Do Effective Managers Drive Engagement?

We know higher engagement is related to better performance. In fact, organizations go to great lengths to ensure their employee engagement is high. They have their managers and employees take Employee Engagement Surveys regularly. And while these surveys offer plenty of insight into your people, is it measuring something that matters?  In a way, yes! We know that organizations with higher engagement employees are more successful. This is incontrovertible.

However, there is a big BUT.

The reality is that Employee Engagement Surveys merely measure symptoms. They tell us if the organization suffers from poor communication, conflict, or drift. These surveys help us realize how some departments decide to do things themselves rather than trust their peers. And they bring our attention to whether the people who should be making the decision are not, resulting in delays, missed opportunities, and duplicated work. These are all very real symptoms of employees that are not engaged.

In an effort to improve engagement, organizations are treating these symptoms. But just as treating a fever by giving aspirin for symptomatic relief provides some immediate relief, the underlying disease, the cause, is not being addressed. The signs of poor engagement come back when you stop the interventions, just as the fever will come back if you don’t treat the infection,

But what if you could measure the underlying causes so that you can deal with root cause issues? How? By measuring manager effectiveness.

Ask yourself:

Are the managers in my organization focused on the right things?

Are they carrying out their managerial leadership duties?

There is only one way to attack the symptoms of employee disengagement in an organization. Managers need to manage! In most circumstances, the engagement issues are caused by problems at the management level.

The research is apparent that managerial leadership practices drive employee engagement, which in turn boosts customer satisfaction and ultimately, overall organizational performance.

Back in 1994, James L. Heskett’s Putting the Profit Chain to Work research was released. It talked about the “relationships between profitability, customer loyalty, and employee satisfaction, loyalty, and productivity.”

More than two decades later, the Service-Profit Chain theory is as relevant as ever. It’s simple. When employees are satisfied with their organizations, they feel invested in the organization’s success and therefore, perform their tasks with purpose. This earns the clients’ trust and commitment. When customers are satisfied, you gain their loyalty and repeat purchases.

So how do employees become satisfied with their organizations? Again – Managers need to manage! When managerial leadership improves, employee engagement improves.

The service-profit chain is in fact grounded in managerial leadership practices. While Heskett refers to the importance of managerial leadership practices in his research, this aspect has been forgotten by most organizations. Driving top organization performance looks more like this:

Do Effective Managers Drive Engagement?

The following figure compares the overall mean of a client organization that has repeated both the Manager Effectiveness Assessment and Employee Engagement surveys two years apart.  As can be seen below, the increase in overall manager effectiveness correlates to increased employee engagement.

Do Effective Managers Drive Engagement?
This was reflected over and over again on many dimensions in both surveys.

The effectiveness of your managers is directly tied to increased productivity and profitability. The most valuable and influential relationship that employees have at work is with their immediate manager. The importance of managerial roles doing managerial work cannot be understated. Unfortunately, management practices are often not supported or structured in a way that allows for optimal results.

Ultimately, what is needed is an accountability and authority framework that is clear and implemented down and across the entire organization.

Dwight is leading a 7-week Flevy Executive Learning (FEL) program on effective management called Empowerment 4.0. 

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Do Effective Managers Drive Engagement?