SI Review: April 2013


Expert’s Corner

The Personal Touch

Why HR needs to adopt a management style that allows for close connections, engagement

By Marty Nowlin

We live in an era of certain uncertainty. This fluctuating business environment requires business leaders to rethink the way their organizations understand, address and manage talent. More than ever, HR leaders need to build adaptable work models that allow for perpetual change.

As companies work to win in the Human Age and become more collaborative and transparent, leaders must refine their leadership and management approaches and incorporate new models aimed at building a more engaged and agile team. At ManpowerGroup, we believe a true Human Age company is one that thinks, operates and leads differently so it can unleash the potential of its employees.

For me, unleashing potential begins with employee engagement. And my HR team at ManpowerGroup North America fully recognizes that an engaged employee is more willing to participate in and support change when he or she is aligned with the beliefs of the company. This is why we encourage our senior leaders to revisit their approach to being not only better coaches for their teams, but also better members on their teams. Employees want to connect with and be noticed by top leaders. Here are a few considerations for leaders to make connections that matter and reinforce personal value.

Volunteer together. The best way to build engagement among employees is to build relationships and make personal connections. I encourage senior leaders to commit to getting to know their teams. Volunteering in the community is one of the best ways to do that. Many times, my team has volunteered together on a community project, accomplishing a great deal for the chosen organizations (yard work, trash pick-up, painting, etc.), while receiving so much more in return by becoming better engaged with one another. Rolling up sleeves alongside your team sends the message: “I’m working beside you. I’m doing this with you. I’m your peer today.”

Drop in on them. I encourage our senior leaders to do “parachute drops” on meetings — just drop in and let the participants know that what they are working on is important. These “parachute drops” help solicit any need to remove obstacles and provide added support for the task at hand. This action tells employees “I’m interested in what you’re doing” and ultimately builds engagement simply by being part of the team, not just the captain. Executives should save time in their weekly schedules to drop in on meetings and interact with employees they normally wouldn’t come in contact with during the course of the day. I can almost guarantee they will learn so much more than they thought just by walking the halls and asking simple questions such as “Tell me what you are working on? How can I help?” On the flipside, employees will feel more valued because they’ve had good, working interactions with their leaders.

Make personal connections. Frequently, senior leaders inadvertently don’t take the time to learn more about the individuals they interact with daily. I encourage leaders to work hard to find personal connections with the individuals on their teams. They may find they both play hockey, or they have kids in the same activities, or they like the same restaurant. Whatever it may be, personal connections build stronger ties.

Today, the need for engaged employees is paramount as leaders recognize the value of human potential to financial performance. Leaders want their employees to work hard and be loyal to the company, but to do that they need to make their employees feel valued. Ask yourself if your team knows where they fit in the big picture. Increasingly, senior leaders need to be more than just experts in their craft, such as marketing, IT, finance, sales, etc. They need to refresh their skills that require them to be curators of information and coaches for their teams. They need to be masters at employee engagement while mastering the uncertainty that comes with today’s business demands.

Marty Nowlin is vice president of human resources for ManpowerGroup in North America. He can be reached at


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