According to a study conducted by MSW Research and Dale Carnegie Training, a team member's relationship with their immediate supervisor is one of the three key drivers of employee engagement.

Leaders must learn how to be consistent and effective advocates for their staff in order to cultivate quality relationships that will increase engagement and performance levels.

Within our organization, we encourage our managers to represent their team members in all matters. They are responsible for helping to create an engaging and productive work environment for their direct reports. This allows us to maximize our operational efficiency while developing a meaningful corporate culture.  

Below are three strategies leaders can employ to become outstanding advocates for their team.

Listen to their concerns and carry them up the organizational chart.

To effectively advocate for an employee's needs, you have to know what's hindering their success. Of course, to find out which roadblocks they face, you have to actively listen.

Some people mistakenly think the traditional power dynamic in a business setting revolves around managers being speakers and line-level employees simply taking orders. In reality though, the best leaders are excellent listeners who are adaptive to employees' needs. However, it's always important that any proposed solutions ultimately align with the company's overall mission and values.  

As a manager, you should create an environment that provides your staff members with both structured and unstructured opportunities to share feedback about their experiences at the organization. Make these opportunities a normal part of scheduled feedback sessions and regularly ask about their needs during other interactions.

Once you have listened and know what they need, remember that you are their voice to upper management. Represent them when sharing their ideas, concerns and questions to help your direct reports feel heard and to seek out solutions that will help them accomplish more at their jobs.

Share performance results and positive feedback with other departments.

All too often different departments within an organization can start to operate like independent units. When this happens over a long period of time, workers within those compartmentalized units begin to lose sight of the company as a whole and they may even feel disconnected from their colleagues. If left unchecked this phenomenon can foster an "us vs. them" mentality that leaves groups fighting for recognition and resources.

You have an opportunity to combat this instinct to revert to tribalism by sharing details of your team's work with other representatives of the company as often as possible. Come to interdepartmental meetings prepared with specific performance results that show what your team has achieved. When your staff receives positive feedback from customers you can also applaud their accomplishments at company-wide forums.

Seek out growth opportunities for your top performers.

Smart leaders understand they can't keep top-performing employees in a specific position forever. If they have talent and drive, they are going to search for new opportunities eventually. At that point, it's up to you to choose whether you want to help them grow their careers or to stand in their way.

You can be an exceptional advocate for their future by looking for growth opportunities you think are a good fit for them. Let them know you value their contributions and that you care about their long-term happiness too.

At Amerisleep, we provide regular leadership training for our employees and offer certification courses that validate the work they are doing and reinforce the information they've learned. Ultimately, our goal is to groom our company's future leaders. When your managers effectively engage your employees, they'll help to train their own replacements as they move up into director-level roles and other areas of upper management.