Increased productivity, higher levels of employee satisfaction and loyalty, lower staff turnover and improved profitability. These are just some of the benefits associated with employee engagement. Yet, according to Gallup’s recent research, we are in the midst of an engagement crisis, with only 13% of employees worldwide engaged. It’s difficult to fathom why, when engagement is a key component of organisations’ people strategies.
Businesses invest considerable time, money and effort creating working environments that encourage engagement. It may be fitness classes at lunch time or ice creams on a hot day. Perks aside, could it be that we are overlooking the critical role manager’s play in engaging employees?
As the individuals on the front line, managers are responsible for engagement. Or lack of it! How they lead and motivate employees each day will impact positively, or negatively. And let us remember that poor management remains one of the top cited reasons for employees quitting their job.
But what can managers do differently? And how far do your management development programmes go to provide them with the correct tools? Below we highlight areas where management can have an impact on employees’ engagement.
Effective communication is one of the most important skills a manager can master. Done well, it is an impactful way to engage employees. It helps to build an environment of trust where employees can raise questions and provide feedback; allowing managers to stay ahead of any issues.
A successful manager will understand the importance of adapting their communication style to suit individual or situational needs. Regular and open discussions with individuals and collectively as a team, will enable managers to develop an understanding of preferred communication methods and key engagement drivers for their direct reports.
Managers must be able to set clear direction and create a sense of shared purpose for their team. Employees who understand how their goals fit in to team and organisational objectives will feel their work is more meaningful and that they are contributing to the future direction of the organisation, leading to a greater sense of commitment and engagement.
Managers should be clear in their own mind as to the direction their team need to move in, and how individual goals fit in to this. They should fully understand organisational priorities and communicate the importance to the team to avoid any misinterpretation.
No one enjoys difficult conversations, however for managers they are an unavoidable part of the job. When approached correctly, with the correct training and tools, they can develop trust and respect between a manager and their direct report.
Whether performance related or employee conflict, the consequence of avoiding such conversations can lead to a wider team engagement issue and the individual continuing with particular behaviours. To ensure the greatest outcome managers should be prepared and know what they want to achieve from the conversation. They should also engage in active listening and encourage open and honest dialogue, giving the employee a chance to explain behaviours or any influencing factors.
The ability to switch between the role of manager and coach will have major impact on individual and team engagement and motivation. Managers who show commitment to employees’ development will maximise performance and develop confidence in individuals, enabling them to be more autonomous in their work.
Teams are becoming more complex. They are made up of different generations who all have different motivators, communication styles and approaches to work and management. Developing your managers coaching skills will enable them to better and more effectively manage their teams by understanding how to tailor their approach and recognise individual potential, while reinforcing the importance of consistent feedback and support.
It’s important for any manager, both newly appointed and seasoned to continually develop and hone their management skills and to recognise the influence they have on employee engagement levels. Engagement is complex with a number of influencing factors at play, but as the managers on the front line who are having a direct impact on a significant number of employees each day, it’s fundamental they have the skills, tools and confidence to ensure they’re able to positively engage employees.