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Engagement - leading line managers

It is worth repeating that the line manager’s role in engagement is crucial. In smaller Trusts, it is possible that senior leaders practitioners know every manager by name/sight, but this is unlikely in larger Trusts. Again, you are reliant on the line to implement policies and processes accurately and effectively, and to communicate messages and strategic decisions appropriately. To the team, the line manager is the single person who will impact most on morale and motivation, so his/her people management skills are extremely important.

Provide training for first-time supervisors and managers

It is important that this training happens early on, maybe even before the individual takes up their new role. There will inevitably be some task-oriented things to learn, such as budget management, but the bulk of the training should be focused on people management. Consider ‘buddying’ new managers with more experienced managers who are known to be good at managing their teams.

Be clear about expected people management behaviours 

This clarity can be achieved via a guide, or blueprint, or list of behavioural competencies with
descriptors. The important thing to ensure is that all line managers understand the behaviours they should adopt, and those they should avoid.

Ensure that the training and expected behaviours are reinforced at intervals

Use every opportunity – meetings, workshops, training on other topics such as health and safety, diversity, performance management etc – to ensure that the messages about good people management behaviours are repeated. It can be very easy for managers to slip into ‘task’ mode when the pressure is on.

Provide training in coaching

Engaging managers typically adopt a coaching style with their teams, including coaching poor performers to improve. This style comes naturally to some people, while others will need to learn the techniques. Managers who are known to be good coaches can act as mentors to others who are relatively new to coaching principles.

Encourage managers to self-asses and gather feedback

Some organisations use 360 or 180 degree feedback, enabling managers to gain a rounded picture of their performance. However, this can be expensive, especially if implemented at every managerial level. An alternative is to offer managers a self-assessment tool that they can use – either for self-reflection alone, or for sharing with their own manager and/or their team. IES’s research-based28 self-assessment tool is attached to this guide as an appendix, for use within your organisation. It is aimed at line and middle managers, but you might want to try it yourself!

Ensure line managers know how to manage poor performance and poor behaviour

This is always a difficult thing to do, particularly if the situation does not improve after the coaching stage and there is a need to invoke formal procedures. However, tackling poor performance and behaviour within the team is appreciated by the rest of the team, so is likely to raise engagement levels overall. Many managers will only have to take people through formal disciplinary processes and few times in their lives, so it is very important to not only provide training, but also support from HR about the policies and procedures to use. 

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