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Driving Employee Engagement Takes Managers’ Focus

Managers define the employee experience. They:

  •        drive their teams’ cultures
  •        conduct development conversations and activities
  •        advocate for their teams to higher leadership
  •        ensure employees are secure with appropriate pay and benefits

Managers can make employees love their jobs or dread coming to work.

We’ve all heard it before: people don’t leave organizations, they leave managers. And in a related concept: people aren’t engaged by organizations, they are engaged by managers.

Why is this important?

Organizations with the highest levels of employee engagement were consistent with 15% greater employee productivity and up to 30% greater customer satisfaction.

Industry experience, research and surveying thousands of employees and organizations has produced findings that there are a few manager behaviors that are the key to raising employee engagement.

#1  Recognize efforts and results.

There are 2 places this item appears in national surveys. It’s in the top 5 drivers of employee engagement. It’s in the bottom 5 in favorability.

This information tells us that being recognized is very important but employees are not getting enough of it.

Managers take note: it’s 19% more important to your employees to get recognition from you than from their work peers. If you’re not using a recognition program, you need to.   


#2  Do survey follow-up.

Do you do employee surveys? If you do – follow-up on them.

Employees want managers to be involved in after-survey follow-up – even more so than HR or the C-suite.

That’s because:

  •        59% of them believe that managers have the most responsibility for enacting and implementing employee engagement strategies
  •        64% believe managers have the most responsibility for communicating engagement results to specific employees or teams.

Managers take note: to engage employees, get your involved in survey follow-up.

#3  Discuss performance frequently.

24% of employees are uncertain of how their performance is measured.

This is because the annual performance review is not the frequency at which employees prefer to discuss performance. Only 9% prefer annual reviews while 49% prefer this discussion to take place monthly or at least quarterly.

When conversations take place more frequently, a mindset of continuous improvement – instead of evaluation – is established. The conversation is more about addressing challenges as they’re taking place and improving skills across the course of the year.

Managers take note: you and your organization are doing an awful job communicating to employees how their performance is measured. There are tools and training that can help you with organizing and facilitating these conversations. Doing so can drastically increase your employee performance and their engagement in your success.

#4  Make transparency a habit.

Employees lack visibility into how goals are set and tracked so they can’t effectively set (or achieve) goals. Since effectively setting and achieving goals is an essential component for employee engagement, employees are doomed for this from the get-go.

Managers take note: you must bring clarity by providing transparency into goals and involving employees in their goal-setting and tracking process for them to understand it and perform for success.

  •        Only 37% of employees are very involved in the process of setting their own goals.
  •        Only 12% of employees have full visibility into the goals that are set and tracked by other teams or departments.
  •        Only 23% of employees have full visibility into the goals that are set and tracked for their organization.

#5  Offer opportunities for peer-to-peer recognition.

Manager recognition, as previously noted, is critical. However, peer-to-peer recognition accomplishes something totally different. Peer-to-peer recognition is one of the easiest ways to help employees feel connected and recognized – without a “rewards campaign.” There is an increase in morale that translates to benefits for your customers. In fact, 41% of companies with peer-to-peer recognition in place have seen positive increases in their customer satisfaction.

Manager take note: not enough companies provide peer-to-peer recognition opportunities. Work with your senior management and leadership team to put peer-to-peer recognition in place to reap the rewards.

#6  Make sure senior management takes central role.

You cannot do it alone. You need your managers to support you.  In fact, engagement programs in which senior management have leadership are twice as successful as those introduced and visibly supported by senior management.

Managers take note: make sure that decision makers who can initiate positive change are involved. You need their buy-in and their visible support to succeed.  

#7  Develop employees.

Sure, employees need development, but did you know that they want opportunities to be coached and developed by you. Development opportunities are in the top 10 drivers Quantum Workplace discovered for employee engagement.

Managers take note: leverage their desire to learn. Find development opportunities and give your employees access to them. In fact, do more – encourage it.  

  •        More than 21% of employees are unsure about the growth and development opportunities available to them
  •        Only 66% of employees have been coached by a manager in the last 12 months.

If you don’t feel you have the adequate training for developing your employees, discuss ways you can be equipped for this with your organization.

#8  Create an action plan and set it in motion.

Don’t just communicate, survey and share results. Going this far and failing to put verbs in your sentences, as Dr. Phil says, makes all that work to do the first 3 things irrelevant. Acting on it is what employees want.

Managers take note: your involvement is what employees crave. Formulate a plan from the results of your communication, surveys and results sharing as a team and set it in motion. Give it milestones and goals. Monitor success and creatively approach challenges.

These behaviors are crucial to the quality of the employee experience. They represent a gap that simply can’t be ignored if you want to engage employees in the success of your organization.

Perhaps there is a gap because employee engagement isn’t necessarily understood by managers and the C-suite. It’s important because it’s about maximizing the talent potential of your employees and your teams. But it isn’t easy.

In fact, raising employee engagement can be compared to losing weight. It’s simply not enough for you to queue up a workout video on YouTube, sit down with a bowl of chips and expect to shed pounds. The video is helpful because it shares steps that will maximize value for you. You only get results when you commit to doing the work and being consistent about it.

You must be committed to raising employee engagement as much as your employees. Be clear on what employee engagement is. It’s simply this: being personally invested so that it matters to you. It’s the same for your employees. The greater their personal investment, the more success matters to them and the better they will perform to achieve it.

Employee engagement is a huge mover of fundamental metrics like retention and revenue so when employees are committed to success, a company’s fundamental metrics soar.


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