12 Secrets to Fortify HR Relationships with Managers

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Employee engagement is a function of how people interrelate.  How people are managed by others. Funnily enough though, people who manage others aren’t typically moved into these roles because of interpersonal prowess. It’s rather quite the opposite. Accomplished technical skills have traditionally been one’s “ace in the hole.” Yet to reach their personal pinnacles, employees need people managers who are soft-skill savvy. Leaders who understand employee engagement accept their own accountability for making it happen.

HR professionals set the stage by cultivating strong relationships with management; coaching people leaders to reach their own zenith of influence.

Unfortunately, as Ron Ashkenas points out in his article: Why Managers and HR Don’t Get Along, many managers avoid or delay one-on-ones and frequent employee feedback discussions, engagement survey reviews, and the likes because of a lack of time, skill, interest, or anxiety about getting into difficult interpersonal territory.

It’s widely accepted that employees leave managers, not organizations.

The question for human resource people is: how are you mentoring and supporting your managers to coach, support and engage their own teams?

Collectively Define and Cultivate a Workplace Culture of Engagement

Use one or any number of these 12 secrets to build a strong business relationship with managers and an ever stronger engaged organization.

  1. Ensure employee engagement is a key philosophical and practical component of your corporate culture
  2. Emphasize how employee coaching and engagement is a top responsibility for every manager
  3. Outline employee engagement accountability expectations in every management job description
  4. Lead by example to illustrate the expectation that all management lead by example
  5. Make corporate culture and employee engagement a standing topic of discussion at every performance management evaluation
  6. Highlight exemplary coaching and engagement when managers strongly skilled in these areas are promoted or assigned to new roles
  7. Connect every manager with an executive or senior leadership mentor so they experience the benefits of coaching and learn how to provide coaching for others
  8. Give first-time managers the confidence to speak directly and clearly to direct reports through training focused on developing responsibility , accountability, emotional intelligence, leadership presence and communication skills
  9. Help all managers become better leaders by asking provocative questions that encourage reflection and self awareness. What is their style? How do they work with others? Questions might include:

  • What leadership qualities are your strongest?
  • What qualities are you working to improve?
  • What is the level of trust between you and your team?
  • How do your direct reports provide you with feedback?
  • Do your employees know their feedback is welcome and that you’re listening to learn?
  • How do your team members respond when they’ve made a mistake?
  • Do your employees come to you when they’ve made a mistake or are uncertain about something? Have you created an environment where employees feel safe coming to you with uncomfortable conversations?
  • How do the values you espouse as a leader show up in the way you recognize and reward performance?
  • What matters most to you in your work and in your life?  Is the majority of your time spent nurturing these things?
  • When you retire, what do you most want to be remembered for at work?
  • What do you hope people remember about you as a person?

  1. Coach managers to build bridges with employees by holding frequent meetings or one-on-ones to discuss ideas, concerns, aspirations
  2. Encourage managers to be open to being wrong or willing to admit not having every answer; vulnerability builds trust and respect
  3. Win over skeptics by pointing to the strongest leaders and most successful executives in your organization who are visibly engaged and support their teams; use business results and anecdotal stories to relate how these engaging people managers achieve more through the efforts of others

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