How to Create an Environment That Supports Engagement
Employee engagement has remained at the forefront of business literature and popular news in recent years. But why? Or more importantly, why now?
The combination of labor shortages and shrinking profit margins have made employee engagement more crucial to the success of organizations than ever before, while the persistence of the remote workforce and the continued promotion of the so-called “accidental manager” have simultaneously made employee engagement more elusive.
The Impact of Engagement
The impact of an actively engaged workforce is visible across multiple areas.
Performance, Productivity, and Profitability
As the costs of raw materials continue to rise faster than the costs of consumer goods, manufacturers and distributors are increasingly seeing their margins shrink and are searching for opportunities to improve productivity and increase efficiencies. Studies show a strong correlation between employee engagement and performance outcomes, including productivity and profitability. Engaged employees are more likely to be productive and generate better results for their organizations.
With labor shortages and an increasingly competitive job market, retaining talented employees has become a top priority for many businesses. Research indicates that employers can increase their chances of hiring and retaining valuable employees by focusing on employee engagement. Engaged employees are more likely to stay with their organization, reducing turnover costs.
The shift to remote work has brought new challenges in keeping employees engaged. As a result, businesses are putting more focus on strategies to drive engagement in a virtual work environment. A positive workplace culture in which employees feel valued and engaged can be a critical factor in a company’s success.
There is a growing awareness of the link between engagement and employee well-being. Engaged employees tend to have higher job satisfaction and better mental health.
Engaged employees are also more likely to be innovative, bringing new ideas and solutions that can help a business thrive in a fast-changing market.(5)
The Role of the Manager
The need to foster a workplace culture where employees are engaged is well-documented. The next logical question is, “How?”
Why do people get engaged at work? And what secret sauce do highly engaged workplace environments have that supports and sustains this?
The answer is in management.
A study by Gallup found that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units. Another study conducted by the Harvard Business Review demonstrated that when front-line managers invest time in coaching their employees, the result is a marked increase in productivity and sales performance.
To create an environment that fosters engagement, managers must spend a significant amount of time interacting with employees. The term Dynamic Management is used by Carpedia CEO Peter Follows to describe the time managers spend assigning work, following up on progress, providing coaching, and correcting mistakes. Dynamic Management is the part of management that supports and sustains an engaged workforce. And while this may seem like the obvious part of a manager’s job, Dynamic Management is difficult to implement well.
The reason is threefold.
1. Lack of Training
Most managers are promoted to their position due to technical skills, personal connections, or performance under pressure rather than their management skills or training. Some studies indicate that as much as 82% of “bosses” are what they call, “accidental managers,” up from 68% just five years ago. This means they lack the training and coaching needed to support Dynamic Management.
2. Lack of Support
Managers can spend as much as 90% of their day touring, firefighting, doing administrative tasks, or doing direct work that can be done by others. (6) This simply leaves too little time for follow up, coaching, and proactive problem solving. In his new book titled, Results Not Reports, Building Exceptional Organizations by Integrating Process, Performance, and People, Peter Follows details the why mid-level and front-line managers need support from senior leadership to allow them to better support their teams.
3. Misplaced Empowerment
Managers may perceive regular check-ins with employees as micromanagement and may mistakenly believe that they empower employees by leaving them alone. Following up with employees is not only paramount to building a cohesive and engaged team, it also empowers employees by allowing managers to identify and remove obstacles that create frustration and hinder productivity.
Checking in and following up should be done in a way that supports employees rather than monitors them. Following up will look different in different environments. On a shop floor, it might occur hourly to ensure safety and identify backlogs early. In a creative or professional services environment, it might occur weekly or even bi-weekly. Figuring out the right cadence, the right follow-up, and the right manager-employee discussions to foster engagement is important for both parties.
When managers invest time and resources into their employees, they create a work environment where employees feel valued, heard, and involved. Engaged employees are more aligned with the company’s mission and goals. This engagement fosters a sense of connection and purpose that drives their work, promotes retention of talent, fosters customer loyalty, and improves organizational performance and stakeholder value. When employees are engaged, they make the running of a business easier, allowing leaders to focus on higher-value activities.