.

Jason O’Brien is chief operating officer at TollFreeForwarding

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