Low employee engagement and outright disengagement is an endemic problem in the US workforce. In the past few years, just 1 in 3 people have felt enthusiastic about going to work. The other two thirds are simply sleepwalking their way through the day, and are costing the American economy somewhere between $450 billion to $550 billion in lost productivity per year.
Dissatisfaction can be caused by any number of things – like poor relationship development or an inability to affect chance in the organisation. But the vast majority of issues boil down to poor management; in fact, managers account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement scores.
In a study from Gallup, just 35% of U.S. managers were found to be engaged in their jobs. This is having a huge knock-on effect on productivity. What can be done to improve manager engagement and make them more accountable to their employees?
Improve The Manager’s “People-Leading” Skills
The majority of managers are promoted to leadership roles either because of the success they’ve had in their professional careers, or simply due to the fact they have been at the company the longest. These leaders are typically high performers in their fields, but there is no evidence that talented employees make talented managers – it requires a totally different skills set to get the best performance out of people.
Some people simply don’t have the special talent it requires to engage and lead a team of people. Others can be trained, or can at least learn to understand what it is that employees want from their managers:
- Foster consistent communication: employees whose managers hold regular meetings with them are almost three times as likely to be engaged as employees whose managers do not hold regular meetings. Managers should also aim to respond to employee questions and concerns within 24 hours, whether in person, over the phone or electronically.
- Create a culture of trust: Niccolò Machiavelli famously said “it is better to be feared than loved,” but leadership has changed a lot in 500 years! Managers today are much better off creating an environment of approachability and open dialogue if they want to get the most out of their employees – be empathetic, and take all concerns and questions seriously.
- Take an interest in employees’ outside lives: to be a great leader, managers need to show they care deeply about each of their employees, and not in a superficial way. If managers want to improve engagement in their employees, show you’re invested in them by spending some time getting to know about their lives outside of work.
Enforce Greater Awareness and Accountability in Managers
Self-awareness is the foundation of good leadership. This means a lot of personal self-reflection – in your interactions with others, being emotionally and socially aware can help you build and strengthen relationships. But managers also need to learn from the people around them.
- Manager feedback surveys: one way to objectively assess a manager’s effectiveness is by having employees complete a manager feedback survey. This type of assessment gets employees to anonymously provide feedback and analysis of their manager’s performance. In a reverse of the performance appraisal, this survey allows employees to voice grievances, whilst creating a clear culture of accountability.
- Employee engagement surveys: use real-time employee engagement surveys instead of the annual survey: these allow managers to gain timely insights on how their workforce feels, rather than waiting for a once-a-year formal feedback. This gives managers timely, data-driven insights on their organisation, so they know when to use methods to re-engage employees.
Ensure Managers Are Getting The Best Out Of Others
Managers should be constantly thinking about how to improve the performance of others. That is their objective, and in doing so will likely end up being more engaged at work themselves. Here are three ways to ensure that happens:
- Clarify expectations: employees want to know how they can be successful, so set clear and achievable objectives for each team member and find ways to hold them accountable for their own results. Effective leaders identify the results they want and behave intentionally to achieve them.
- Provide training: most people are selected for a leadership role because of their expertise, so make sure that share this expertise with their employees. Always make time to provide employees with what they need to perform at their best.
- Build strengths rather than fixating on weaknesses: always focus on what employees are good at, rather than trying to fix their faults. A strengths-based culture is one in which employees learn their roles more quickly, produce more and significantly better work, stay with their company longer and are more engaged.
Managers have some of the most stressful, but also the most exciting jobs in the US economy. Be sure to hold them accountable for their team by setting people-based goals.