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Emerald Group Publishing Limited
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Short case studies and research papers that demonstrate best practice in HR
Article Type: HR at work From: Strategic HR Review, Volume 9, Issue 5
Connecting line managers and employees
Clive HylandBased at Think Feel Know Coaching.
Healthy two-way relationships between line managers and HR professionals are imperative to creating productive workplaces where employees are engaged and motivated. They are also essential when relationships between line managers and employees become strained and an intermediary, which in this case is HR, must step in and implement new ways of thinking to ensure these relationships are salvaged for the benefit of the business.
Research shows communication divide
Line managers must be able to communicate effectively with employees, and vice versa, to achieve alignment and to maintain productivity and clarity within the workplace. However, a recent study of 4,000 employees, based in the UK in small to medium sized businesses and larger corporate organizations, conducted by an independent research company for Think Feel Know Coaching, showed that almost half (46 percent) said they were unsure of what was being asked of them by their line manager when given tasks in the workplace. Over a third (37 percent) experienced this uncertainty between one and three times a day.
The immediate impact of this was highlighted when employees estimated this resulted in up to 40 minutes of wasted time per day – the equivalent of 83 employees in a company of 1,000 doing nothing every day. Employees cited top reasons for this “disconnect” in the workplace as managers wrongly assuming they knew what they were doing when delegating tasks (56 percent) and line managers explaining things in a way they did not understand (30 percent).
Working together in a mutually supportive way
The research also allowed employees to voice their concerns about the potential knock-on effects that a communication divide could have. They flagged that low staff morale (61 percent), confusion for the company’s clients or customers (60 percent) and loss of business (31 percent) could all occur as a result.
The issues that were highlighted in the study act as an example of when there needs to be a healthy working partnership between HR and line managers, which allows HR to suggest routes of best practice without alienating the very audience it must engage. Approaches to line managers must be non-judgmental and impartial as anything that appears to expose inadequacies or point the finger could reinforce fears and distrust. Working together in a mutually supportive way is the only way such issues can be overcome.
Think Feel Know
The Think Feel Know (TFK) approach is one way of achieving this. It is about getting to know yourself and the people around you. By improved awareness of different communication styles, people can offer themselves the opportunity to connect more effectively with a much broader range of people. With better understanding comes connection, trust and alignment – critical ingredients of organizational success. The underlying principle of this approach is that people interpret and action information in different ways – think, feel or know:
Those operating in think like to receive data and absorb all the details. They tend to go about life in a methodical and logical way, and like to have all the facts before acting.
Feel is about being attuned to other people’s energy. Those in feel are naturally able to empathize with others and are sensitive to their moods. They also want action.
People who are in know take a position and make decisions quickly based on gut instinct and are typically “black or white” in their views.
Of course, people use all three styles in their lives, but awareness of natural preferences and likely impact on others will offer better choices about the styles people choose to use in the future. Through the use of coaching and training tools such as TFK, both line managers and employees can gain a valuable insight into their own communication style, helping them to understand how people like to receive and interpret information. Giving line managers the opportunity to discover this information about themselves creates a valuable platform for HR to open up conversations about communication styles and how important it is for employees and managers to understand each other to be most productive
HR can introduce such methods of coaching in a non-obtrusive manner as this approach is user friendly and very much for the benefit of the individual, providing them with information that they can not only use in the workplace, but in all aspects of their lives.
Box 1. About the TKF approachThe Think Feel Know indicator and coaching approach have been designed to help people understand each other better by educating them on their communication style and how this impacts on their lives. Established in 1999, over 600 companies in 23 countries have benefited from the TFK approach to date. The TFK network is comprised of over 30 qualified TFK coaches who work closely with businesses to help them achieve their communication goals. For more information, visit: www.thinkfeelknow.com
Creating communication profiles
Creating profiles which show how employees like to be communicated to will give line managers the information they need to be able to work more successfully with that individual. Tailoring approaches to meet the needs of individuals will actually save time in the long run and pay dividends in terms of motivation, engagement and hence retention.
Understanding employees’ profiles can also prove invaluable especially when looking at the needs of certain groups within the workplace. For example, the research found that older employees formed the group most likely to be affected by a communication disconnect with their line managers. More than a fifth of over 65s admitted to wasting between 40 minutes and an hour each day by not understanding what they were asked to do – longer than any other generation. However, they were also found to be the age group least likely to ask for help (18 percent) and those who most felt line managers explained things in a way they did not understand (39 percent).
Many companies have undertaken TFK profiles to create matrices of their teams that give line managers immediate access to exactly how they should task teams and individuals on a level that they are happy with and that will get the best performance from them. It also allows employees to see how they fit into their teams and understand the contributions they make.
Driving up retention and revenue
Iain McMath, managing director of Sodexo Motivation Solutions, an employee benefits and rewards company, was looking to implement a robust people development program to empower the company to reach its business goals. Since working with TFK, McMath has moved the business to a coaching style of management placing greater emphasis on people issues, valuing them as central to overall business success.
McMath comments: “Companies need to build environments that will attract the right people and this can only be done when employees feel valued and are motivated. TFK has helped our employees to see how they fit within their teams and it has highlighted the value of good working relationships, not only for the success of the business but for retention and engagement too. Since implementing the TFK approach business performance at Sodexo has improved; staff retention has increased three fold, there’s been an increase in speed and accuracy on delivery of work and revenue has increased by 19 percent on 2008.”
This demonstrates that building channels for clear communication between managers and employees and among co-workers is not just “nice to have”, it is a strategic issue for the business and deserves to be given the same level of attention and investment as any other part of the business plan. If HR can communicate this to get line managers on side, working with them to engage their employees will deliver a much more productive outcome.
About the author
Clive Hyland is a Lead Coach at Think Feel Know Coaching and has been working with TFK since 2007. He has coached business leaders within major corporates and SMEs and has also coached within professional sport. After graduation from Warwick University, his early career started within HR, then came the switch into business and operations where his senior management roles included supply chain management, software development and customer services. Former roles have included COO of Ericsson’s fixed network division in the UK and CEO of Pink Roccade, a mid-tier IT services company. Clive Hyland can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org