Employee engagement is a hot topic in the business world these days - and no wonder, because highly engaged employees are highly beneficial for your business. But in all the discussions about the best ways to engage employees, one very important group is left out: managers.
Why is this a big miss? Gallup has found that only 35% of managers have engaged themselves. And with the relationship between employees and their managers as a critical part of the overall work environment, disengaged managers could be dragging down the entire team members.
So what can you do to raise engagement levels among your managers?
We’ve got plenty of great ideas for you right here on how to engage managers. Read on to find out more!
Why is Employee Engagement Important for Managers?
Engagement levels in the workplace are a vital measure of the connection an employee feels to their work, their team, and your company. If an employee feels the work they do every day contributes to the success of something larger than themselves - your team, your business, or the broader community or world - they’re more likely to go above and beyond in their role.
Engaged employees are inspiring to be around, excellent at their jobs, and essential to the success of your business. Don’t take our word for it - there’s plenty of data out there to support this case. Engaged employees make your company:
So engaging your employees is essential to your future success. That’s why many companies run annual or pulse engagement surveys to measure how they’re doing. Without highly engaged employees, your business won’t be able to reach its full potential.
But it’s not just your individual contributors who need to be engaged, though that’s often the focus of engagement surveys and efforts. The engagement levels of your managers matter too. In fact, it might be one of the biggest factors in the engagement levels of your employees as well.
Surprised to hear that? It’s pretty intuitive, really. Managers have a huge impact on the daily lives of employees. They direct tasks, explain company policies and priorities and often play a large role in compensation and promotions.
That’s why HBR found that managers account for as much as 70% of the variance in employee engagement levels, while Gallup found that 1 in 2 employees had left a job to get away from a bad manager.
But good managers also have a strong impact on their teams. Employees who receive daily feedback from their manager are three times more likely to be engaged than those who only get feedback once a year (or even less). Clearly, good managers can raise your engagement levels, while struggling or bad ones can tank it.
Keeping Managers in Mind
Managers are often saddled with the task of raising engagement rates among their teams by senior leadership. After all, leaders often assume those managers know their teams best and have such a strong impact on the daily employee experience - shouldn’t they be accountable for engagement?
But since such a small portion of managers are engaged themselves (just 35% according to the Gallup survey cited above), asking them to take on the task of engaging employees when they’re disengaged themselves doesn’t set anyone up for success.
Instead, it’s better to raise the engagement levels of managers themselves if you have a significant employee engagement problem at your workplace. Those efforts will pay off in spades as both your managers and their teams become increasingly engaged at work.
5 Tips on How to Engage Managers
So how can you engage managers effectively? Many of the same employee engagement tips that work for employees apply to managers as well - they’re all human beings who work at your company, after all. But there are a few tips specific to the manager's role n employee engagement that you should try in order to raise engagement rates among your managers.
No one wants to think of themselves as an unskilled communicator. But unfortunately, communicating clearly and effectively doesn’t come naturally to most people. Many managers get into their roles by excelling at the skills of their job, and not necessarily for their people and communication skills.
That can leave them frustrated and confused when they need to communicate goals, organizational priorities, or have difficult conversations with employees. Offering corporate communications training can bridge this gap and help managers feel more confident in having important conversations.
2. Create a Culture of Recognition
When it comes to recognition, are your managers giving much more than they’re getting? The onus is often put on managers to offer plenty of recognition and rewards to the employees on their teams. While that’s an important role, managers themselves also deserve to receive regular recognition when they’re doing excellent work.
This doesn’t mean that you need to encourage employees to recognize their managers - that can get tricky fast formally. But developing a strong peer-to-peer recognition system can help fill in some of these gaps as managers support and shout out each other’s great work.
And senior leadership should also make a real effort to recognize and reward their managers on a regular basis as well. If you’re looking for a tech-forward solution to make recognition and rewards simply at every level of your organization, you’ll find it in Xoxoday Empuls.
3. Build Trust and Transparency
Managers are the most frequent conduit of information from the higher levels of leadership down to individual employees. It’s not reasonable to expect that you can always provide managers with every detail that went into making a complex corporate decision - there are security issues at stake there. But offering them as much information as you can so they feel they’re getting as much of the story as possible will help them to trust you more.
That trust will be reflected in the conversations they have with employees about topics like reorganizations, policy changes, promotions, and compensation. If managers feel they can trust your senior leaders, that will trickle down through their discussions with employees. If they feel you’re holding back vital information, employees won’t feel that sense of trust.
4. Engage with Empathy
Your managers are often asked to be on the frontlines of uncomfortable conversations with the employee while ensuring tasks get completed on time and the department runs smoothly. Add in the lack of recognition that often accompanies a managerial position and you can see how managers can become disengaged.
Approaching managers with empathy when you’re telling them about a new challenge they need to take on, or a way in which they need to improve can help improve your relationship with your managers. While that doesn’t mean they can escape all the less-fun parts of the manager role, knowing that you acknowledge and understand what they’re going through can help them feel supported and engaged.
5. Communicate the Why
When you assign your managers tasks, projects, or conversations to have with their teams, how do you approach it? Do you simply tell them what they need to do, or do you take the time to explain why you’re asking them to take on this task? Just like it’s important for employee engagement to explain to employees why what they do is contributing to something larger, it’s vital to do the same with your managers.
When managers understand the why behind the tasks they’re asked to take on, they are typically more eager to accomplish them because they know it’s not just busywork - what they’re doing has real value. That feeling of value and significance is one of the major components of engagement, so it will boost your managers' engagement rate. And when they understand the why, they’ll also be better able to communicate to employees to boost their engagement as well. It’s a real win-win.
How to Measure Manager Engagement?
Knowing how to increase manager engagement is important. But measuring your manager engagement levels is a step that can’t be ignored. It’s a mistake (though a common one) to lump all employees into one big bucket when you’re running an employee engagement survey. While knowing the overall engagement levels at your company is certainly important, it’s also important to measure manager engagement levels specifically.
Why? That’s so you can decipher where your engagement problems (and successes) lie - are your employees pretty engaged but your managers are struggling, or vice versa? Only when you have that concrete data can you work to find a real and lasting solution to raise your engagement rate effectively.
When you run an employee engagement survey through a platform like Empuls by Xoxodays, you should be able to segment your survey data by employee level. (If you’re looking for the best way to find the right engagement survey vendor for your needs, check out our guide). Digging deep into where engagement levels currently are with your managers, and where you see plenty of room for improvement, can allow you to tackle issues in a targeted way and measure your progress as you go.
At Xoxoday, we deeply understand the intrinsic and extrinsic motivation and engagement drivers of people, be it an employee, supplier, contract staff, gig or consumer. We bring simplicity and continuity to a complex, everyday problem.