Human resource management group SHRM, writes that employee advocacy is “to know your people well enough to make sure they are represented accurately and fairly within the company”. Not only is employee advocacy important for employee success and engagement, but it also reflects on you as the manager.
As much as teams succeed together, they also fail together, and if you’re not advocating for your employees, then you’re failing them. If employees don’t trust that you know how to advocate for them, they’re going to advocate for themselves—which might mean looking elsewhere for work.
Knowing how to advocate for your employees might not be as simple as just doing it.
SHRM writes that becoming a good advocate for employees takes time and effort, “which can be a challenge when you're juggling myriad duties and deadlines”. SHRM also notes that knowing how to advocate for our employees “requires collecting information on every employee, as well as knowing and understanding each one's work history, skills, and appetite and capability for growth” as well as “understanding each employee’s current roles and responsibilities”.
Managers must first ensure that they have a full understanding of each of their direct reports in order to best advocate for them as individuals. Is Sam a talented writer but underutilized? Does Jamie need more flexibility to spend more time with their family? Is Alex looking for growth opportunities? Knowing all of this can make a manager not just a better advocate for their employees, but also a better leader in general.
Here are some ways that leaders can advocate for their employees.
- Listen to their concerns/comments. Inc. writes that it’s important that managers work to create an environment that allows employees “both structured and unstructured opportunities to share feedback about their experiences at the organization”. This means everything from casual check-ins to more formal performance reviews.
- Share feedback with higher-ups and other teams. This means looping in other people about performance milestones, as well as any feedback that employees have shared with you.
- Advocate for growth opportunities. Creating opportunities for growth is really the biggest piece of knowing how to advocate for your employees. Employees want to know that—as their manager—you’re fighting for them to get the recognition they deserve and that you want them to continue to be a part of your team.
Research shows that “a team member's relationship with their immediate supervisor is one of the… key drivers of employee engagement”. That’s why it’s important to set yourself up as an ally and an advocate for your employees. If you know how to advocate for your employees properly, then they will advocate for you and your organization as well.