Employee Management: How to Be Successful in 2016

By Chad Halvorson

Employee management is really hard. A recent poll found that only 35% of American managers are engaged with their jobs, costing the U.S. economy nearly $400 billion every year.

The failure to motivate employees makes an even more searing impact on your work as a manager. Instead of leading a balanced team, you’re immersed in an uphill battle to meet numbers and close deals.

As the future of work continues to shift, your employee management techniques can evolve with it, rebooting your approach to an already challenging job. Even the best managers can benefit from taking time to fine-tune their approaches. With that in mind, here are our best results-driven tips, tricks and ideas for improving your employee management skills in 2016:

Offer Flexibility

Employee flexibility is one of the best indicators of a happy workplace. More than the need for any other perk, employees want to be able to follow the beat of their own drum — create their own schedule, work remotely, and take on additional projects in line with their abilities and interests.

As important as flexibility is in a workplace, it’s not that easy for employees to ask for. According to a survey of working adults conducted by Harris Interactive, 47% of respondents feel that asking for flexible options would negatively affects advancement opportunities. Instead of requiring that your employees come to you with requests, ask them about their ideal work situation and make it happen.

If you decide to embrace remote work, use some cool communication applications like Slack, Asana and Trello to manage projects and open communication channels. The flexibility you give employees should accompany tried-and-true methods for collaboration and accountability. Play with a couple different apps to find your perfect fit.

Improve Transparency

Would you trust someone who intentionally withheld important information from you? In a workforce where 25% of employees do not trust their employer, transparency needs to be a priority.

Maintaining a posture of openness sets a precedent for candor and authenticity in communication. Research conducted by Dan Cable at the London Business School found that when workers can express their “authentic selves,” they experienced increased individual performance, a willingness to help others and higher levels of organizational commitment.

Experts believe that transparency not only fosters a intentional work environment, it gives employees necessary context for their decisions as team members. Routine problem solving becomes an easier and more efficient endeavor when people have all of the necessary information.

Mutual understanding of your company’s goals and higher purpose also boosts engagement at work, improving the focus of your employees. By fostering an open dialogue, you build seamless connections between yourself and your employees while endearing your team to a larger mission.

Focus on Efficiency

The modern workplace is riddled with inefficiencies that tie down employees and bring the focus away from real work. Wasted time also adds to workplace frustrations and decreases motivation on any team.

Instead of demanding employee participation in long email chains and never-ending meetings, change the dynamic. Schedule short check-ins with individual members of your team and smaller group meetings, rather than holding large-scale brainstorming sessions. If possible, take walking meetings or grab a cup of coffee with your staff. A more casual environment breaks down employee inhibitions, enabling your team to get to the point with clarity and speed.

Also invite productivity hacks that allow your employees to maximize their time. Personalize your advice, as no two people are alike — if an employee works better in your office courtyard, encourage him or her to make use of that space. Here are some dynamic productivity techniques you can share with your team to get them thinking:

The Pomodoro Technique

Leo Babauta’s Most Important Task Technique

GTD (Getting Things Done)

Most importantly, don’t require that your employees be available for reactive work like checking emails first thing. Suggest that they block off time in the morning to get their most pressing work done. This chunk of time grounds the day, ensuring that your employees meet the requirements of their job description before getting caught up in the wave of other tasks around the office.

Create Clear Feedback Channels

Nothing is more important than receiving and providing regular feedback. Some successful companies have automated their weekly check-ins using tools like 15Five. These weekly feedback opportunities give employees a strong sense of their own progress week-to-week and over time, boosting optimism about their own improvements. They also give each individual regular opportunities for self-reflection, which is vital to positive growth.

Just as you need to ask your employees to share their work with you, share your feedback with them. Make sure that you speak to your team with a kind but direct tone. Appreciation should come first, followed by constructive criticism — only if and when needed.

Every manager also needs a check on their own managerial influence to contribute to a positive work environment. If there’s anything you do in 2016, make it clear to employees that they are welcome to speak to about any challenges they have with your management style one-on-one with you and confidentially with your boss. The best feedback loops give you the opportunity to improve as a manager.

Build Community

According to Gallup, half of all U.S. employees have left their jobs to get away from their boss. Instead of contributing to a sterile or negative environment, focus on creating a community at work. A strong community — unlike a network of peers — can tackle big challenges with cohesiveness and innovation. Communities tap into the unique skills of their members and leverage available resources. This is a collaborative, non-egoic process where the community’s needs are paramount.

The fastest way to build a community is simple: show your team genuine appreciation and ask them to recognize each other’s accomplishments. Moments of appreciation can be as significant as a promotion or as simple as a thumbs up on Yammer.

Part of expressing appreciation is paying fair rates to employees and giving regular bonuses. Even if you’re working within a restricted budget, make unconditional and performance-based financial rewards a priority. Embrace praise as a management technique  — it motivates employees more than criticism.

Model Work-Life Balance

When employees fail to find a positive work-life balance, they are most likely following their leader. Even if you give your team unlimited vacation time and encourage them to stay home on a snow day, research shows that if you’re not following the same principles, they won’t take your suggestion. Figure out what you need to ensure your own work-life balance before coaching your employees. Here are some small steps to get started:

1. Take a real lunch.

2. Go for a walk.

3. Ask your employees for a team building suggestion.

4. Bring in some beers on a Friday afternoon.

As you work to refine your employee management processes, check-in with yourself the way you would with a team member. Is this going well? How can I tweak my employee reviews? Management, just like everything else, is always a work in progress.

chad halvorsonChad Halvorson is the Founder & CEO of When I Work. When I Work makes work, less work for the hourly workforce. Over 40,000 businesses rely on When I Work to schedule, communicate, and track time with their employees. Since 2010, over one million employees have worked 55 million shifts in 50+ countries around the world.

 Image Credit: Al Abut 

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