Managers have direct contact with workers on a near-daily basis and they often serve as a liaison between upper management and lower-level employees. These connections give managers an incredible amount of influence over their workers. In fact, managers can play a significant role in building engagement in the workplace, but they can also display behaviours that destroy it. The reality is that your company can put all the right policies and strategies in place, but if your managers fail to implement these practices properly, you’ll never reap the rewards.
When you combine today’s talent shortage and ongoing skills gap with the low levels of employee engagement in many workplaces, it’s easy to see why employers can no longer wait to take action. If you want to attract and retain the talent your organisation needs to continue to grow and remain competitive, you must focus on boosting employee engagement opportunities throughout the workplace. Studies show this starts with the managers.
This blog takes a closer look at the role managers play in promoting employee engagement in the workplace and the impact they make.
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affect productivity levels
While disengaged managers cost global companies billions of dollars a year, studies show that talented managers can boost productivity by 22% and increase profitability by 48%. How can managers make this big a difference? One thing where managers have a big influence is making sure to have the right combination of skills and personalities in the team. Managers directly impact your employees’ ability to work, collaborate and learn in the workplace. The way your managers influence engagement for employees, or lack of it, in the workplace can impact productivity in a number of ways, including:
- workplace environment: Managers set the tone for the workplace environment. They can create either an engaging environment that promotes effective communication and team collaboration or a toxic workplace that hinders productivity and increases turnover. Workmonitor 2023 revealed that 34% have quit a job due to a toxic environment.
- effective training: It’s up to the managers to ensure their team members are properly trained and understand their job duties. You can create great training modules, but if managers fail to ensure all staff members complete this training and understand their responsibilities, they won’t be effective at driving better results.
- ongoing support: Whether working in a retail store or on a manufacturing floor, managers are key to keeping the production process moving by providing ongoing support as needed. When done correctly, this daily support can also help build engagement among the team.
- career development: Managers can and should play a critical role in helping their team develop their careers and advance within the company. By having one-on-one conversations with their employees, managers can help their employees develop skills and take advantage of training programs and advancement opportunities to help them reach their goals.
- retention: As mentioned above, toxic managers are often responsible for high levels of turnover in a company. These higher turnover rates can lead to production delays while hiring and training replacements.
build and foster workplace relationships
It's nearly impossible to work with someone day in and day out and not form some type of relationship. While these workplace relationships typically vary significantly from personal relationships, they're still an important part of your workers’ lives and contribute to their overall well-being. In fact, a 10-year study conducted by the University of Johannesburg reveals that workers with bosses who are inconsiderate, uncommunicative and secretive are 60% more likely to have a heart attack than those with better managers.
This is one more reason it’s crucial to ensure your company is putting the right managers in the right places. Managers who build toxic relationships with their workers put the company at risk for higher turnover rates, which, as you already know, can be quite costly. On the other hand, managers who take the time to foster positive relationships in the workplace can help boost employee engagement and other positive business outcomes.
how managers can help improve employee engagement
Since managers have so much influence over the level of engagement in your workplace, it makes sense to include them in the plan to improve employee engagement. Here’s a look at some of the main ways managers can play a key role in improving workplace engagement for their teams.
coach vs manager
There's a current trend for companies to encourage their managers to serve more as a coach for their teams than a manager. What’s the difference between a coach and a manager? In sports, the managers are typically the ones who manage the organisational and administrative duties of the team. It’s the coach who spends every practice with the team, getting to know each player's strengths and weaknesses so they know what position is best for each one. Coaches also support the team and work towards building team comradery so the members can work together cohesively.
A coach versus a manager is exactly what your employees want. As long as your managers can serve as strong, effective, fair and encouraging coaches, this transition from manager to coach can certainly help boost employee engagement activities in the workplace.
According to a recent Gallup poll, 84% of engaged employees receive feedback at least weekly, compared to just 15% of disengaged workers. This high statistic shows a clear correlation between feedback and engagement. It also shows that standard performance reviews conducted once or twice a year aren't going to be enough to generate engagement in the workplace.
Instead, managers must provide frequent and consistent feedback to every worker on their team. This includes letting workers know when they’re doing a good job and when they might be doing something wrong, and providing on-the-job support as needed.
