What impact do line managers have on engagement?
The single most important variable in employee engagement is the quality of the relationship between employees and their direct managers or supervisors. That's the conclusion of a major survey by the Gallup Organization - one that's supported by numerous other studies and our own research.
Clearly other things such as pay, benefits and work conditions are important to people, but in our experience they seldom have a major impact on engagement. On the occasions they do, they tend to drive it down.
The Gallup survey provided two important insights. First it identified the qualities people most value in their immediate managers:
- Showing care, concern and interest in people
- Setting clear and consistent expectations
- Valuing people's unique qualities
- Giving positive feedback and recognition for work well done
- Encouraging and supporting people's growth and development
And second it showed that managers who demonstrate those qualities are likely to be the most successful in terms of:
- Retaining their people
- Creating a high level of engagement within their team
- Having a positive impact on other performance metrics such as customer satisfaction and profitability.
In other words it showed that the most important sources of engagement are internal and emotional - the same things that children most need from their parents, and that management style, therefore, has a key impact on employee engagement.
Unfortunately many managers do not demonstrate thee people management attitudes and behaviours identified in the survey, and the result is often low engagement, high staff turnover and rising costs associated with:
- Finding and training replacements
- A short term decline in capability
- Poor customer service
- Low co-worker morale
- The loss of experience and expertise, often to competitors
- A hit to the company's reputation
Given the importance of management style to engagement and overall performance the big questions are:
- How many of your line managers, team leaders and supervisors fail to engage their teams?
- What impact does that have on performance?
- And, most importantly, what can you do about it?
Clearly there are no simple answers. Changing attitudes and behaviour is a major undertaking. Perhaps the best starting point are five basic questions:
- How effective are our senior team as people managers? Do their attitudes and behaviours reflect the Gallup attributes? Are they good role models for our line managers, team leaders and supervisors?
- Do we recruit and appoint people with the right people management attitudes and behaviours? Do we need to review our recruitment processes?
- Do we recognise and reward people for their performance in terms of people management and raising the level of engagement?
- Is the way we train and coach people consistent with the development of the right people management attitudes and behaviours?
- Are care, concern and encouragement part of our company culture? Are they really part of "the way we do things around here"?
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