I was interested by an article I read recently by Henry Stewart (CEO of Happy – serious learning; www.happy.co.uk) which once again reinforced the importance of creating the appropriate working environment and encouraging people to focus on their strengths.
Building on the work done by Gallup in the 1990’s / early 2000’s and research also compiled by Wharton Business School to support the concept of the “Great Place to Work” listing, he analysed the performance of a number of Nandos restaurants to identify the relationship between staff contentment and profitability. Like earlier work done at ASDA to compare store-performance, he found compelling links between staff morale and line management, and a programme was developed to focus outlet-managers on employee engagement.
So here is the “Happy” list of the key drivers for line managers:
- Learn to trust your staff and let them get on with it! Developing a sense of trust, freedom to act (within explicit lines of responsibility) and challenge-focus for your employees will enable them to operate in a genuinely-engaged way.
- Give the team clear guidelines. Freedom to act within clear guidelines means that the organisation doesn’t descend into some sort of anything-goes chaos! People need to understand what the boundaries are … but then need to feel that they have the freedom to act.
- Think about the idea of pre-approving things. Briefing a team to get on with it, only for you to then not approve of the output is deeply discouraging. Instead, try agreeing the outcomes, timescales and budgets in advance and enabling the team to go through to execution, without a potentially-damaging approval step.
- Promote those people who are good at managing people. As Gallup pointed out – and Coffey & Buckingham popularised in their book “First, Break all the Rules” – engaged and motivated people are deflated (and sometimes deeply scarred) by poor line management. And this means that organisations need to know who their good people managers are and how they can be identified and developed into great line managers. This simple concept has massive impact on how companies plan and execute their personal appraisals processes, reward systems, organisational structures, and employee-satisfaction surveys; and how they deal with poor managers. It challenges traditional HR teams and places great responsibility on senior teams to do the right things rather than the easiest / most expeditious things.
- Get a handle on the data. Know what’s going on in the organisation; hold employee feedback sessions, ask customers for actionable information about service delivery; learn from other organisations about what works well in terms of maximising individual performance; know what personal talents your staff have, and then give them the environment in which those talents can be put to best use.
Other headlines that I’ve derived from the Stewart article:
- Make people feel good / understand what things are likely to make people feel bad about work – and then do something about them!
- Be open and transparent.
- Recruit for attitude (suitability); train the skills.
- Create a true no-blame culture by acknowledging mistakes and demonstrating corporate learning from them.
- Don’t lose sight of the need for work-life balance, for all.
- Ensure that the place of work is not just a location but also a community where people look after each other and develop mutual trust for mutual benefit.
I know from my own experience of being poorly managed - in an HR function, for goodness sake! - that organisations lose great people and fail to meet investor expectations as a result. So, let's turn the Happy Talk into Action, now; you know it makes sense!