In its most recent “State of the American Workplace” report, Gallup Research found that 70% of US workers were either not engaged or were actively disengaged at work. We know that we need to address employee engagement, so perhaps a better question is, “How should we address employee engagement?”
Of course, there are no shortage of studies and research papers into how to address employee engagement, but the “State of the American Workplace” report highlighted one particular approach:
The single greatest thing you can do to increase employee engagement is hire the right managers.
In fact, the report said that if you hire a manager who is disengaged, the team they manage is three times more likely to be disengaged.
In organisations across the globe, engaged employees are the manager’s responsibility, but you need to have engaged managers to encourage employees. Employee engagement is a top down process and employees reflect their manager’s attitudes, values and actions. That’s why ‘walking the talk’ is probably the most effective employee engagement strategy there is.
How do you make sure managers are engaged?
There are four key areas where HR and leadership teams can help boost employee engagement:
1. Take a close look at your leadership
Having leaders understand their roles and responsibilities is a priority in setting the tone of the culture of the organisation. There needs to be a top-down articulation of the importance of engagement, where leaders walk the talk and truly understand and believe in the benefits of creating an engagement culture, this then inspires managers to do the same, just like employees will copy their manager.
2. Review your recruitment strategy
Aim to recruit people into managerial roles who have a higher propensity to be engaged. Most recruitment involves person specifications, so look for examples of that by asking people about how they have reacted to particular situations in the past. Once you have identified a set of beliefs that might underpin engagement and that are aligned with the values of your organisation it is possible to use psychometric testing as part of recruitment.
3. Ensure your managers have the right core skills through training and development
Many managers are promoted into managerial positions and then left to get on with it, without necessarily having the core ‘soft skills’ need to properly manager people. The right training and development are vital so that managers feel competent and confident in their ability to do their jobs and do not disengage as a result of stress or disengage their team as a result of poor management through lack of knowledge.
4. Performance management is essential
Just like employees want to receive feedback and be rewarded for their efforts, so do managers – something I think we sometimes forget. Effective performance management is not done well in many organisations. But to have engaged managers, it’s essential that, as a starting point, the manager’s supervisor carries out effective performance management with their team:
- Setting objectives
- Appraising progress
- Rewarding managers for doing well
- Listening to managers
- Supporting managers who need it
- Giving them the right tools for the job
- Keeping managers in the loop
- Encouraging two-way conversation