Organisations understand that engaged employees are crucial to success. They are more motivated, productive, and innovative than their disengaged peers, take fewer sick days and are less likely to leave. Financial performance improves and companies achieve their objectives. That’s why businesses rightly focus on employee engagement through listening to staff, finding out how employees are feeling, and acting on their feedback insights.
Managers and leaders have an enormous impact on whether an employee is engaged. Good managers will inspire, support, and lead their teams to deliver the best performance and increase employee engagement. However, on the flip side their behaviours and actions can undermine all efforts at employee engagement or building a positive work culture, sabotaging the company’s wider objectives. That means you need to focus on management and leadership engagement FIRST if you want to drive employee engagement. Highly engaged leaders with a sense of purpose are crucial to improving engagement. While managers and leaders may be different in terms of seniority, the strategies required to engage them are common to both groups. Therefore in this blog we’ll refer to them interchangeably.
Four key reasons that leadership engagement is vital and necessary
Before we explain how to engage your leaders and managers, let’s look at the four key reasons that leadership engagement is vital and necessary:
1. We live in a team-based working world
Today organisations tend to operate in teams, rather than following the rigid hierarchies of the past. Building engaged teams is vital. That means that employees are led on a day-to-day basis by the managers of their teams, rather than the CEO or other senior figures. There are leaders across the organisation at all levels. Companies have to be sure that these leaders are all on board and engaged with business objectives – they will be providing the on the ground engagement that employees require. And if you’re not engaged yourself, it is nigh on impossible to engage other people.
2. Managers provide the bridge between companies and individuals
CEOs are focused on the future, setting strategies to take the business forward over the next 1-2 years. In contrast, employees are focused on the here and now – what they are doing in their job today and tomorrow. It is up to middle managers to bridge these two, very different timeframes. They require the leadership skills to motivate employees about future strategy by explaining what it means to them in their role. So they have to understand and be fully engaged with the strategy themselves.
3. Managers set local culture and behaviours
Managers set the tone for their team – they should demonstrate the right leadership behaviours that support company culture and help deliver high performance. They are essentially ambassadors for company strategy. If they are disengaged or simply not on board with organisational objectives, they can actively undermine the culture a business is trying to build. This could be through their own behaviour or by encouraging people to act in the wrong ways. For example, a sales team could focus solely on hitting their targets by selling products that they know aren’t right for particular customers. All of this means managers and leaders need to have a deep understanding of what the right behaviours are and be committed to following them in their working lives.
4. Managers help drive change
Most organisations are going through some sort of change – whether it is transforming to meet new competitors, becoming more digital or adopting new hybrid ways of working. While CEOs set strategy at a high level, motivating and engaging teams is the key responsibility for managers. So, they have to be a positive role model for change to encourage and coach their people. Employees have a choice about whether they are engaged or not – managers have to have the right skills and abilities to persuade them to become and remain engaged and high-performing. McKinsey research suggests that supporting employees is a key trait behind 89% of overall leadership effectiveness.
How do you engage your leaders?
Engaging your leaders and managers requires a different approach to more general employee engagement. While managers and leaders might make up a small percentage of your overall workforce, they have a big impact on their teams, and their levels of engagement. It is easy for organisations to run employee engagement programmes that look to cover all staff, whatever their level. But this one size fits all approach doesn’t meet the specific requirements of leadership engagement. Essentially you need to adopt different tactics if you are to engage and align them with your objectives.
1. Audit leadership engagement
Start by understanding how engaged individual leaders and managers are with your company. Measure engagement and see where any gaps are. Listen and analyse their feedback to see where there are particular areas of concern, and if these are personal to them, or are shared by their peers.
2. Lead leadership engagement from the top
Companies should adopt specific programmes to engage leaders and middle managers, led by senior management or the CEO, rather than human resources. Based on their feedback, this will provide a focus on their needs and help drive improvements in their working environment and experience.
3. Encourage the right behaviours
Whatever the organisation, successful leaders share certain traits – they are enthusiastic, supportive, perform effectively in their role, display integrity and motivate and inspire their people. Use 360 feedback exercises to measure your managers against these traits and behaviours and drive leadership development. By bringing together feedback from their managers, team members and peers you’ll get a holistic view of performance. This can be used to show areas for improvement that will help both increase their engagement and that of their team.
Focusing on employee engagement is crucial for competitiveness and getting the best out of your people. However, in today’s team-based world don’t neglect the role of your leaders and managers. Engage them first, and they will amplify your engagement strategy and programme across the organisation, dramatically improving business performance.
Build leadership engagement in your organisation with Tivian Leadership 360, which puts feedback and insights into the hands of your leaders, 24/7. By focusing on real data it delivers the context leaders require in order to change behaviours, drive improvement and increase their engagement. It delivers critical insights via personalised dashboards that identify such things as hidden strengths, weaknesses and most importantly blind spots.
Leadership 360 then promotes change by providing personalized recommendations for improvement to drive immediate, measurable results. Find out more – sign up for a free trial of Leadership 360 here.