Managers: A Make-or-Break Factor in Employee Engagement

“People don’t leave companies, they leave managers.”

We’ve all heard some version of the above statement at one point or another. And while people leave jobs for all kinds of reasons, there’s no denying that a bad manager is often one of them.

Managers have a direct impact on an employee’s engagement level. From a day-to-day standpoint, it’s a manager’s job to make sure their employees feel valued, supported and inspired at work. Yet according to our recent Engage by Stage research study, two in five employees are completely disengaged from their current employer.

Managers have a direct impact on an employee’s engagement level. From a day-to-day standpoint, it’s a manager’s job to make sure their employees feel valued, supported and inspired at work.Click To Tweet

So how can managers make sure they’re helping engage – and, ultimately, retain – their employees? Here are seven things all managers should be doing on a regular basis:

  1. Paint the full picture. Employees want to understand the company’s overall purpose and the role they play in it; they want to feel like their daily activities are contributing value. Managers can help by sitting down with employees to set clear, personal goals that roll up to the company’s overall goals. According to Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace study, employees who strongly agree that their manager involves them in setting goals are 3.6 times more likely to be engaged at work than other employees.
  2. Be a “collaborator” not a “delegator.” Our Engage by Stage research study found that, across all career stages, the most preferred management style is “collaborator,” which includes giving frequent feedback/direction on tasks, factoring employee input into decision-making, and emphasizing open and candid communication. Not surprisingly, the least preferred management style is “delegator,” or someone who makes all the decisions, assigns roles and tasks accordingly, and gives orders.
  3. Have regular check-ins. While the annual performance review is important, managers and employees should be having one-on-one check-ins throughout the year. Whether formal or informal, these check-ins are an easy way for managers to keep a pulse on how the employee is feeling, provide regular feedback, and address any issues or concerns before they become bigger problems.
  4. Make sure they see the path forward. Many employees, particularly those in the sophomore stage, are afraid of feeling “stuck” in their career. They want to be challenged, put their skills to the test, and grow in their career – and if they don’t, they’ll start to question their future at the company. Managers need to make sure all of their employees understand what the path forward looks like, and help them identify opportunities for growth and development along the way.
  5. Show that you care. Across stages, “Genuinely cares about employees’ health and well-being” ranked as one of the three most important company values – and managers can and should play the biggest role in bringing this value to life. Employees want to feel connected to their managers, and simply taking an interest in their lives can build that connection and lead to a more positive company culture. Little things like bringing them a treat on their birthday, asking how their weekend was, or pulling them into projects that particularly interest them, can go a long way.
  6. Recognize their hard work. While the preferred format of recognition may vary, employees of all ages and stages want to be recognized for their efforts. Whether that’s a public shout out at a team meeting, or a private email praising a job well-done, there are many ways that managers can make sure their employees know they appreciate their hard work.
  7. Be an engaged employee yourself. According to Gallup, employees who are supervised by highly engaged managers are 59 percent more likely to be engaged than those supervised by actively disengaged managers. Employees will model the behavior of their leaders; if their manager isn’t engaged, the employee probably won’t be either. Managers can help drive a culture of engagement by being engaged themselves.

Being a good manager isn’t easy, but it is critical to keeping employees engaged. As managers, we all need to hold ourselves accountable for creating a positive and engaging work experience for our employees.

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