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Clive Hyland

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Re-engagement – now is the time


Strong internal relationships are central to building productive and profitable workforces and the role of HR in helping to create and maintain environments that are conducive to keeping your crucial players is key, says Clive Hyland. 

However, a recent study shows there may be some challenges for HR professionals to address – research conducted amongst 4,000 employees shows there are major problems with miscommunication between line managers and employees.

Almost half (46%) of employees questioned in the study conducted for Think Feel Know Coaching (TFK) said they were unsure of what was being asked of them by their line manager when given tasks and over a third (37%) experienced this uncertainty between one and three times a day. Employees estimated this resulted in up to 40 minutes of wasted time per day – the equivalent of 83 employees in a company of 1,000 doing nothing every day.

Employees are concerned that the knock-on effects of a communication divide could have serious business implications including low staff morale (61%), confusion for the company’s clients or customers (60%), and loss of business (31%). 

But how can HR effectively address the issues between line managers and employees to try and reconnect a potentially disengaged workforce?

Overcoming ‘disconnect’
Firstly, any approach to improving communications needs to be non-judgemental. Anything which appears to expose inadequacies or point the finger will immediately reinforce fears and distrust from line managers. Now is the time to draw a line over the past and recreate people engagement around the type of culture the business wants for the future.

The research shows employees cite top reasons for this ‘disconnect’ in the workplace as
managers wrongly assuming they knew what they were doing when delegating tasks (56%) and line managers explaining things in a way they did not understand (30%).

These are issues which clearly need addressing and they can be rectified, but HR and line managers must work together in a mutually supportive way to overcome them.

Think Feel Know
Through the use of coaching and training tools both line managers and employees can gain a valuable insight into their own communication style helping them to understand how people like to receive and interpret information.

The TFK approach is about getting to know yourself and the people around you. By improved awareness of different communication styles people can offer themselves the opportunity to connect more effectively with a much broader range of people. With better understanding comes connection, trust and alignment – critical ingredients of organisational success

The underlying principle of this approach is that people interpret and action information in different ways, whether that is in  think, feel or know.

Those operating in think like to receive data, absorb all the details and tend to go about life in a methodical and logical way. They like to have all the facts before acting. Feel is about being attuned to other people’s energy. Those in feel are naturally able to empathise with others and are sensitive to their moods, they also want action. People who are in know take a position and make decisions quickly based on gut instinct and are typically ‘black or white’ in their views.

Of course, people use all three styles in their lives, but awareness of natural preferences and likely impact on others will offer better choices about the styles people choose to use in the future.

People of different styles will complement each other once the barriers of misunderstanding and mistrust are removed. No one style is better than the others and organisations need all three in the right balance to thrive. 

Building channels for clear communication between managers and employees and amongst co-workers is not just a ‘nice to have’, it is a strategic issue for the business and deserves to be given the same level of attention and investment as any other part of the business plan. The key to moving forward is recognising that people will inevitably communicate and interpret information in different ways. Instead of feeling threatened by these differences, the key is to embrace them and recognise the complete range of talent that can then be accessed as refreshed communication and re-engagement succeeds.


Clive Hyland is chairman and a lead coach at Think Feel Know Coaching

To arrange a trial of TFK with feedback from a TFK coach or for more information please contact: 

Kiren Pooni / Laura Pykett
Flagship Consulting 0207 886 8440 
[email protected] / [email protected]

2 Responses

  1. Communicating What You Need w/ Recognition

    Great post. I blogged about this elsewhere on HRZone, concluding: 

    32% doubt there is even a plan for their business? 27% know how to face the challenges of 2010? At your next meeting, look around – immediately discount 75% of the people in the room. Look at the remaining 25% — that’s all you have to work with to achieve your objectives in 2010. Do you think you’ll make it?

    One of the strongest, most positive, and most effective ways of communicating your objectives to all employees is through the work. What do I mean? Sure, you need to tell your employees what your objectives are, but to get real alignment, you must go a deeper. You must reinforce for employees in their daily tasks when they help achieve your strategic objectives while demonstrating your company values. Achieving this level of alignment must rely on senior leadership at the officer level. HR is a partner in delivering the plan, but the impetus for alignment must come from the top.

    The full post is available here:

  2. To motivate and engage – that is the question.


    Whilst you make a good case for better communications between line managers and employees and indeed the need for folks to have a better understanding of communication styles (and I recognise some of the things you suggest in the form of MBTI personality types), I think you and HR professionals are missing a couple of quite significant things. 

    Firstly, there is a fundamental misunderstanding about human nature and whether one can motivate or engage people.  I always suggest HR people should read Alfie Kohn’s book "Punished by rewards" which contains lots of research that shows one cannot and should not ‘motivate’ or ‘engage’ (verbs) your employees. This approach is based on doing things to people, i.e. extrinsically, and is based on a false understanding of human nature. Kohn advocates that what is more vital is to ascertain what intrinsic things need to be put in place, working with people so that they feel ‘motivated’ and ‘engaged’ (nouns) as an outcome. Also return to the things Maslow, Herzberg and MacGregor said all those years ago, they still hold true today!

    Secondly, I think in the issue you’re attempting to address you actually need to explore the root cause for the problem the employees describe. From your research respondents say that "they were unsure of what was being asked of them by their line manager when given tasks". This begs the question of why are line managers giving their employees tasks to do? A further question arises from where it was said "managers are wrongly assuming they knew what they are doing when delegating tasks". Why is it managers assume they know more about the work than the employees who are doing the work? Therein lies the the true root cause to the problem that needs to be addressed.  

    The big assuption throughout your piece is that anything we do to people will make a difference. W Edwards Deming and many others have discovered that when you look at the performance of an organisation, 95% is down to the system, i.e. the way the work works, and less than 5% is due to the individual worker. So here’s the thing. What are you doing to help the managers and the employees to get knowledge about the work and then getting them to redesign it for the customer and themselves, so that service improves, costs are reduced and morale increases? As Deming asked, by what method are you going to do this? I’d suggest you take a look at the work of Systems Thinkers like John Seddon and I refer you to a couple of useful websites. I know from direct experience of organisations that have adopted systems thinking that the results are spectacular. What’s great is that the culture change comes for free! Because the employees know what the customer wants, they design and take control over the work. The employees are very clear on what is expected of them and do not require their line manager to tell them! The role of the manager becomes that of acting on the system, removing obstacles and problem solving.

    I hope this helps

    Andy Lippok

    A systems thinker.



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