WHETHER your issue is keeping your engaged people on track or helping the disengaged to get back on track, all managers are looking for simple methods that will achieve results without costing a fortune.

Research by the internationally renowned Gallup organisation has found that one of the keys to employee engagement is a strong relationship with an immediate manager.

In fact, if you have a great manager and work for a not-so-great organisation, their research found that you are more likely to be engaged than if you work for an enlightened organisation but have a lousy manager.

At the heart of a strong employee/manager relationship is communication. Old fashioned, face to face, one-on-one conversations. Sounds simple, doesn’t it?

The question is, are you making the most of your opportunities as a manager to have conversations that engage?

I believe there are eight conversations that every manager should be taking advantage of in their quest for an engaged workforce. You are probably already having some of these conversations, and some are new ones you can consider introducing.

All of them give managers the opportunity to directly impact on the engagement levels of their employees.

1. JOB PREVIEW

Don’t just conduct an interview. Give potential hires a realistic preview of what the job will really be like — including the highs and the lows, the positives and the negatives. If after hearing what it’s really like, they are still keen, then you have a far greater chance of retaining them in the longer term.

2. INDUCTION REVIEW

An induction review conversation allows you to get feedback on the effectiveness of your induction process as well as give the new employee a sense that he is now really part of the organisation. It also allows you to address any questions or concerns the new employee may still have.

3. PROBATION REVIEW

Traditionally, the end of the probation period is when an employee has his status as a full-time staff member confirmed. Why not also use this conversation as an opportunity to learn more about the employee, his goals and aspirations, strengths and weaknesses. He may be more willing to discuss these things with you now that his employment is secure.

4. PERFORMANCE REVIEW

Too many managers — and employees — look upon the performance review process as a “form filling exercise” designed to keep the human resource department happy. They don’t take full advantage of the opportunity to have one of the most crucial engaging conversations.

5. EMPLOYMENT ANNIVERSARY

Put yourself in the shoes of the employee. A milestone arrives, another year on the job, and no one notices. It’s a bit like having a birthday and everyone forgets to wish you. Now imagine what it feels like to have your birthday remembered and even celebrated. The purpose of this conversation is to get your employee to think about the year that has gone by and to contemplate the year ahead.

6. MAJOR EVENT

It may be appropriate to initiate a conversation with your employees before, during and after major events, particularly those involving change. Your goal should be to explain what is going on, answer their questions, discuss any of their concerns and get their input and feedback on how the process is being handled.

7. STAY INTERVIEW

The important question that remains unasked in so many exit interviews is not “Why are you leaving” but “Why are you not staying?”

Rather than leave it until it is too late, why not conduct a workplace health check in the form of a “stay interview”.

The stay interview is a relatively new addition to the manager’s toolkit. The main benefit of this conversation is that managers are able to identify issues and problems at an early stage before they reach crisis point and people start leaving.

8. EXIT INTERVIEW

The exit interview is designed to uncover issues that were glossed over, promised and not delivered or misunderstood during all stages of the employee’s relationship with the organisation.

It can also be used to highlight the areas where the organisation is excelling! What you learn in the exit interview process should be used to improve the realistic job preview discussion that should form part of your recruitment process.

These conversations don’t have to be difficult or time-consuming. They can be a highly productive use of your time if you do them correctly.

However, if you make a half-hearted attempt, they can have the opposite effect and actually decrease engagement. So here are a few quick tips on making the most of the eight conversations that engage:

* Make it more about the dialogue than the paperwork;

* Have a clear purpose before you begin;

* Discuss the real issues rather than just the easy topics;

* Choose the right time and place;

* Be genuinely interested in hearing feedback; and

* Take action.