Communication is one of the core components to increasing employee engagement in the workplace. While effective communication is important at all levels within the company, it’s crucial at the manager-employee level. From upper management, employees need to hear a clear and concise message about who the company is and its overall mission, values, goals and objectives. Consistency with this message can help build trust with the workers and improve engagement.
While managers must also be consistent when sharing company goals and objectives, they're responsible for communicating the day-to-day functions of the company as well. Workers want to know exactly what tasks they're responsible for, and it’s up to managers to provide this level of clarity. Employers must ensure they're placing managers with strong and efficient communication skills in the right roles.
fairness and equity
One of the worst things managers can do to destroy employee engagement in the workplace is showing favouritism to just a few team members. This can lead the excluded team members to feel undervalued, frustrated and ready to look for new jobs. In fact, a recent study shows that just one instance of exclusion, even micro-exclusion, can lead to a 25% drop in productivity immediately following the incident.
While these occurrences can be difficult to identify and stop, employers must develop safeguards to try to prevent biased manager behaviours. Consider encouraging employee involvement by conducting pulse surveys or using exit interviews to identify potential problems or toxic managers, and then take steps to prevent these problems from happening in the future. Manager training addressing these issues and clear company policies can also help to develop a fair and unbiased workplace that drives employee engagement rather than hindering it.
Employees want, perhaps even need, frequent recognition on the job to feel satisfied in their roles and happy at work. A recent study shows that employees who receive regular recognition were 56% less likely to consider leaving their current job and 73% less likely to feel burnout at work. These are staggering numbers that employers shouldn't ignore.
While the company as a whole can take steps to offer some forms of recognition, such as recognising years of service, it's those working directly with the employees who can make the biggest impact. Managers can make all the difference when it comes to employee recognition. The important thing is to make sure managers are recognising all employees for their accomplishments and helping them feel a sense of belonging, or some workers may feel forgotten or not valued by the company.
As our research shows, employee training and career development programs are critical to today’s workers. Employees don’t always look to go a level higher, but do want to keep learning and developing skills. While it’s always recommended to open these programs to all workers within the company, your managers should always be on the lookout for employees who'd benefit most from these programs.
By identifying each worker's strengths and weaknesses and conducting frequent one-on-one meetings to better understand their workers’ career goals, your managers are best suited to help employees determine which employee training options and advancement opportunities are best for them. This type of relationship between managers and employees can go a long way in building engagement in the workplace.
train managers for success
Managers clearly play a vital role in building employee engagement throughout the workplace. You can’t, however, expect your managers to change their way of working overnight. Instead, your company must consider providing your managers onboarding and meaningful guidance on employee engagement. That way you can ensure that your managers have employee engagement as a key factor in their teams.
For example, consider offering your managers training, such as communication and team-building skills, to help them build stronger relationships and improve engagement with their teams. Managers should also receive training on how to identify various strengths and weaknesses in their team members and on strategies to increase employee engagement. This step will allow managers to help employees grow within the company rather than leave for career growth.
Most important, however, is to ensure your managers understand the goals and objectives of the company. Additionally, when a new program or policy is implemented, it’s crucial that your managers receive adequate training to better understand these programs and how they impact their teams.
For instance, if your company implements a new training program, your managers should know how this program works, which employees are eligible and how to help their workers enrol in these programs.
Keep in mind that your managers have a full workload of their own to handle on a day-to-day basis. So, adding any duties or responsibilities can be time-consuming and frustrating. You can avoid overburdening your managers while still encouraging them to build better engagement in the workplace by providing them the tools they need to manage these tasks faster and more efficiently.
For example, consider investing in employee recognition software. The right software can allow managers to provide recognition in just a matter of minutes and allows your workers to receive instant gratification. This technology can empower your managers to significantly improve engagement rates within the workforce without adding hours of extra work to their workloads.
Whether you realise it or not, your managers already play a major role in developing workplace engagement. Your job is to equip them with the tools and skills they need to make improvements. The first step to making this a reality is to fully understand the various factors that impact employee engagement.
Download our factsheet detailing the factors that impact employee engagement and other employee engagement ideas.