managers have a critical impact on employee relations in any
organization. Too frequently, though, managers don't have the
experience, skills or information they need to succeed in this
area. HR can play a proactive role here, helping to minimize
employee relations issues within the organization, improving
morale and reducing turnover in the process. How? By examining
your existing management development strategies and making sure
that the following tactics are in place.
organization identified the critical skills that its managers
must possess? Do you evaluate candidates based on specific
traits that are appropriate for your corporate culture? In
short, do you know what you're looking for? The first step in
developing effective managers is clearly identifying the skills
and competencies that your organization needs. When competencies
are appropriately chosen and defined they serve as important
criteria against which managerial candidates can be evaluated.
Some examples of competencies are: delegating responsibility,
establishing strategic direction, operational decision-making,
building trust, communications skills or financial acumen. The
process of identifying competencies can be time consuming and
requires consensus and commitment at the top level of the
organization, but it is an important first step in building an
effective management staff. Whether promoting managers from
within or looking outside the organization, you should only hire
those individuals who have the requisite skills and
characteristics you've identified as key to success in your
organization. An employee with strong technical skills in a
particular area is not necessarily a good choice to move up the
corporate ladder. Yet in too many organizations that's exactly
managers know, specifically, what is expected of them? For
example, what is management's role in responding to employee
complaints? Are they expected to address organization issues
themselves, with support from HR, in concert? What is
management's role in supporting the direction and decisions of
the organization? If managers are expected to provide input at
an appropriate time, participate in the decision-making process
and then support the decision regardless of whether they
personally believe it was the right direction to take, do they
realize that this is an expectation? Are you sure? Too often
organizations "assume" that managers know their role, but this
can be damaging to the organization. Expectations should be
communicated during the hiring process, upon orientation and
throughout a manager's tenure with the organization. Be clear
about your expectations of managers. Don't assume an awareness
or understanding that may not exist.
3. Guide managers through critical tasks.
certain tasks that every manager will be called upon to perform
in most organizations — hiring, orientation and training of
staff, evaluation of staff, coaching and discipline. Have you
assessed your managers' skills in these areas and done whatever
you can to help them through these processes? For example, are
"toolkits" available to help walk managers through the hiring
process? Through the evaluation process? Again, don't assume
that management staff knows what is required of them,
understands the processes in place in your organization or is
comfortable in performing all of the duties required of them. By
providing clarification — even step-by-step instruction — for
various common managerial tasks, you can help to simplify and
streamline these activities for your managers and minimize the
anxiety and uncertainty they may feel. You'll also ensure fair
and consistent treatment of employees, minimizing legal
liability for your organization in the process.
4. Make training an ongoing requirement for all managers.
your managers will be new to their role, others will be seasoned
veterans. Both need training, albeit different types. While
general managerial training courses can serve some value, it is
better to design training to meet the specific needs of
individual managers. New managers will be overwhelmed if
required to attend training designed for more experienced
managers. Experienced managers will be frustrated if required to
attend basic skills training sessions.
5. Teach managers how to communicate effectively with staff.
Communication is a critical function for managers. Few
organizations, however, offer specific training or guidance on
how to communicate effectively. Managers should know how to
* Give constructive feedback.
* Respond to employee suggestions.
* Deal with conflict.
They should know how much and how to share information with
employees based on the organization's communication preferences
and philosophies. To ensure consistent communication,
particularly with regard to key organizational issues, consider
developing resources and materials for managers like "speaking
points" or "handouts" to share with employees.
6. Provide managers with the tools they need.
organization's managers are important customers for the HR
department. The more effectively you can work through them to
serve the needs of employees, the more efficient you will be in
meeting the organization's needs. Time spent on developing tools
— communication tools, training resources, counseling and
support resources — to meet the needs of your managers will be
time well spent. Not only will you be able to increase
efficiencies for the HR department, you will ultimately increase
the satisfaction of both managers and employees.
7. Step in quickly to correct behavior when necessary.
managers need "course correction." Sometimes managers simply are
not qualified for the job they're being required to perform. In
either case it's important that HR move swiftly to work with the
appropriate people to correct these situations. The impact of
one manager on an organization can be immense — that impact can
be either positive or negative. A poor manager can negatively
impact performance, productivity, morale and turnover. Those are
problems you don't need.
Organizations can't afford to ignore employee relations issues
that can have a negative impact on recruitment and retention. A
strong managerial staff is your first-line offense against low
morale and high turnover. Make sure that managers know what is
expected of them, provide them with the tools and resources to
do the job and act quickly to correct behaviors or performance
that don't support the organization's goals or philosophies.