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Want More Productive Employees? Research Reveals that Managers Matter Most

Gallup has released compelling evidence that the most important factor for employee engagement and productivity can be summed up in one simple word: managers.

In fact, writes Sam Walker in The Wall Street Journal, after a decade of data from nearly 2 million employees, Gallup has proven that managers don’t just have a small influence on productivity; “they explained a full 70% of the variance. In other words, if it’s a superior team you’re after, hiring the right manager is nearly three-fourths of the battle.”

Good news, maybe, unless your organization has spent the last decade or so making it more difficult for managers to succeed–eliminating managers’ positions, making managers responsible for producing more work (instead of just leading people), cutting back on learning and/or promoting based on people’s expertise instead of their ability to lead team members.

There is so much you can do to address these issues; for example, read Justin Bariso’s piece on how Google identified core people-leading behaviors and then trained managers on how to develop those behaviors.

But I suggest you start by helping managers develop one core competency: the ability to communicate effectively with team members. In fact, out of the 10 attributes Google targets, seven are based on communication skills: is a good coach, empowers people, creates an inclusive team environment, listens and shares information, supports career development by discussing performance, has a clear/vision strategy for the team and collaborates across the company.

Despite the importance of communication, managers are often poorly prepared for their role as key communicator. They may not have the skills, the knowledge or the confidence to communicate effectively. And many managers think of communication as “something else I have to do” rather than an integral part of their job.

What should companies do to set managers up for success? Take these 5 steps:

1. Make sure you clearly articulate communication roles. Be specific about what and how leaders communicate–and what you expect managers to share. Ask your HR manager to include communication into managers’ job descriptions so the expectation is baked into their role.

Of all the skills managers need, effective communication is perhaps the hardest to improve. This is because communication isn’t a single skill. It’s actually a complex set of skills that build upon one another. Through my firm’s work with managers, we’ve identified these skills–25 in total–and organized them into a hierarchy of skill groups, starting with foundational skills and building to more advanced skills.

2. Hold managers accountable for engaging their team members by providing reinforcement in performance management and pay.  You know the problem: Unless communication is part of the formula to give managers raises or bonuses, it won’t be a priority. So make communicating essential to managers’ success.

3. Invest time in making sure managers understand content. Especially if the topic is complex, a 20-minute presentation is not enough to make managers comfortable. To design sessions that give managers the confidence they need to present, try the following:

  • When planning to brief managers, allocate at least 90 minutes for the meeting.
  • If possible, get everyone together face to face. If your office is too distracting, consider taking managers off site.
  • Of course you’ll present content, but presentations should be the shortest part of the meeting. Allow at least 50 percent of the time for questions and dialogue.

4. Create tools to help managers share information. You might consider:

  • A very short PowerPoint presentation. Managers won’t give a detailed presentation, but they will use a short (5-8 slides) PPT to share highlights at staff meetings and during one-on-one discussions.
  • A one-page guide that makes it easy for managers to have everything they need. This guide that contains all essential information: what is changing, when, why and how.
  • FAQs. Compile Frequently Asked Questions in a document that provides the questions employees are likely to ask, along with the answers managers need. The key is to include the toughest questions so managers are ready any time team members approach them with a question.

5. Develop a microsite or a social network group
It’s the perfect place to house resources and build skills. Make it social by including discussion threads, so colleagues can share challenges and solutions. Provide access to on-demand learning that can be accessed quickly when faced with a challenge.

Once you start providing managers with support, ask for feedback to determine which methods have the greatest impact.

By: Alison Davis

Source: Want More Productive Employees? Research Reveals that Managers Matter Most

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5 Things You Need to Know Before Hiring Remote Employees – Jessica Thiefels

remote

Remote employees are no longer an anomaly. In a recent survey by Gallup, 43 percent of surveyed Americans said that they spent some time working remotely, a 4 percent increase from 2012. What’s more, the benefits of hiring remote workers are difficult to ignore, including decreased overhead costs and increased productivity.

Benefits aside, remote workers need to have a different set of skills than office employees, where there’s regular interaction with managers and leadership can see more clearly what everyone is doing.

If you’re ready to dip your toes into the remote workforce waters, keep these tips in mind to make sure you hire the best people for the job.

  1. They must be self-starters

Remote employees need to take initiative and keep themselves motivated without the chance for a manager to “pop by” to keep them working throughout the day. Monica Zent, founder and CEO of Foxwordy, suggests:

“You’re looking for a self-starter because people who are looking to be told what to do won’t do well in a work-from-home situation. Given the many temptations of a home office, a high level of motivation is imperative. This is where figuring out how the person thinks is important. I prefer to get at what makes a person tick, and have had great success with good hires the more I do this.”

How do you find out if your potential employee is a self-starter?Mark Murphy, Forbes contributor, suggests asking questions like:

  • Tell me about a time when work didn’t interest you very much, and how did you get past it?
  • What kind of management style do you prefer?

This should provide insight into what what your remote workers need to stay motivated, which is key.

  1. Asking candidates to complete a task is important

Asking interviewees to complete a task during the interview, which is presumably remote, gives you great insight into their skillset, as well as how they work. Sara Sutton Fell, Fast Company contributor, said:

“When people work remotely, the managerial focus shifts from how much time they spend in the office to what they’re getting done every day. During the hiring process, it’s smart to focus on skills and the candidate’s approach to the job by having candidates do small a test or a trial project, to see how well—or not—they follow instructions, ask questions and generally perform in a remote environment.”

Try to mimic their work environment as much as possible with this task. This may mean that you’re only available for questions via a messenger system or that they need to access resources via Google Docs that have previously been shared.

  1. The interview should be a little different

There’s a big difference between being down the hall from someone and being across the country (and for many, the world). A highly qualified candidate may work efficiently if they’re in the office with a team to keep them on track, but not well by themselves.

Thankfully, you can get ahead of this by asking the right questions in the interview. Focus your questions on organizational skills, career motivation and self-direction.

Josh Tolan, CEO of Spark Hire, recommends that managers, “ask for candidates to explain scenarios in which they worked independently and managed their own time. Look for more than canned answers, and seek out specific examples of organizational skills and internal motivation. Don’t focus wholly on productivity to the exclusion of everything else, though; it’s also important to make sure your top-notch candidates can work as a valuable member of your team.”  

  1. The right candidate values results

Micromanaging isn’t effective in any work environment. Not to mention, in a remote work environment, it’s next to impossible. When hiring, look for someone who values results.

“You as a manager have to be comfortable setting goals and then holding people accountable for those goals. They could be putting in long nights or they could be doing their laundry all day—but if you are managing correctly and getting the people who understand that results come first, you should be happy either way,” John Rood, author and Forbes contributor, said.

  1. Get crafty to retain and reward top talent 

Once you’ve hired your remote workforce, it’s time to focus on how you can keep them engaged and excited. Sarah Aboulhosn, marketing specialist and Pagely contributor, explains how to get creative in this regard:

“(Little benefits) can solidify an employer’s relationship with their staff and make the team feel appreciated, no matter where they are. If you’re working with a partially distributed team, take a look at what in-office perks your employees receive and figure out a few ways to provide them to your remote workers, ensuring that everyone has equal access to company perks.”

Make the right hire

Hiring the right remote staff is critical to ensuring work is getting done. Use these ideas to find the best people for your out-of-office staff and then keep them on board once they’re doing a great job.

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