Human Resources,Project Management

7 Ways Great Managers Connect With Their Employees

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We talk a lot about employee engagement these days. There are plenty of resources out there that explore methods of improving employee engagement levels, most of which can be hugely impactful. 

For example, we are now well aware employee engagement can be positively linked to increased flexibility, company transparency and opportunities for progression. But we should be careful not to overlook the special role a manager plays when it comes to an employee’s engagement with their work and their organisation.

We all know good managers matter. After all, it’s been said nobody really leaves their jobs — employees leave bad managers. Management can play a huge role in either retaining top talent or pushing them away. And most HR executives are well aware of the often-cited Gallup statistic that managers account for 70% variance in employee engagement levels

Employees are looking for authentic human interaction and connections at their workplace — particularly from their managers. But not all managers are promoted for their people skills; many don’t even receive the necessary training. So how can you begin to develop a rapport with your team?

Below are seven ways great managers connect with their employees, creating loyal and enthusiastic spokespeople for the company.


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1. Great Managers Hold Regular One-On-Ones

Meaningful connections begin with communication. This is true in every area of life, and the workplace is no exception. It’s been shown that consistent communication, regardless of the medium, is connected to increased engagement.

If you want to develop real connections with your employees, you need to begin with regular, authentic communication. You can’t rely on a single annual appraisal and random encounters. You need to put in more of an effort to build a dialogue and show employees you are more than just someone hired to keep tabs on their behaviour.


Increasingly, companies are adopting a continuous form of performance management, one involving regular performance discussions. These should take place every other week, or once a month at a bare minimum. 

These performance discussions allow employee and manager to catch up, discuss pressing concerns and develop trust. Employees can ask for clarification, support and training, and managers can keep an eye on employees, making sure their morale remains high and they’re not burning out.


2. They Get to Know Their Employees’ Strengths and Weaknesses

Employees are individuals. They’re all different, with their respective strengths, weaknesses, preferences and irritations. Great managers take the time to learn about their employees. 

They then use this information to improve employee experience within the company while improving company outcomes. After all, if an employee has a particular strength that isn’t utilised, this is a missed opportunity that could be hugely beneficial. 

Everyone enjoys using their strengths — it can be a huge morale and confidence booster.


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3. ...As Well as Their Interests and Their Ambitions

If you hire right, you’ll employ ambitious employees. They don’t want to remain stagnant. They want to challenge themselves and advance. 

Managers need to take the time to connect with their employees and learn about their career aspirations and ambitions. This interest will show employees their managers genuinely care about them and their futures, which will encourage employees to open up.


4. Great Managers Recognise and Reward Appropriately (And Quickly!)

A great way to disengage employees is to take them for granted. Recognition is hugely important. It helps employees develop bonds with their managers and it also gives them a sense of achievement — that their efforts aren’t going unnoticed. Recognition and reward can make all the difference to an employee staying or leaving. 

Employee recognition doesn’t have to be time-consuming or expensive. A simple “thank you” can go a long way. 

Just remember three golden rules:

  1. Be specific with your feedback. Employees want to know what exactly they are praised for.
  2. Be timely. Feedback months after the fact won’t have as much of an impact.
  3. Praise effort as well as achievement. This will help to develop a growth mindset.

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5. They Ask for Employee Feedback and Insights

Feedback isn’t a one-way street. While it’s certainly important to give employees feedback, great managers are well aware that they also need employee feedback. 

Not only can feedback from employees help to improve company processes and the employee experience, but when managers ask for feedback, it shows employees they have a voice. When you act on this feedback, it also shows their opinions matter. 

Managers know that they can create meaningful, solid workplace connections in this way, based on trust and respect.


6. Great Managers Encourage and Empower Their Employees

Employees will feel more connected to their managers when they know they have their back. Take the time to show your employees you are in their corner, that you know they are a strong employee and they can achieve their goals. 

Managers should also empower their employees and refrain from micromanaging — no matter how tempting it is at times. 

Great connections will flourish when employees feel valued, encouraged and empowered to do their work.


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7. They Show Employees They’re Also Human

Connections between you and your employee will never flourish if they think you’re a robot. They want to build a genuine human relationship with you, which means you will have to be authentic with them. 

This doesn’t mean oversharing the intricate details of your personal life — but it might mean laughing with your employees at the water cooler occasionally, or admitting to certain weaknesses or areas for improvement. 

Managers should also remember to model the behaviour they want their employees to imitate. This is especially important when it comes to mental health and wellbeing. If you’re going to break the toxic workplace culture of praising the employee who is first-in-and-last-out, you must be more human with their working hours. 

Employees should also take lunches away from the desk and make full use of their annual leave allowance. Human beings need time to recuperate and relax — especially if they want to bring their A-game to work!


About the Author

Stuart Hearn is an HR speaker and writer. He is also founder and CEO of Clear Review, a performance management software solution that seeks to improve communication and relationships within organisations.


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