- Managers' engagement influences their whole team's performance
- Engage your managers, change your entire company
- Focus first on mission/purpose and opportunities to learn and grow
Meredith recently moved out of a management role in the finance industry.
"I noticed I felt different right away, but I couldn't put my finger on what it was," she says. "It was the feeling of not being under constant pressure."
Meredith's experience in management isn't unusual. Gallup finds that managers report more stress and burnout, worse work-life balance, and worse physical wellbeing than the people on their teams.
That's hard on managers, and it's not great for businesses, either: replacing an employee costs as much as one-half to about two times that person's annual salary, and recruitment is tough -- who wants a job that could make them sick? In fact, only one-third of U.S. workers believe becoming a manager would advance their careers, according to a survey featured in Bloomberg.
That's a shame. The role can be extraordinarily emotionally fulfilling -- to be a manager is to be a catalyst of positive change for people, companies and industries. People often remember their best managers like they do their best teachers: with love and gratitude. And it's certainly possible to create the conditions managers need to love their jobs, as It's the Manager makes clear.
Meredith's company did not provide those conditions. So she found them in a different role, one that aligned her job responsibilities with her strengths. One that engages her, emotionally and professionally. One that she now loves.
"I used to take everything home with me, and my team was always on my mind. Always. But now I'm in a role where I have more autonomy, where I can learn and grow, and I like that," she says. "Actually, I love my job now. I am set up to do what I do best every day and feel as if I am contributing to the mission and purpose of my company."
When status quo management practices make managers feel like Meredith did, companies may have a bigger problem than they know.
Managers are crucial for a company's success, and disengaged managers cost the business in productivity and potential. A manager's emotional response is contagious, too, so if the manager is disengaged, disengagement cascades down to the team -- in fact, Gallup analytics find that 70% of the variance in workgroup engagement is caused by managers.
So, perhaps it's not surprising that the engagement rate of U.S. employees, 34%, seems to mirror the engagement rate of managers, 35%. With just over one-third of the U.S. workforce engaged, that leaves a staggering two-thirds who are not.
That cascade effect is powerful. Expensive too, as Gallup estimates disengagement runs companies about a third of the disengaged worker's salary in lost productivity. Actively disengaged employees cost the U.S. economy $483 billion to $605 billion each year in lost productivity. So, if the status quo management experience is breaking your managers, step in fast.
Replacing an employee costs as much as one-half to about two times that person's annual salary, and recruitment is tough -- who wants a job that could make them sick?
Changing the employee experience for your management may require a cultural overhaul, but leaders can start with the basics -- the things in their immediate control that most impact manager engagement.
According to Gallup research, managers who can strongly agree that "the mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important," and "this last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow," are most likely to be engaged. And there's a lot leaders can do to improve those elements of a manager's job.
Finding a Mission and Purpose
Employees need to feel their job has meaning -- in fact, mission is among the strongest drivers of millennials' retention. When managers feel the purpose of their job is just to collect a paycheck, engagement and performance both tank.
Leaders can instill a feeling of purpose in their managers by talking -- frequently and thoroughly -- about why the manager's work matters and how it aligns with the company's purpose. Recognition and rewards should connect the manager's performance with that purpose.
Interestingly, Gallup scientists say connecting managers to mission can initiate a secondary dynamic: increased cross-function cooperation that relieves some of the managers' burden.
Remember, managers are members of teams, too. And as such, they either work with other teams, independently from them or against them. If managers are genuinely aligned with the same purpose and for the same goal, the potential for allied cooperation increases.
That, too, can have a cascading effect on teams: when two managers collaborate, their direct reports usually do too, making connections with other team members and sharing information. That can improve outcomes for both teams and reduce the pressure on both managers.
Defining mission and purpose -- and getting unanimous alignment -- isn't easy. Gallup can help. But it's a necessary precondition of managers' engagement.
Development Is Key
People learn best, engage more and perform better when their development aligns with their unique talents. So leaders need to understand their managers' talents well, or risk sending them down an unproductive developmental path.
The CliftonStrengths assessment -- a rank-ordered index of talent and how to use it -- can be a tremendous help. Besides boosting day-to-day performance, the assessment indicates the course of development best suited to the individual. That approach points managers to their areas of highest potential, which can substantially improve their engagement. But then, so does having a boss who cares enough about you to put you on the right developmental path.
People often remember their best managers like they do their best teachers: with love and gratitude. And it's certainly possible to create the conditions managers need to love their jobs, as It's the Manager makes clear.
That may be ROI enough for a leader. But a ripple effect accompanies strengths-based managerial development that leaders should know about: Gallup research finds that development programs -- such as this one -- designed around talents outperform all others, and that a strengths-based approach to management is one of the best means of improving the employee-manager relationship that Gallup has ever found.
Managers Are Pivotal
Coincidentally -- maybe -- the chance to learn and grow is one of the things Meredith most values in her new, nonmanagerial role.
"I've learned a lot since I took this position, and that makes me feel successful," she says. "But I don't feel that constant pressure to get it all done like I used to."
That's great for Meredith, but it's unfortunate she didn't feel that way about her former role in management. Unfortunate for her and her company.
Managers are pivotal. They catalyze performance and grow businesses.
The most important decision leaders make is selecting managers. And most companies are clearly failing to engage them.
The practice of management is broken, and it's breaking managers, too. Engaging them is the first step to fixing a practice that's failing too many.
Learn more about creating a better manager experience at your company:
- Download our perspective paper The Manager Experience: Top Challenges & Perks of Managers.
- Purchase your copy of It's the Manager, Gallup's new book that reveals 52 discoveries about the practice of management.