By Leslie Rothman
We want our employees to be successful contributors. We also want people who can “hit the ground running” and sometimes don’t recognize what managers can do to help make this happen. There is a need to form a new employee/manager relationship. The better the relationship is, the better the chance of retaining a productive employee.
Gaining An Employee
Think of developing a new employee/manager relationship as you would getting comfortable with a new dance or a tennis partner. One approach is to just “wing” it and get out there, with the inevitable result of stepping on each others’ toes or bumping into each other because you’re both going after the same shot. Or you can plan up front how you’ll work together to maximize your talents and efforts.
There are two areas to discuss that can result in significantly improved acclimation to, and productivity in the job;
- WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE: defining key tasks and desired outcomes
- HOW YOU’LL WORK TOGETHER: discussing styles and how to work together
What Needs To Be Done
- Define tasks and desired outcomes
- Define how you’ll measure success
- Identify challenges or opportunities
Frequently managers share a job description with an employee, which typically details the tasks to be done in the job. At best, these are up to date and it’s a prioritized list. At worst they’re outdated or don’t give a clear sense of the job’s focus.
A lack of focus impacts any employee’s ability to do the job well. Additionally, research shows that as the Millennial generation’s (30 and younger) representation continues to grow in the workplace, there will be an increased desire for clear goals and direction.
1. Define Tasks and Outcomes
Make sure the tasks outlined reflect the key work to be done and prioritize the responsibilities. Next, take it one step further. For each key task, identify the outcome – the desired results that doing the task should achieve. Similar tasks may have very different desired outcomes.
Task: Respond to customer calls
- The customer feels taken care of
- Calls are handled quickly
- Calls are moved to the next step in a process
- Problems are resolved and don’t escalate
Understanding the outcome increases clarity about how you want someone to handle the task.
2. Define Success Measurement
It is helpful for people to understand up front how their work will be measured:
- Are calls monitored?
- Are internal or external customers asked for feedback?
- Is volume of work tracked?
Measurement definition will further help focus efforts on the things that are most important, and defining them upfront eliminates surprises.
3. Identify Specific Challenges/Opportunities
If you know that certain tasks or outcomes are challenging, or present an opportunity to do something different, discuss it with your employee. Describe why the challenge/opportunity exits and give the employee valuable context and history to understand the situation they are dealing with. Ask them for ideas on how they can approach it. Share your own ideas. This will demonstrate your understanding of their job, and your support of their success.
How You’ll Work Together
- Describe your style and what you want from your new employee
- Have your new employee describe his/her style and wants from you
How to best work together is typically not discussed until a problem develops in the relationship. A proactive approach can make a huge difference in both setting an initial positive, open tone, as well as getting better results through increased alignment. To help with this conversation, you can make use of several types of standardized work style assessments or personality tools, or use a few straightforward questions to begin a dialogue together.
1. Describe Your Style and What You Want from Your New Employee
Consider and jot down thoughts on your management style, responding to the questions below;
- Think about your most successful direct reporting relationship. What did this person do and not do that worked really well with your management style?
- What is the most important success characteristic for an employee to demonstrate in this role?
- What’s the best way to give you (as the manager) feedback on how things are going?
2. Employee Describes His/Her Style and Wants from You
Ask your employee to consider and jot down thoughts on the questions below;
- Think about your most successful manager/employee relationship. What did this manager do and not do that worked really well for you?
- What helps you to do your best work?
- What tasks do you most enjoy?
- What is the best way to give you feedback on how you’re doing/how things are going?
Spend an hour sharing your thoughts and ask questions to clarify comments. This isn’t about defending an approach or style, it’s about getting to know each other. Write down each others’ key points and review approaches you’ll each take and agreements you’ll make.
You’ve begun to take the guess work out of the dance. You’ve also given each other “permission” to give feedback, which will help keep the dance flowing smoothly.
This is one of the classic times when the old adage, “a stitch in time saves nine” is quite true. Spending the time upfront to acclimate your new employee will pay off in his/her ability to more expediently and successfully perform in the job, and will set your new partnership off on the right foot. And isn’t that what we want? An employee that can smoothly and gracefully hit the floor with out missing a beat.
Starting the Relationship Out Right is reprinted with permission from H.R. Times and is a copyright publication of Career & Workplace Directions, LLC and cannot be copied or printed without express written permission of Career & Workplace Directions, LLC.