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October 20, 2022

If employees leave the manager rather than the job, maybe it’s time to help your managers give them better reasons to stay.

When your culture allows managers to succeed at creating engagement, everyone wins.

Managers who instinctively know how to motivate employees and help them feel good about their work and themselves are the exception rather than the rule. 

Research from Gallup found that only one out of every ten managers have the unique combination of natural talents needed to help employees achieve excellence—either individually or as a team—that will significantly improve an organization’s performance. 

Another two out of the ten showed characteristics indicating they could thrive in the manager role if their company invested in coaching and development.

That means 70% of managers will struggle to succeed. Short of replacing most of the management team, better engagement can come from helping managers understand how to treat employees individually, listen with an open mind, motivate their team, and make them feel good about their outcomes.

What does “engagement” really mean?

Organizations and their management teams are often discussed in terms of how “engaged” their employees are. Engagement is frequently used by organizations to encompass a mixture of happiness, satisfaction, motivation, and more. Companies distribute surveys annually and fret about engagement levels that rarely push past 31%. That means the overwhelming majority of employees are more than likely not engaged or may even be actively disengaged.

Unfortunately, employee engagement tends to be isolated as an HR function rather than being considered a program that is an opportunity and responsibility for the entire company from upper management to employees at every level. The lack of support from the top is a key factor that can put managers in a position to fail.

Whatever you call it, engagement simply means the degree to which employees feel connected to the organization, satisfied with their jobs and career arc, and invested in the success of the organization. The question is, how do you achieve that?

Managers are the key to improving and maintaining engagement.

If the adage that employees leave the manager not the job is true, then it stands to reason that employees will stay and possibly thrive if the manager is exceptional.

Hiring managers equipped with emotional intelligence and the ability to motivate can go a long way towards paving the path to widespread employee engagement. Not all job applicants will have those abilities, but some may have the capability to develop and grow them.

How can managers develop the kind of skills that will help them create a partnership with employees rather than the “us versus them” mentality that can fester in the absence of a motivating manager?

Start by providing managers with the right tools.

Even the best managers need the tools to help them succeed at engagement. “Tools” is a broad term and can range from:

Encouragement to take time to listen to employees and provide individual attention

  • Freedom to act on or at least respond to employee suggestions 
  • Up-to-date technology that makes it easy for managers and employees to collaborate
  • Opportunities for growth through training and coaching 
  • Continuous performance recognition
  • Volunteering opportunities that can help bring employees together

Equipping managers with the tools to create engagement is only the beginning. There will be stops and starts, mistakes, and some failed attempts. The process requires patience, but the results can be worth it.

Let managers give employees much needed individual attention.

Effectively communicating with employees is where far too many managers—and companies— fail. No one would suggest that it’s easy to find time to talk regularly with each direct report or that every employee makes it easy to have a productive conversation, but prioritizing communications is critical.

A recent study from Sideways6, a company that specializes in getting employee ideas heard, found that 82% of employees had ideas that could help their companies achieve goals. That same study also found that more than a third of those employees felt their company didn’t listen to their ideas.

When employees feel ignored or when their suggestions are passed over without comments, they are far less likely to be engaged. The first step in starting the process of growing engagement is to stop, talk, and above all, listen carefully.

Provide ongoing training and coaching opportunities.

Training and coaching opportunities are important to help reduce skill gaps and provide a structured approach to employee development. They also improve staff productivity and morale, which can help organizations succeed against their competition.

According to a Forbes magazine survey of HR professionals, training and career development provides incentives for employees to produce better work, stay with the organization, become more resilient, and feel that the organization values them.

Recognition should be made frequently and publicly.

A Harvard Business Review survey found that 82% of employees don’t feel they get the recognition they deserve. According to Quantum Workplace, an employee engagement company, organizations with formal recognition programs have 31% less voluntary turnover and are 12 times more likely to produce strong business results. Their research also showed that employees are 2.7 times more likely to be highly engaged when they know they’re going to be recognized for their contributions.  

Create high performance, highly engaged teams.

While it’s essential to attend to employees as individuals, it’s equally important to create an environment that encourages them to thrive as a team. Many of the same tools that foster individual engagement can be employed to produce strong team engagement, including careful listening, soliciting ideas, training and coaching, and frequent recognition.

Building an engaged team also requires managers to be aware of group dynamics, individual strengths and weaknesses, reactions to personal styles, and the need for clarity regarding roles and responsibilities.

How can Marsh McLennan Agency (MMA) help you?

MMA has a range of tools and resources to help you enhance employee wellness, develop a more caring culture, and build an environment where employees are engaged for the long term. To learn more, contact an MMA representative today.