Strategies for Supporting Employees in the Workplace

Manager shaking employees hand showing his support for a job well done in the office in front of white board with employees sitting around round desk clapping.

One of the most important professional relationships is the one between an employee and their direct manager. It influences a person’s productivity, level of satisfaction, how long they’ll stay at their job, and more. As a manager, it’s in your best interest to nurture these relationships and focus on supporting employees in the workplace.

A good manager strives to strike the right balance between being a figure of authority and a source of support. Here, we’ll outline some of the top ways to support employees in their personal and professional needs. 

Benefits of Supporting Employees in the Workplace

Increases productivity

Perhaps the most self-serving benefit of supporting employees is that it will produce better results for the company. 

When employees have the proper tools and direction to do their jobs, they can work faster, more efficiently, and with fewer errors. This, in turn, increases output through better work and more satisfied customers. 

Improves job satisfaction

Think about any personal relationship you have. If the other person supports you, you’re more likely to trust them and enjoy spending time together. It’s no different in the workplace. You may be colleagues, but you’re still human, and humans feel happier when they have support. Workers who feel supported by their manager are more likely to be satisfied with their jobs. 

Related: How to Measure Employee Satisfaction

Promotes longevity

One of the biggest reasons employees quit their jobs is being dissatisfied with their manager. Either they butt heads, feel they have unrealistic expectations, or, worst of all, feel they’re not being managed whatsoever. 

On the other hand, employees with strong manager relationships can work through professional challenges more easily. This means that when an issue does arise, their manager helps resolve it rather than the worker feeling like quitting is the only option. 

9 Ways to Support Employees as a Manager

1. Lead by example

Supportive managers don’t sit on the sidelines. They’re actively involved in the work of their staff. This doesn’t mean you need to have a hand in every day-to-day task of your department, but you should have a firm understanding of what staff is spending time on and make sure your team has the supplies, technology, and equipment they need to complete the work. 

Want your team to show up on time? Show up on time yourself. Want employees who act with integrity? Model honesty and fairness in your actions; you’ll earn their respect in return. 

2. Listen to them

As a manager, it’s natural to put out fires and troubleshoot. But part of supporting your employees means letting them speak–not cutting them off or assuming you already understand the problem. 

First, give them an adequate platform to speak, whether that’s a dedicated block of time to meet in person or an all-staff survey where employees can submit anonymous feedback. Take time to process what they’re saying–the good and the bad–and ask questions to understand more. 

Finally, take action on the input employees to give you to make them feel heard. Not only does this build trust, but it ensures employees will come to you with issues in the future rather than feeling that their concerns fall on deaf ears. 

3. Communicate

Employees thrive on communication. Though their preferred communication styles may differ, all employees must receive clear direction and periodic feedback on their performance. When these things are lacking, misunderstandings occur. 

Be honest and forthright in your communications, even when you’re delivering unpleasant news. Much of your success as a manager will be determined by how readily you can have uncomfortable conversations. 

Your employees should hear from you regularly, not just when there’s a problem. Dedicate time to check in with staff regularly, like daily stand-up meetings and quarterly performance reviews. These meetings should be an opportunity to learn what employees are working on, pinpoint any places they’re struggling and give targeted feedback. 

4. Establish systems

If your work is a freight train, systems are the track the train runs on. You don’t lay down a new track for every single trip–that would be crazy! Instead, you lay the track once and use it to move the train every time. 

In a professional setting, systems provide the infrastructure that allows work to happen smoothly. They consist of software that facilitates collaboration between teammates, automation that reduces manual tasks, and policies that dictate how work is done. They ensure workers know what’s expected of them and eliminate the guesswork that can lead to mistakes.

Systems help your employees do their jobs and make your job as a manager easier. When there’s an established way of doing things that’s the same each time, it reduces the number of touchpoints you need to have with the work. It also makes for a safer workplace. 

5. Be flexible

In survey after survey, employees say flexibility is the number one perk they desire from their job. Offering flexibility is a major way to show your support for your staff. This might mean different things for different people or workplaces.

In a traditional office, flexibility might mean employees can choose their own hours and take time off without managerial approval. In a setting where flexible scheduling isn’t feasible, it might mean giving staff more autonomy over the projects they work on or the green light to experiment with new ways of doing things. 

Since all employees are different, your managerial style should also be flexible. A one-size-fits-all approach rarely works well. While a cautious employee might require more frequent feedback on their work, a more assertive staffer might prefer greater independence. The more flexible you can manage your team, the better results you’ll get from them.

Related: The Importance of Flexibility in the Workplace

6. Offer development

It’s hard to overstate the importance of employee development, whether informal development like one-on-one coaching or formal development like a leadership training program. Activities like these boost staffers’ performance while helping them gain new skills. 

Employee development is a tangible way to show that a company is invested in an employee’s success, which helps them feel more engaged with their job and increases the likelihood they’ll stay with the organization longer. 

Related: Ways to Invest in Employee Development

7. Reward them

Positive reinforcement is one of the oldest tricks in the book if you want to get someone to behave a certain way. In the workplace, this means rewarding employees for a job well done. It shows you care and encourages them to achieve similar success in the future. 

You can reward employees monetarily, like with a bonus or other incentives like additional time off. Recognize their efforts in front of others, like in a staff meeting or company newsletter. 

Even a sincere thank you via a handwritten note goes a long way to demonstrate your appreciation for your employee’s contributions.

Related: Unique Employee Recognition Ideas

8. Have their back

Thus far, we’ve discussed strategies for directly supporting employees, but there’s also a level of support beyond managing your staff. Great managers stick up for their employees when dealing with other parties, from clients to upper management. This sometimes means taking the fall when one of your team members is to blame or standing up for an employee’s decision, which ultimately leads to negative results. 

When employees know they have this level of support, they don’t fear making mistakes and can focus on doing their best work. They’ll also be more eager to strive for high performance when they know it reflects well on a boss who has their back. 

9. Be human

There’s a fine line that dictates the appropriate boundaries of an employee-manager relationship. It would help if you were their boss and not their best friend to manage effectively. Still, it’s important to recognize that your staff isn’t robots; things going on outside of work, like illnesses and family challenges, can greatly impact employees’ performance at work. 

When an employee’s performance suffers, and you suspect a personal issue might be to blame, look for ways to offer support where you can. This might mean providing accommodations like the ability to work remotely or offering more flexibility with deadlines while being clear and direct about how performance issues might jeopardize their employment.

While it’s ultimately your employees’ responsibility to meet their job requirements, you’ll do them (and yourself) a big favor by cultivating a safe and supportive work environment.

Pete Newsome

About Pete Newsome

Pete Newsome is the president of 4 Corner Resources, the nationally acclaimed staffing and recruiting firm he founded in 2005. His mission back then was the same as it is today: to do business in a personal way, while building an organization with boundless opportunities for ingenuity and advancement. When not managing 4 Corner’s growth or spending time with his family of six, you can find Pete sharing his sales and business expertise though public speaking, writing, and as the host of the Hire Calling podcast.