Why Developing Line Managers Can Help Keep People Engaged

Employee Engagement: Why Developing Line Managers Can Help Keep People Engaged

Many people across the globe spend a good 60 minutes commuting to work every day. I have a business associate (and good friend) who is one of the lot. This friend of mine spends her commute taking a few glances around and trying to figure out the day’s mood. Are fellow workers happy? Are they excited to get to work? Will they make the most of their 9 to 5 (or 9 to 7) day? Do they like their manager, the senior management, and the brand they work for? Or do they feel that their career is stuck with limited options for progression?

This friend recently brought to my attention a recent report on employee engagement at America’s top employers, which features rather disappointing results. According to their employees, even the top and best brands struggle to keep their people engaged and satisfied. The demographics provide further insight:

  1. It’s all about gender.
    Women feel less engaged than their male colleagues. Furthermore, people with another gender identity appear highly hostile towards the organization.
  2. The education gap.
    The most educated employees (the ones with doctoral degrees) had eight times larger decrease in engagement, than employees with basic education.
  3. Market matters.
    Some key industries with declining employee engagement rates are Hospitality and Tourism, Technology, Financial Services and Insurance, Utilities; while Healthcare has a disappointing level of engagement, with just 57% of employees feeling engaged with their organization.

The greatest failure seems to be line management. In fact, many employees feel that their immediate managers do not have the skills required to manage people properly: Provide meaningful and constructive feedback on performance, suggest improvements, recognize their contribution, and help them relate to the corporate culture. In fact, managers’ effectiveness is the indicator with the biggest decline, year on year.

The interesting aspect is that, according to the same survey, most employees do trust their immediate managers. They trust them deeply, indeed. Line managers are described by employees as caring, honest, and open people who take an interest in their team and work hard to help them succeed.

In many organizations, line managers were members of the team who progressed to the supervisor’s role. As expected, they have a very thorough and accurate understanding of the team’s needs, challenges, and ways of working – they have been there! They know every operational step, any potential perils, and the ways out. They have valuable hands on experience to share. They know how to do the job successfully and they do care about their team’s success and wellbeing. They just d o  n o t  k n o w  how to be effective in their role as team managers, reinforcing the corporate ethos and keep everyone on board.

Not everyone is a born leader! Some critical skills can be developed, though. Mid managers are a vital part of every organization. In many cases, they are assigned the tough, yet crucial, task of mentoring people, inspiring teams, blending real life experience with official policies and procedures, as well as engaging the company’s customer-facing workforce with the corporate ethos and culture. They are there and then, to provide on the job guidance, reinforce the message and help keep alignment to key values. Therefore, it is imperative for them to feel confident and successful in this role.

This confidence can be infused, with Active Learning Networks. These interactive, ever evolving learning environments, offer an effective learning platform where both the workforce and the managers can have an active role, by:

  • Sharing on the job information.
  • Recognizing best practices.
  • Providing feedback.
  • Celebrating success.

With everyone actively participating in the learning and development process, teams can become more active and stronger, while people can grow in confidence and see that their experience is valued. The sharing of best practices, new ideas, previous experiences, customer stories, and insights is promoted; and learning content is reinforced, employing microlearning techniques plus audiovisual and social features). With the right eLearning platform, it takes just a few minutes per day to keep people on track.

Most line managers have a key ingredient to success: They have gained the trust and support of their teams. This is an imperative element to developing successful teams; and it’s already there. By empowering and developing line managers to coach and manage their teams more effectively, organizations can increase managers’ confidence, put in use their people best assets and experience, and develop connected teams where everyone is an active, contributing member. And that is something many employees would happily do while commuting to work, preparing for a productive and fulfilling shift.