Employee engagement continues to be a puzzle even in 2019.
Even though the term has been replaced by “experience,” a lot still needs to be understood about getting engagement strategies right. And one factor that determines these indices but often goes unnoticed is the quality of leadership.
The quality of leadership in a company can make or break the job for employees. Because employees do not want to work with bad managers or leadership that does not care or inspire them in any way. In order to have engaged employees, you need to be an engaged leader first. You have to take a genuine interest in the lives of your employees and make frequent interactions with them.
Instead of spending millions of dollars and acting as a passive observer, leaders need to proactively participate in winning the engagement battle.
70% Of Employee Engagement Comes Down To Management
As per research by Gallup, managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores. This means that managers are not creating environments that foster creativity and belonging for employees to stick around. This study found that most employees quit their jobs just to get away from their managers.
Having a bad manager can make employees feel miserable. This misery translates from work to their personal lives as well. Stress hurts their well being. Organizations really need to understand this well and focus on what their managers are doing on the ground.
” An employee’s motivation is a direct result of the sum of interactions with his or her manager.”
~ Bob Nelson
A manager has several tasks to do when it comes to helping his employees grow. Communication, fostering team spirit, conducting performance reviews, offering support and feedback are some of the main functions of a manager. These behaviors affect employee engagement directly and hence need to be monitored.
Here’s a look at how managers can improve their behaviors and expand their roles to foster positive levels of employee engagement:
Clear Communication About Goals
Setting clear goals is not just about a job description. It reflects tasks that an employee has to carry out on a day to day basis for the achievement of short-term and long-term goals. It requires clear-cut roads mutually set out for each employee and his specific job role. This is not a reality as research by Gallup suggests that only 41% of employees strongly agree that their job description aligns well with the work they do. Those to strongly agree with this statement are 2.5 times more likely than other employees to be engaged.
30% of employees strongly agree their manager involves them in goal setting. These employees are nearly 4 times more likely to be engaged than other employees.
Employees might feel frustrated and aimless when their managers fail to guide them to connect to their role to the bigger picture. This is worse for the millennial generation who want a job that feels meaningful. Without a clear sense of purpose, engagement levels drop and employees leave. The cost of replacing these employees and re-hiring talent is another huge cost to organizations.
Just laying down goals is not the answer. Managers also need to be available for their employees as and when the need arises. Be it providing learning tools for employees, coaching them on real issues, recognizing and rewarding employee performance in formal and informal ways, or offering genuine feedback on activities. Only when managers define all these strategies clearly can they help contribute to achieving organizational goals.
Coaching Over Boss-Ing
According to research from Leadership IQ, employees should be spending six hours per week interacting with their leaders. Regular engagement with managers is crucial to understand where employees stand and also help them improve. The same study found that employees who spend six hours per week with managers are 29% more inspired, 30% more engaged, 16% more innovative, and 15% more intrinsically motivated than those who spend only one hour per week.
But how successful are organizations in actually making sure employees and managers meet? Lack of time and overburdened with work is a common sight everywhere that prevents this from happening.
Employees who receive daily feedback from their manager are 3 times more likely to be engaged than those who receive feedback once a year or less.
This needs to change as employees cannot just meet managers at the time of setting goals and then directly at the time of review. This entire gap has very little formal guidance give and take. This is why most employees are left in the dark about their performance.
This leads to confusion and frustration. What employees want is increased attention from managers, with continuous guidance on what goals to achieve and how to achieve them. Employees want coaches and mentors who can contribute to their professional growth.
Employees who strongly agree that their manager holds them accountable for their performance are 2.5 times more likely to be engaged.
Accountability is critical to achieving high performance. In order to be accountable, employees need to feel like they have control and ownership of tasks. If employees have no control over the way their performance is measured by a manager one fine day, he might feel like the entire process as being unfair and inaccurate. Performance metrics are mostly not under an employee’s control which makes the measurement questionable.
With the current scheme of things, employees are held accountable for work that they don’t always have the tools to support or accomplish successfully or work that they were never asked their opinions on.
One way to create more accountability among employees is by conducting progress reviews where managers and employees equally contribute to creating opportunities, prioritizing tasks collaboratively, and determining and changing goals as required. These goals should be achievement-oriented, fair, and contribute to the learning and development of the employee.
These reviews also need to discuss winning moments of employees and build self-confidence and motivation through recognition and pats on the back. Employees will be more likely to own their performance if their managers get them excited about what they can achieve and how good they are with what they do.
While employee feedback needs to be positive and constructive, it cannot be false. Employees are not stupid. They know when something is genuine and when it’s not. If they figure out the feedback is false, they will lose faith in the entire system. It will not only diminish the value of what managers say but also the way the entire organization views feedback. This is why feedback needs to be honest, kind, and sincere.
Similarly, when employees know what is expected out of them, they perform better. Examples to substantiate points can add more clarity to setting targets up. Most feedback sessions also end up being a one-way street with the employee only listening to the manager talking.
This is not a good situation to be in as it does not signify collaboration or fairness as a principle. Feedback needs to be both ways, where even the employee can share manager reviews. This enables both parties to understand each other better and work together towards mutual improvement.