7 HR Skills Line Managers Must Hone To Build a People-Friendly Culture_Yellow Spark Blog
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7 HR Skills Line Managers Must Hone To Build a People-Friendly Culture

Being a manager is a tough job, but being good at it is another story altogether. Just consider the range of knowledge and skills it takes to deal with a variety of people, business needs, and problems. Typically it helps if the jobs are clearly demarcated. However, in today’s structure where the dynamics are becoming more and more fluid, teams can no longer work in silos but have to collaborate.

A manager’s role in a company’s culture, therefore, depends on how a business wants them to interact with other employees and how much authority is given to them to do so. A business can informally develop a culture without management intervention in which case it may get difficult to steer it or it can create its own culture using a system of values and performance standards that everyone buys into. Leadership teams must be sensitive to this.

The role of managing people should not rest wholly on the HR department. Every level of the organisation has to be involved. Leadership should play an important role, as should the managers.

Here are a few HR skills managers can adopt to help the smooth running of an organisation.

HR skill #1 Integrating new members to the team:

As a manager, trying to build a harmonious and productive team can be a great challenge. In particular, integrating new employees into an already well-functioning team can be tricky as it can bring a great deal of risk. Sometimes, besides your best efforts to ensure a smooth transition, some new hires do not integrate and can disrupt the entire team; and even derail projects.

Proactive measures:
1. Hire employees with a shared vision and value system.
2. Arrange for less formal interviews between candidates and team members.
3. Make sure you are accessible and receptive to feedback from the teammates.
4. Have a pre-defined protocol for integrating new hires to ensure that they get an appropriate introduction to their new work environment.
5. Interact with new team members outside of the workplace with an objective to genuinely know them and develop a connection.

HR Skill #2 Identify training needs:

Knowing how to identify the training needs of employees is the foundation on which your entire training is built. It is important to assess the knowledge, skills, and abilities of employees to determine what types of training they need to achieve company goals.

Proactive measures:
1. Decide department goals and objectives before gathering employee data to decide where to spend your training time.
2. Identify skill gaps based on future needs.
3. Provide employees with an opportunity to express themselves, know where they stand and where they would like to go before designing learning programmes.
4. Offer employee counselling.

HR Skill #3 Ability to resolve conflicts:

Avoiding conflicts can come at a high cost and knowing how to manage such situations will help you keep a work environment conducive to productivity as well as morale high. While the HR teams usually manage the training of employees, it falls on the manager to deal with conflicts directly. Managers have to learn to resolve conflicts on their own and involve HR only when absolutely nothing else seems to be working.

Proactive measures:
1. Managers need to be made self-aware and understand their own biases.
2. Focus on the behaviour of an employee and correcting it rather than calling in their values and beliefs.
3. Be clear at what stage you want to involve HR.

HR Skill #4 Ability to have difficult conversations without mediation:

Team members interact closely with their managers and expect a solution or support when they are stuck. So, when the manager takes a hands-off approach by not confronting a problem, such a manager may be perceived to be unapproachable or even as someone who avoids problems. It is therefore important that a manager not only learns to have difficult conversations with his team, if required but also take the right approach, suitable for the team member. One-size-fits-all never works.

Proactive measures:
1. Check your understanding of the team member and situation before you start.
2. Impact does not equal intent. Never assume an employee’s intention without asking.
3. Check on how emotional the situation makes you. Seek support from HR to help you be neutral.
4. Reflect on how you may have consciously or subconsciously contributed to the problem. Don’t make it about yourself or the person, identify a problem statement which the team member agrees with and focus on the solution together.
5. Discuss disagreements respectfully, listen to the person’s point of you and then look at a realistic solution.

HR Skill #5 Be vigilant about how everyone in the team (including yourself) are conducting themselves:

Harassment and especially sexual harassment can be a unique issue to tackle in the workplace. Even when you know that what’s happening isn’t right, it can be intimidating to try to understand if it crosses the line into something legally wrong. And deciding what to do about it can be overwhelming. Especially while you’re stuck in an emotionally draining situation and interpreting behaviour becomes difficult. These may include intimidation, inappropriate tone or body language, sexual advances, innuendos, and comments as well as any other form of unwelcome conduct.

Proactive measures:
1. Managers should undergo training in understanding harassment, especially sexual harassment instances.
2. Be familiar with the company’s code of conduct and employee policies around bullying, harassment, sexual harassment.
3. Be familiar with what steps to take if a team member comes to you with a complaint.

HR Skill #6 Listen and empathise with team members:

Understanding other people’s emotions are key in the workplace. It can enable us to resolve conflicts, to build more productive teams, and improve our relationships with co-workers, clients, and customers. Showing empathy may not come naturally to you initially, or you could be nervous about committing yourself. But this doesn’t mean that you’re doomed. You can always hone these skills.

Proactive measures:
1. Pause and see things from others’ perspectives.
2. Be an active listener; look out for verbal and nonverbal clues to help you fully understand their situation.
3. Don’t stop at listening. If the situation requires you to take action or escalate don’t hesitate to do so.

HR Skill #7 Become custodians of the organisational culture:

A manager must serve as a role model for other employees to emulate. For example, a small-business owner wishing to see more employee teamwork must have a manager who can work directly with employees and foster a team atmosphere. Since the culture of a business may shift over time, this also requires a manager to be versatile and easily adaptable to change. The quicker a manager can illustrate the proper model of a company’s desired culture, the faster employees will adopt it.

Proactive measures:
1. Don’t simply focus on timelines, budgets, organisational structures, metrics, controls, and numbers. Also pay attention to vision, buy-ins, motivation, and people.
2. Encourage employees to take ownership and responsibility.
3. Keep track of employee expectations.
4. Align the team by clearly outlining acceptable and non-acceptable behaviours. Take action in case of non-alignment to send out a message, even if it means pulling up your best performing team member.

Stressful conversations are inevitable. Laying someone off, talking about an issue that came up in the office, or critiquing bad performance – all these cause a lot of stress.

Team leaders have to be good at having these conversations. They can speak with grace, ask for inputs and make people feel like they’re safe, even when the content is difficult. Thankfully, with a little bit of elbow grease, you’ll be able to work on these skills to become the best manager in your organisation.

At Yellow Spark, we can conduct a variety of training to develop effective managerial skills. Write to us at contact@yellowspark.in to find out more about our training programs.

Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.

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7 HR Skills Line Managers Must Hone To Build a People-Friendly Culture
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Published on:  March 10, 2021