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5 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement by Listening to Managers
Workplace

5 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement by Listening to Managers

by Shannon Mullen O'Keefe
5 Ways to Improve Employee Engagement by Listening to Managers

Story Highlights

  • Managers are responsible for employee engagement and development
  • Leaders need to ask and listen to what managers need to boost engagement
  • Learn the top five things on a manager's wish list to help them succeed

Remember, 70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the team's manager.

This means your managers' engagement and development matters all the more.

So, let's imagine a group of your managers meeting off-site at a coffee shop where they're strategizing together about engaging and motivating their teams.

While it is good they have set aside this time to think critically about team needs, it's unusual to find them here (because we know from studying the manager experience that managers typically have a heavy workload with lots of distractions) -- what do you think they're saying?

As they talk about actions they need to take with their teams, they realize they can't move forward without some support of their own, so they make a wish list to share with you.

Their wish list includes the top five things that will best equip them to take responsibility for, and improve, their own and their teams' engagement this year.

Here is what they ask you for:

1. Manager Development That Inspires Growth

First, these managers ask for a clear focus on their development -- manager development.

Managers report having a good amount of development opportunities, but not the kinds that motivate them and help them perform better in their role.

While 66% of managers say their employer offers a professional development program, managers are 11% less likely to strongly agree that they have the opportunity to do what they do best at work, and only 8% agree that the performance reviews they receive inspire them to improve.

So, one of the largest opportunities for leaders today is to carve out time to review who is leading their teams, how they are developing those leaders to improve engagement and what their pipeline for team leadership looks like.

One manager contributing to the coffee shop wish list may wrestle with whether she's cut out to be a manager. This happens more often than leaders might expect; after all, only one in 10 people have high talent to effectively manage others.

Despite their best efforts, there are a lot of people out there who struggle with the messy job of managing humans.

More thoughtful manager development can help -- or, if leaders take time to listen, they can have honest conversations with their managers about development alternatives.

An effective human capital strategy is championed by leaders who promote a culture of strengths, encouraging workers to choose paths that fit them and making alternative employee development paths available.

That's what development should be all about.

One of the largest opportunities for leaders today is to carve out time to review who is leading their teams, how they are developing those leaders to improve engagement and what their pipeline for team leadership looks like.

2. Clear Purpose About Why It Matters to Perform

Lack of purpose is an engagement killer. At 30,000 feet, purpose is key to an effective employee engagement strategy because clearly defining purpose is crucial to having a healthy culture.

Clarity of purpose, instead, arms managers -- who are at ground level with employees and translate the why of work to their teams and help sort priorities.

We know based on Gallup's engagement research that "only four in 10 U.S. employees strongly agree that the mission or purpose of their company makes them feel their job is important." And currently, 42% of managers strongly agree that they have multiple competing priorities.

So, without a central purpose, the best managers are left demanding one -- and the worst are probably gossiping in the trenches with any others who are confused about direction.

3. Transparent Communication About Everything

Engagement is an every day, every moment undertaking for managers and the teams they lead. So, enable managers to "rumor bust" at every turn by ensuring that they are in the know on critical information early and often. Communicate transparently about changes, both large and small.

For example, if you are acquiring a new company, remodeling the kitchen or off-target with financials, be sure your managers know first.

When a question about direction comes up among team members, it is often too late. If the information was not communicated through their manager first, it may have already gone through the proverbial game of phone tag -- meaning inaccuracies and misinformation.

Another way to look at this is that when managers are armed with critical information early and often, they build a culture of trust. Then, as questions come up, team members go to their manager for clarity rather than alerting the "phone tag" network.

Absence of transparency yields mistrust, which can quickly spiral to disengagement. Transparency, on the other hand, can make your employee engagement strategy much more effective.

4. Empowered Manager Decision-Making

Because managers are closest to the action, they need to be empowered to make decisions close to the action. This will enable them to act and react based on the needs of the moment. When asked, fewer than four in 10 managers strongly agree with the statement, "I have the authority I need to do my job effectively." This leaves room for improvement.

And employees know when their manager is empowered to make decisions on their own. It's the difference between one manager adjusting an employee's work schedule to accommodate family needs and another saying to their employee, "No, sorry … our policy is 9 to 5."

In the second case, the employee is left discouraged. In the first, the employee is left satisfied and more engaged with the company. When a manager shifts blame to a "policy," employees lose faith in that manager's leadership and can become disengaged.

Fewer than four in 10 managers strongly agree with the statement, "I have the authority I need to do my job effectively."

Leadership teams need to outline and educate managers on core philosophies and beliefs that act as guardrails -- and then empower managers to act within those parameters.

5. Leaders Who Stop and Listen

Effective business coaches know that they get the furthest with their clients when they practice intentional listening techniques. Leaders need to listen too.

Leaders should regularly see their managers in action to hear and understand more about the current challenges they're facing. They are likely to find misalignment between formal expectations and what is actually required of them daily.

Leaders who make time to listen to their managers -- to hear and understand them -- invest in their most critical human capital.

So, leaders, take note of what is happening in the lives of your managers. You'll find unlimited opportunities to address critical needs and challenges.

When they hand you their wish list, pay attention to what they have to say. Trust that they know what they need: manager development that inspires growth, clear purpose about why it matters to perform, transparent communication about everything, empowered manager decision-making, and leaders who stop and listen. And then give them what they need to inspire their best work yet.

Engage and develop your managers to help their teams succeed:

Shannon Mullen O'Keefe is an Adviser and Performance Lead, Organizational Performance Consulting, at Gallup.


Gallup https://www.gallup.com/workplace/284129/ways-improve-employee-engagement-listening-managers.aspx
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