Discovering Touch Points

The Art of Effective Employee Relationships

This technique is simple yet often over looked by busy leaders. Touch points, is about you as the leader prioritising building relationships with your staff by “taking an interest in” or “communicating with” your employees, this prioritisation will be demonstrated through your leadership behaviour.

By improving your touch point frequency and effectiveness you can lift employee engagement and productivity by a significant amount

Definition: Employee Touch Points

A touch point is simply where a leader and an employee have face to face contact or in a virtual team where you are either on the phone or video conference, (Email does not count – nor does messenger you have to be in meaningful two way communication).

It must be leader initiated.

Examples of Effective Daily Touch Points

Touch points can be divided in to two categories, non-task related and task related.

Non Task Related

  • Saying good morning

  • Asking for an opinion on a topic (work related)

  • Following up on something with an employee

  • Brief social conversation

  • Saying good night

Task Related

  • Ad hock feedback opportunity on observation of an employee doing something worth acknowledging

  • Asking how the day is going or how they are going today

  • Formal one-on-one to provide overall performance feedback and discuss the employees goals

  • Giving informal feedback on the previous days performance

You might be able to add some suggestions to the list.

Varying your Touch Points

When developing your touch point plan you will need to ensure that you cater for each of the specific types of employees that you have, some variations to your plan will include:

New employees:

When you have new employees you should increase the frequency of your interaction and include more discussion on the role the employee was hired to do, how they are fitting in and positive feedback on early progress

Employee developing new skills:
With existing employees who are developing new skills, depending on the person, you can increase your conversation frequency during the employees development phase again focusing on feedback on the employees progress and how they feel about their progress

Employees who are meeting performance expectations:
If an employee is meeting performance expectations there is no need to follow up with them on their performance, however positive feedback on yesterdays performance and adhock compliments should be used. You should also have interactions that seek the employees input into proposed changes or asking for suggestions or advice

Under-performing employees:
If you have employees who are under performing it is acceptable to increase the frequency of touch points that are focused on coaching, asking how the new techniques the employee is applying are working.
(If the employee is capable but not focused you can ask more about productivity; if they are not capable then focus on coaching and support).

Adjust your frequency as soon as the employee is on track.

High performing employees:
If you have high performing employees then your interactions should rarely discuss productivity (other than to provide positive feedback), rather they should be focused on seeking the employees input into business decisions as well as understanding the employees goals, aspirations and development desires.

Individual needs:
Regardless of everything mentioned above you should vary your style in response to employee needs, some employees like to get more recognition while others prefer less frequent recognition.
(if you are an inexperienced leader then do too much and ask your employees, individually, if they would like you to change)

Leadership Tip:
The art of good leadership is to work out each person’s preference for “performance related touch points” and adjust your style to suite, however instead of reducing the frequency of interactions for employees who do not require them you should increase “non task related touch points”
If you are testing a new process, running a manual data collection exercise or have a work practice change then increase your use of touch points during the days straight after the change, this will support the employees and give you valuable feedback.

Touch Point Frequency

The frequency of your employee interactions will also depend on the type of work your team do and your seniority in the business, as a guide I have listed some examples, however if you are unsure you should error on the side of too many rather than too few, the following scenarios establish an absolute minimum number of touch points per day.

    Machine Paced Work:
    If you have machines that are set at a standard speed and it is the speed of the machine that sets the pace for the employee then you don’t need to include productivity in your touch points, other than if phrased as "how is the machine running today?" in this setting it is better to use touch points for non task related conversation or to promote business priorities.

    People Paced Work:
    Where people set the pace of their own work, a good leader can have a significant impact on productivity by showing a balanced concern for the employee and the volume/quality of throughput.

    Front Line Leaders: A front line leader or team leader should have 3 – 6 touch points with each employee each day. (This might sound like a lot, though it does not take long to walk around and say good morning).

    Middle Management: Middle managers should be in the work environment almost every day and should acknowledge every employee who is there at the time.

    Senior Managers: Depending on how senior, however you will add a lot of value if you get out in the work place for a chat with the front line, the more often you do it the more value you will add.

Leadership Tip:
If you are a manager and you are going to walk through an area of your business, ask the team leader of the area if there is anything special for you to discuss with the staff, for example.

  • Does any of your staff have any major personal events coming up?
  • Has anyone done something special recently at work?
  • Are there any key messages you would like me to reinforce?

The Dangers of Automation

Some managers see opportunities to improve their feedback systems, such as setting up automatically generated reports to all staff on their performance.

If you choose to automate performance feedback, do not forget you still need to discus each employee’s performance with them. There is a huge difference between having access to performance data and receiving personal recognition from their leader on their performance.

The Cold Employee

In leadership positions you will come across employee who are abrupt when you first start talking to them, don’t be put off – it is your job as the leader to build a relationship with each and every employee, not just the easy to get along with employees. With some employees it takes time and the trying of several different approaches before you are successful in building a relationship.

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Ian helps leaders to motivate and inspire their teams through a combination of developing strong operational management systems aligned to your strategy and a focus on leading people using techniques that we know improve employee engagement and lift team’s performance by between 30% and 220%. To find out how you can benefit from Ian’s expertise select the “leading for performance button” and begin your journey to higher performing team.