How to be an Engaging Manager

By: Joe España, an Executive Consultant in AchieveForum’s Resource Network and Managing Director of Performance Equations.

Employee engagement is far more micro than typical macro approaches (total reward and benefits, recognition programmes, internal communications, community involvement programmes, etc) make it seem. The team is considered the most fundamental operating unit of employee engagement, but the personal relationships between a manager and his or her direct reports are the most influential.

It sounds simple, but it pays dividends for first-line managers to get to know their direct reports as individuals, recognising their foibles as human beings and the variability of their engagement levels. An employee wants their immediate manager to be interested in him or her as a person and care about his or her life outside work and its effects on job performance. Research shows employees aged 40-49 often become less engaged as they face external family pressures. Supervisors who get to know their employees on a personal level and care about their private lives can counteract this disengagement.

These caring activities are one of the four most important factors in employees’ perceptions of manager credibility and trustworthiness. Training the immediate managers to care about employees and to have the skills to manage their teams’ engagement levels can have a major and direct impact on business performance and productivity.

Unfortunately according to research by Performance Equations, only one-third of employees believe their manager cares about them on a  personal level. Of those who did believe their manager cared about them, 54% of reported themselves as being fully engaged. Among the two-thirds who do not believe this, only 17% are engaged. There is a dramatic opportunity to boost engagement at a micro level within organisations by managers demonstrating an authentic caring attitude to staff and by managing the personal drivers of engagement.

Do you agree that the personal relationships matter when it comes to employee engagement? Start the conversation in the comments below.