Six benefits of getting a deeper understanding of your employees

Your employees are not black and white.

We’ll probably all agree that one of the primary manager skills is communication. All communication serves two main purposes: to convey information and to receive and understand it. This article highlights six benefits of getting an in-depth understanding of your direct reports.

1. Uncover strengths

Your employees probably already have all the skills they need to get their jobs done. You wouldn’t hire them otherwise, of course. People have different strengths and weaknesses though, and there are different kinds of tasks to be distributed among your reports. Assigning the right tasks to the right people boosts the whole team’s performance dramatically.

Uncovering your employees’ strengths doesn’t apply to just the work-oriented skills. It is of particular importance to watch your employees’ soft skills. Knowing who has the best communication skills or who is the best organized might decide about who gets promoted to a management position when the opportunity arises.

2. Help them to get their jobs done

If you ask your employees what is the greatest difficulty they face right now, you might be surprised. Sometimes they can’t get a response from somebody on another team. Sometimes you might learn about a growing conflict in your own team. You might learn that an employee can’t focus when it’s so hot in the office in the summer.

The hurdles are different over time, and the employees could use your assistance under various circumstances. Proactively looking for opportunities to help them cuts the time they’d otherwise need to finish the task.

3. Understand their motivation

Non-profits have some of the most engaged employees, in spite of the infamous wages in the non-profit sector. Clearly, people are motivated by more than just salaries and bonuses.

Unfortunately, it’s not as straightforward — different people need different motivators. Your only chance to properly motivate them is to talk to them individually about their long-term goals and values.

Motivation evolves over time, and the employees’ situation life circumstances change as well. When my first child was born, I started to value flexibility and the occasional home-office so much more.

4. Build engagement

While consultants might use sophisticated tools to measure engagement, simply observing common human interactions on a daily basis can go a long way, too. “Make a commitment to listen to your employees when they talk about the product and to listen to your employees when they talk about what’s going on in their organization,” advises Harquail, author of the blog

Oddly enough, when people complain, it’s a sign of engagement. The challenge is to take the complaints (and enthusiasm and pride) as an opportunity for change.

5. Link personal goals to the organization’s

Figure out what drives each employee and help them connect it to the company mission. Your role is to be a facilitator in this process. Make sure not to influence them with your beliefs and values too much — it’s about them, not you.

6. Being agreeable

Being sincerely interested in other people is the key component of agreeableness. You would probably dismiss this as over-the-top narcissism. However, Peter Stark, a management consultant and the author of Engaged! How Leaders Build Organizations Where Employees Love to Come to Work emphasizes, that “70 percent of an employee’s level of engagement or excitement about the job or the company they work with is in direct relation to their immediate supervisor.”


Spending energy on obtaining a thorough understanding of your employees might seem like a lot of work that brings few direct benefits. Moreover, you and your staff all have plenty of work deadlines to meet! The increases in efficiency, motivation, and engagement will certainly pay off.

What are your tips for understanding your employees better? Share them in the comments!

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