Any number of strategies can foster employee engagement, but the fact is that your organisation’s managers generate the best outcomes since they occupy the hot seat positions that affect day-to-day operations, corporate culture and staff performance. In fact Gallup research reveals managers account for more than 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units. Managers – often conflicted by organisational change, strategic pivots, responsibility without authority along and the lure of entrepreneurship – are leaving their positions to advance their careers, and ageing senior staff are retiring from their positions. The management vacuum that these trends create generates a need for effective in-house career progression initiatives that HR professionals manage, so the duties of HR teams increasingly focus on developing better managers through internal strategies where management skills can be developed and nurtured; as without these efforts, promoting from within can lead to disastrous results from the weaknesses of disengaged, self-serving or autocratic managers who lack true leadership skills.
the making of great leaders
The personal attributes of great leaders include focus, energy, engagement, confidence, passion, patience, inspiration, innovation, transparency and integrity, but I think more particularly, great leaders follow these best practices:
- They motivate their teams and staff members
- They stand by their decisions and people when faced with challenges
- They build trust in relationships
- They promote accountability instead of CYA behaviour
- They make decisions only after weighing the options carefully and planning action strategies
Senior leaders and HR specialists need to align their corporate business strategies with talent management to develop, nurture and engage managers. Definining management profiles offers stronger ways to align developmental and engagement goals. Manager profiles and duties can vary tremendously, so an out-of-the-box profile will not cover every job or engagement strategy. Once these profiles are established, they need to carry through to the company’s selection, recruitment, succession management and development processes.
7 strategies to foster manager engagement
There are lots of engagement strategies for managers that encourage them to perform to higher levels. For example, succession planning is crucial to any organisation, so HR professionals should maintain a pipeline of high-potential candidates and encourage managers to work towards suitable promotions and career development opportunities. Communications are essential. While it would be unwise to guarantee a certain placement, rather these candidates can be informed that they are being groomed for potential progression. Their leadership skills can be enhanced by assigning them high profile assignments, mentors, and additional training and support for leadership development and long-term engagement.
Developing leaders is a proactive strategy for the engagement of managers, and the details of just how extensively HR pursues development depend on each company’s succession needs, number of key positions readily available and the number of employees that currently qualify under different succession strategies. However, it’s in no way wasteful to nurture manager engagement to inspire loyalty and encourage managers to pass on engagement practices to their teams. So, here’s 7 proven methods of engaging managers:
#1 build trust
All too often, managers are left to their own resources to explain inconsistent, unpopular or rapidly evolving policies. The Harvard Business Review blog suggests a better way and recommends three ways that managers are able to build trust with their teams through better engagement practices. These methods also apply to all levels of the organisation. The 3 methods recommended are:
> promote transparency
Consistency and transparency are among the most vital components of building trust. You will find occasions when some company initiatives cannot be disclosed, however, you ought to be as transparent as you can with your managers as well as explain why some information cannot be disclosed at present. Honesty about the company’s goals, current performance and metrics should be shared as much as possible unless the information would generate overwhelming desertions or security concerns
> use persuasion rather than making demands
Executives – and in turn, managers – call the shots, but that does not license them to be bossy, autocratic, and remote. Leadership involves coaching people to fully understand the reason why they are being asked to do certain things or change policies. If a given result could be achieved in a few ways, consider leaving the details to each manager ‘s discretion. This strategy can foster an environment of innovation. A persuasive approach will encourage managers to allow their teams find the most effective methods to accomplish company goals
> admit mistakes
Any business strategy has its supporters and critics. Admitting mistakes can engage critics of failed strategies by giving them the opportunity to vent, “I told you so.”, but more importantly, it demonstrates true leadership by taking responsibility. The approach encourages rank-and-file employees to do exactly the same. Admitting mistakes may also forestall criticism from the supporters of failed policies.
#2 respect everyone
Admitting mistakes or even criticising performances should not devolve into name calling or badmouthing anyone. Make a concerted effort to criticise an offence and not a person. Tolerating gossip and adverse personal comments empowers others to take part in backstabbing activities and CYA behaviour. And, people who share comments that are negative know that they could be targeted next for a smear campaign.
#3 collaborate more often
Collaborative efforts have sky rocketed globally because of increased communications and the breaking down barriers, but some managers find it more challenging to discover what is going on in other parts of the companies than other areas of the world. It is essential to foster a collaborative culture of engagement within any organisation by taking ownership of issues and working to improve things continuously. Increase teamwork, let different departments know what the others are doing and improve intra-office communications. It is also crucial to include company stakeholders in engagement and collaboration efforts to ensure that any policy changes meet their needs. Support for telecommuting workers is essential to involve them in work collaborations. These remotely situated employees and business associates require extra engagement efforts.
