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The Best Way to be an Engaging Manager

November 18th, 2013 by Joe Espana
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This post is the third in a series of three posts by Joe España, an Executive Consultant in Forum’s Resource Network and Managing Director of Performance Equations.

In my first two posts, I took a look at the golden rules of employee engagement and shared some tips for keeping employees engaged. In my final post, I’m going to share what I consider to be the best way for a first-line manager to keep employees engaged: getting to know them.

Employee engagement is far more micro than typical macro approaches (total reward and benefits, recognition programmes, internal communications, community involvement programmes, etc) make it seem. The team is considered the most fundamental operating unit of employee engagement, but the personal relationships between a manager and his or her direct reports are the most influential.

It sounds really simple, too simple in fact, but it pays dividends for first-line managers to get to know their direct reports as individuals, recognising their foibles as human beings and the variability of their engagement levels. An employee wants to feel that their immediate manager is interested in him or her as a person and cares about his or her life outside work and its effects on job performance. Research has shown that employees aged 40-49 often become less engaged as they face external family pressures. Supervisors who get to know their employees on a personal level and care about their private lives can counteract this disengagement.

These caring activities are one of the four most important factors in employees’ perceptions of manager credibility and trustworthiness. Training the immediate managers to care about employees and to have the skills to manage their teams’ engagement levels can have a major and direct impact on business performance and productivity.

Unfortunately according to research by Performance Equations, only one-third of employees believe their manager cares about them on a  personal level. Of those who did believe their manager cared about them, 54% of reported themselves as being fully engaged. Among the two-thirds who do not believe this, only 17% are engaged. There is a dramatic opportunity to boost engagement at a micro level within organisations by managers demonstrating an authentic caring attitude to staff and by managing the personal drivers of engagement.

Do you agree that the personal relationships matter when it comes to employee engagement? Start the conversation in the comments below.

For more on employee engagement, check out Forum’s latest research report: Driving Business Results by Building Trust.

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A member of Forum's Resource Network, Joe is an executive consultant and coach with nearly 30 years’ business experience. He specialises in organisational change, strategic leadership and team development, service excellence and customer experience management. He is also an executive coach to several leaders of UK FTSE 300 companies. Based in the UK, Joe also works internationally.

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2 Responses to “The Best Way to be an Engaging Manager”

  1. Graham Frost says:

    I absolutely agree. When I was a first line manager I knew all my team as well as I knew myself. When I meet up with the people who were in that team now, 20 years later, the one thing they all say was that we were like a family. We were there for each other, it wasn’t just about me. We kept the same team together for four years, unheard of in a front line environment, and everyone who wanted it received development so that they could do my job when I wasn’t there.
    I didn’t call it employee engagement, I just called it common sense.

  2. Charles Rogel says:

    Amen Joe. The manager relationship is crucial to engagement and retention. People want to feel that are cared about and showing that you care is a powerful motivator. As a manager, you have to know what is going on in your employee’s lives.

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