· 7 mins · Employee Motivation

Manager Engagement: The key to employee experience

Do you have a manager from your past you would follow anywhere?  Someone who had the uncanny ability to inspire…

Avatar of Jocelyn Brown Jocelyn Brown

Do you have a manager from your past you would follow anywhere? 

Someone who had the uncanny ability to inspire and motivate you, making you feel like an integral part of the team? The one who inspired you to do your best work. If they called tomorrow you would immediately consider taking a new job.

People are loyal to people. Who our manager is plays a significant role in our commitment to organizations. The impact of managers on employee engagement, productivity, and ultimately, business results, cannot be overstated.

Don’t just take my word for it; the data overwhelmingly supports this notion.

Gallup measured managers’ engagement, their teams’ engagement, their teams’ turnover rates and their productivity a year before they received the training — and then again nine to 18 months after they had completed the upskilling program.

Source: Gallup

They found that managers in the upskilled group had 10% to 22% higher engagement themselves, 8% to 18% higher team engagement, 21% to 28% lower turnover and 20% to 28% higher likelihood of performance improvement relative to their peers. Plus, these effects compound in future years.

The Problem

The current state of underinvestment in managers is pretty dire.

According to Gallup, a mere 35% of managers themselves are engaged, which creates a difficult scenario where disengaged managers are expected to foster employee engagement. This mismatch sets everyone up for failure. Additionally, Gallup’s data highlights that managers face their own struggles, such as competing priorities and unclear expectations, more frequently than individual contributors.

Unfortunately, instead of being adequately supported, managers are often burdened with the responsibility of improving the engagement rates of everyone else. This imbalance puts immense pressure on managers, leading to alarming levels of burnout. In fact, recent research by Future Forum reveals that a record-breaking 43% of managers report being burned out, surpassing burnout rates in any other job level.

Source: Future Forum

Disengagement, attrition, increased stress levels, and lost productivity are just a few of the costs associated with this gap. To address these issues and create a thriving work environment, organizations must prioritize manager enablement and provide the necessary resources, training, and support to empower their managers to effectively engage and lead their teams.

Why Managers Matter

Managers are the driving force behind your organization’s culture, employee motivation, and overall results. They account for a substantial 70% of the variance in employee engagement. Every interaction, decision, and feedback from managers shapes the culture experienced by employees. 

Culture may be everyone’s job, but managers have a lot of sway on your local average. Raw Signal Group shares how culture problems are outputs — the result of failures upstream. Management problems are the inputs.

Research from Salesforce also found that employees now consider their immediate supervisors as the most important source of company information. No longer can you rely on communication straight from the top.

Investing in manager enablement is crucial. When employees report to well-enabled managers, engagement levels reach 50%, compared to only 36% with poorly enabled managers. Engaging frontline managers not only benefits employees but also has a positive impact on customers. If you want to improve your outcomes, invest in manager enablement and drive long-term success while addressing rising manager burnout.

Strategies to Engage Managers

Elevate the role of the manager

In the quest for efficiency and agility, it is important not to downplay the significance of the manager’s role in fostering team collaboration, motivation, and overall success. It has become a worrying trend in tech to dismiss the work of connecting with employees done by managers.

Managers play a critical role in understanding the needs of their team members, providing guidance, and creating an environment that promotes engagement and productivity. While there is merit in valuing the contributions of makers and individual contributors, it should not come at the expense of overlooking the vital work that managers do with their teams.

As Ella Washington, a Georgetown professor and author of The Necessary Journey, aptly pointed out connecting with employees is often seen as “extra” work for managers and gets pushed to the bottom of their to-do lists. However, companies must make it clear that this connection is not merely an extra task but an essential aspect of a manager’s role.

Improve Communication Skills

Managers hold a unique position as the crucial link connecting leaders and teams. They act as advocates for both sides, ensuring seamless communication and the smooth flow of important information. To excel in this role, managers must possess strong skills in understanding the needs and perspectives of leaders and teams alike, enabling them to bridge any gaps and foster clear communication.

Being an effective intermediary requires managers to gather relevant context from all parties involved. This allows them to translate and convey messages in a way that truly resonates with each audience. Recognizing the pivotal role that managers play in facilitating effective connections and supporting organizational growth has a profound impact on overall effectiveness.

Provide peer-to-peer support for managers


Becoming a manager changes your peer group. Your day-to-day activities shift from aligning with your team to aligning with other managers. This transition can be disorienting and isolating. That’s why ongoing support is crucial, especially as managers navigate uncertainty.

Peer support offers benefits that top-down feedback may not provide. Engaging with peers allows managers to gain diverse insights, fresh ideas, and alternative problem-solving approaches. It also provides a safe space to practice new skills, enabling managers to grow without fear of judgment. Building a strong support network of fellow managers offers camaraderie and encouragement, serving as a valuable resource throughout their careers.

Peer Support Discussion in Hypercontext

Teach Career Coaching Skills

One of the key responsibilities of managers is to coach their employees on their career paths, helping them discover their potential and navigate their professional development. Equipping managers with strong coaching and mentoring skills demonstrates a genuine commitment to employee growth. 

It also removes the angst from this type of conversation. Development conversations do not come naturally to everyone and can be a source of stress. Managers want to help but may not know how. This also gives managers another way to support employees beyond compensation or promotions which they may not be able to influence. 

Empowering managers to adopt a coaching approach rather than a boss-like mentality is crucial. By shifting the focus from giving orders to providing guidance and support, managers can foster a culture of empowerment and personal growth. 

Quarterly Career Growth Template Hypercontext

Bring them into the room

Managers are at the forefront of executing and communicating any plan or solution. To make it work, you need to involve them in the decision-making process. While it may not be feasible to share every single detail, you can find specific areas where their input can be valuable. Involving will have a significant impact. 

Even if they are not privy to all aspects of the decision-making process, their involvement can focus on creating a successful communication strategy. Their on-the-ground experience and understanding of their teams make them a huge asset in shaping effective communication initiatives.

Involving managers in the decision-making process, particularly in communication planning, demonstrates their importance and validates their expertise.

Recap

By developing better managers, a company can decrease turnover, increase employee satisfaction, and create a more productive working environment. This means that each employee is now getting more – and perhaps better – work done, per hour, because of better leadership.

In a resource constrained environment a case could be made to redirect all of your engagement budget to your managers.

What should you do now

Now that you've read this article, here are some things you should do:

  1. You should check out our features to see how Hypercontext can help you run effective one-on-ones.
  2. You should try Hypercontext to see how it can help you run a high performing org.
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