The power of a good conversation

Having open, supportive conversations is the key to performance, says Anna Rasmusson, but managers need the right tools to make them happen

As business leaders, HR professionals and people managers, we are all searching for an effective and sustainable solution to maximise the potential of our people. Wellbeing and positive working cultures are high on our wish list, alongside the undeniable need to optimise performance and productivity.

However, employees’ expectations of ways of working are evolving rapidly, and existing management practices are often seen as outdated and inconsistent. When we put our minds to creating change or introducing innovative strategies there is a tendency to think of the modern workforce as the new younger generation coming up through the ranks. We try to respond to what we think they will be looking for, to engage them, keep them focused and committed long term to the organisation. 

In reality, the modern workforce is multi-generational, in fact for the first time we are able to identify five distinct generations in the workplace: generation Z, millennials, generation X, baby boomers and traditionalists.

While there are most certainly differing drivers that motivate each of these generations, one thing we can be sure of is that expectations have shifted across the board. There is a greater need to be able to connect with our employers on a more human level, and to bring our whole self to work. Many businesses have tackled this head on with large-scale macro initiatives, such as fruit Fridays, gym memberships and pool tables – and while these have their place, what we are all really asking for is to be seen and heard on an individual (micro) level. We need to be able to talk about what really matters to us in both a work and home context.

However, the familiar concept of work-life balance is no longer relevant – the word ‘balance’ brings with it negative connotations, depicting what is essentially a juggling act between two competing forces. Imagine if instead you could blend the key elements of your home and work life together to create a single view of what matters most, as well as be able to articulate that clearly with your manager to receive the right level of support.

A recent survey carried out by Open Blend revealed that 80 per cent of employees see their relationship with their manager as key to managing their stress and therefore happiness at work. However, ensuring there are consistent, meaningful conversations taking place is proving a real problem.  There is huge pressure on managers to support their teams effectively – yet many managers feel unprepared and inexperienced to have the right conversations.

One way to approach this challenge is to enable and develop people managers to have effective coaching conversations in one-to-ones, focusing on wellbeing, key drivers and performance. Underpinned by rigorous coaching methodology, our technology enables organisations to address employee engagement at a truly individual level, and delivers sustainable learning and development for line managers. This makes a simple but powerful conversation possible, enabling both parties to talk about what’s really important, and enabling the organisation to provide relevant support for their workforce as a whole.

Anna Rasmussen is CEO and founder of Open Blend