Cross-Training and coaching are able to increase collaborations among employees, which strengthen the engagement. Companies can assign managers to fill in or perhaps represent other managers in specific circumstances. Creating small, professional teams that can tackle highly technical problems across departments is a useful strategy, and these teams can keep managers engaged and informed about larger issues and trends. Encouraging peer-to-peer networking, using technology to increase participation on projects and building and maintaining community relationships contribute to a company’s collaborative culture. Managers who collaborate are the first chosen for complex projects that involve inter-departmental cooperation, so it is important to instil collaborating and engagement skills in managers.
#4 institutionalise empathy
Showing empathy for managers is the key to fostering that quality in them as well as strengthening their engagement with the organisation. You can offer empathy training and encourage your managers to practise it, but that time and effort will fall on deaf ears unless you think about the managers’ situations where they are frequently stuck between the proverbial rock and a hard place. Try and instil empathy in managers by practising empathy with them, looking for managerial input and learning from failures while maintaining optimism about the company and its practices. These are tasks that HR professionals are eminently qualified to perform.
#5 recognise performance
Managers often receive the least considered of employee recognition programs, which damages their engagement. Top management executives delegate performance recognition and team engagement to managers, which expands their duties if they’re carrying out the job properly. Meanwhile, managers get little credit for engagement and performance successes, but they are blamed when the programs fail to deliver measurable results. Recognising manager performance should be integral when recognising individual and team achievements. Incentives and rewards that include managers have improved chances of success – it is only human nature for busy managers to resent the honours that their teams earn if they are never recognised for their own contributions. The other part of the equation is authority. Managers ought to be empowered to make as many of the day-to-day decisions as possible. If this backfires – and it will occasionally – management should support their managers’ decisions unless there are egregious violations of company policies. The price of engagement is accepting some mistakes in the interests of growth and development.
#6 empower managers
Oracle reports that even the most effective leaders are often hampered in their engagement efforts by outdated technology and antiquated HR systems that do not offer mobile access to employees and managers, or self-service access. Other shortcomings of effective management include a lack of automated intelligence-gathering integrations of third-party resources for environmental inputs, business intelligence, on-the-job-managing tools, connections with recruiting consultants and forecasting tools.
#7 champion opportunities for learning and growth
Give managers every possible resource to grow into their roles through engagement. These resources include offering engagement opportunities for management candidates to gain experience by managing non-critical projects and development teams and providing support services that nurture professional growth. These engagement strategies might include encouraging managers to develop their peer-to-peer networks, provide assistance for earning industry certifications and actively encouraging people to fill any skills or competency gaps in their educations.
Useful questions to consider on a case-by-case basis include:
- What experiences or abilities do you managers lack?
- What are managers’ greatest weakness as a group and individually?
- Which programs will close these gaps with high participation rates?
- How do these goals align with their current managerial roles?
- Would manager engagement benefit from cross-training and short departmental transfers, some of which may even require operating in a foreign jurisdiction or culture?
Corporate learning and training software application is another option that managers can use to improve their abilities, learn new languages and cross-train in different skills. Satisfied managers need to have opportunities for growth and development, and offering these options can foster loyalty and generate commitments to provide similar options and encouragement to their teams.
conclusion: create cultures that recognise personal drivers
It is not all about business in the most successful companies. Holistic employee engagement has become the hottest trend in Human Resources Management, and engaging managers as individuals is a major step toward achieving company-wide engagement goals. You can increase manager engagement by learning about them much more through their social media and networking connections. Staff engagement in social activities to leverage your managers’ personal drivers might include hosting informal social media competitions based on building followers, raising funds for charitable causes along with other social networking activities like scavenger hunts or even pub crawls. Let your managers’ interests guide you in scheduling outside speakers, hiring entertainment for social gatherings and participating in community-based events. Teams can compete for their favourite charities, causes or simple recognition. It can also be helpful to engage employees and managers through amateur sports, health programs and company sponsored recreational activities.
Of course these seven recommendations for fostering engagement are not the only techniques, but they represent a consensus gained from years of experience and more than a few authoritative sources. The key to manager engagement might well be summarised by this caveat: Look for ways to increase manager energy and focus. Management roles involve innovating, changing processes for greater efficiencies and managing staff problems proactively. Company leaders and HR specialists are able to create this kind of engagement dynamic by reducing busywork, loosening formal guidelines, communicating with managers on a regular basis and looking for genuine engagement and honest opinions instead of rubber-stamp endorsements.
If you could do with some help, WINC consultants really shine in project engagement. We pride ourselves on being our clients’ most valuable partner in the attraction, retention and engagement of their current and future staff members. We offer quality end-to-end strategies and solutions including resource managment, hr operations and change communications. Find out more about what we’re up to on the WINC website – and keep up-to-date with our latest news& views on Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
About Karl Wood: Karl is a global HR and employment professional who has an impeccable record in delivering HR solutions for industry leading firms. Karl champions ideas that promote growth, profit and a positive organisational identity. Read more blogs by Karl.