We might be facing a world where we have to work alongside robots, but managerial skills are as critical as ever. According to the Association for Talent Development’s (ATD) Public Policy Advisory Group, many companies report a skills gap in their organization–with the most significant being in communication, critical thinking, and managerial and supervisory skills.
But a recent Monday.com survey indicates that many employees don’t have an accurate understanding of how they spend their time. Half of the employees surveyed reported going nearly an entire week without discussing projects with a manager.
Employee uncertainty about how to spend the workday derives from one simple thing: managerial laziness. If employees don’t know what they’re supposed to do, how they’re performing, or where their skills can deliver the most value, it’s a failure of management and lost opportunity that companies can’t afford to miss.
Being a manager is difficult, especially if you are leading a mix of in-house and remote workers. Here are three ways managers can improve their skill-sets to empower their employees to succeed.
Set well-defined expectations, and give evaluations by using clear metrics
The key to helping employees understand how well they’re working, what they’re working on, and why they’re working on it is tied to how you structure their jobs in the first place. Employees thrive when they can refer to objective metrics. Metrics help employees feel productive because they know when they’re doing something right.
Make clear what needs to get done. Don’t tell people what you expect them to do, but what you need them to deliver. You can’t reward people for hard work alone; it has to be about performance. Not everyone has the same working style, and you shouldn’t expect them to. When you set results, you give your employees the freedom to deliver in a way that works best for them. The more precise and measurable you can be, the better.
Encourage and institute open lines of communication
To have engaged employees, managers need to create a culture that values feedback, whether it’s upward and/or downward. Yes, you need to give your team constructive feedback when they need to improve. But they should feel free (and comfortable) to do the same with you.
Creating a culture that values upward feedback is much harder. The onus is on you to tell your team that saying something critical isn’t going to hinder any career development goals they might have. After all, just because the CEO encourages and expects upward feedback, your employees might be hesitant to do so if you don’t explicitly encourage that course of action yourself.
To combat this, try creating feedback templates or systems that promote honesty, teamwork, and mutual accountability for the problem and the solution. Remember, feedback isn’t about throwing anyone under the bus, it’s about getting the whole bus to move faster and in the right direction.
Remind employees of their broader mission
The key to employee satisfaction is to connect what they do with the bigger mission of the company and lead in a way that encourages that. If employees feel like a cog in the wheel, they won’t perform at their best.
For people managing teams of remote employees, the challenge requires a commitment to staying connected in organized, deliberate, and respectful ways. But make a point to get all employees–both in-house and remote workers–together in person when you can. Stanford Professor Pam Hind’s research suggests that these meetings improve productivity. Bringing remote teams together for occasional in-person meetings helps boosts relational coordination, responsiveness, respect, and problem-solving–even after they return home. These gatherings also serve the purpose of reminding employees why they’re working for your company in the first place.
Without a doubt, the role of the manager is getting harder. But at the end of the day, focusing on these simple but necessary steps can go a long way. When employees understand the company’s mission, are encouraged to voice their opinions, and know what constitutes success in an organization, they’ll be in a much better place to perform and achieve amazing things for the company.
Jody Greenstone Miller is the CEO and cofounder of Business Talent Group, a high-end marketplace for independent professionals.