New managers can play a greater role in creating an engaged and productive workforce

Some simple advice here for new managers from Johnson Wong.

Reading time: 3m 30s.

In the last few years, the rapid advancement of technologies, new business model disruptions and an inter-generational workforce adds to the complexity of how organisations are engaging their employees. Why is employee engagement critical for the organisation?

A highly engaged and productive workforce is one that brings innovation and sustainable growth for any organisation. Who owns this role? Managers, as leaders. They play an important part in shaping the work culture to be highly engaged and productive one.

How can today’s new managers engage the workforce to help them progress in their career? Here are five ways new managers can foster a highly engaged and productive workforce:

Develop a laser-focus to align goals

New managers need to establish the connections between the deliverable and strategic business goals. They also should communicate those goals to their teams succinctly and accurately. With such an alignment of goals, employees will have greater clarity on performance expectations and achieve the key result areas of business goals.

Effective engagement starts with individualised leading, not generic programs driven by a central command group such as HR.

Adopt a one-on-one approach

Effective engagement starts with individualised leading, not generic programs driven by a central command group such as HR. New managers must learn to take accountability for getting their teams more engaged in department goals as well as organisational core values.

A top-down engagement program is less effective than encouraging daily hands-on involvement of employee check-ins and providing guidance on solving problems at work. It helps managers to understand what motivates each person on their team. As such, they can better support each other and develop them to be a successful and engaged team.

Coaching to engage employees to grow

New managers should find opportunities to coach employees at their points of learning needs. Those crucial moments take place when employees are learning something new for the first time, adapting to work changes and solving problems.

They coach them by giving constructive feedback, demonstrations, space and time to do repeat practice and providing them ‘quick wins’ to boost their morale in the direction towards achieving the desired performance. Managers need to be candid and tactful in dishing out advice with concrete action steps on helping their employees to grow.

Actively promote open communication and recognition of achievements

Where practical, managers should establish more than one open channel of communication (email, telephone, face-to-face meeting, WhatsApp, SLACK messaging channel, weekly check-in sessions, etc.) for employees to reach them.


Managers should walk the talk by demonstrating that they can discuss anything that is work relevant without the fear of reproach or discipline. Similarly, managers should actively give praise to those who are making progress.

Providing recognition in that precise moment of employee achievement produces a positive impact on their motivation and further strengthens engagement at work.

Leverage existing organisational resources to help employees develop competencies

Few organisations have the luxury of extensive training resources that support human capital development. As new managers, tapping on existing resources to improvise the employees’ learning and development is crucial for the business bottom line.

Managers should collaborate with HR stakeholders to develop performance support tools that are tailored to aid employees in their work. The tools can be job aids, templates, FAQs, quick reference examples, checklists that enable the employees to carry out the work.

Managers and HR stakeholders can also adopt workplace learning methods that use resources to be embedded in work itself. Some commonly used workplace learning methods are job shadowing, assigning buddies, sharing tricks of the trade, community of practice and work demonstrations.

Great managers are both strategic and tactical to be able to get things done effectively at work. They need to work closely with employees to co-create the design of performance goals that are aligned to business outcomes.

They regularly hold check-ins with employees on how they can support them at work, making sure that employees have access to the right performance support resources. Nurturing such positive organisation culture requires time, effort and commitment from all stakeholders.

The takeaway

New managers using the five ways described can support employees to become more empowered to learn, perform, solve problems, drive change, and be innovative for their organisation. Nevertheless, it is vital for managers to select what works for their team and focus on people development to create a culture of a highly engaged and productive workforce.


About the author

Johnson Wong is a Learning Strategist and Director of Empower Training and Consultancy Pte Ltd


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