5 Ways Manager Engagement Spurs Employee Engagement

I am pleased Joe Folkman’s article Workers Aren’t Engaged points the finger in the right direction: “Everyone appears to agree that the primary problem of engagement is a management one, not a worker one. If there is an employee engagement problem, it lies squarely at the feet of the managers and the organization that tolerates ineffective managers.” (Italics mine.)

It comes down to manager engagement.

Of course we want employees engaged.The stronger an organization’s employee engagement, the better for the organization’s results. That is on both the revenue side and the expense side. Results include:

  • Increased productivity;
  • Greater customer satisfaction, loyalty;
  • Reduced tardiness and absence;
  • Greater employee retention;
  • Greater revenue and profitability.

The truth of manager-employee relations for decades tells us manager engagement is the cause, employee engagement the effect.

Let’s consider specific ways strong manager engagement spurs employee engagement.

1. Manager Engagement in Expectations.

Knowing his manager’s expectations stimulates an employee’s true engagement in his work. Robert Schaffer views the failure to set clear and explicit expectations for employees as a cause of inadequate performance. That’s inadequate performance by the employee and his manager. A manager can demonstrate exceptional engagement in her role by:

  • Sharing specifics of job expectations with a new employee from Day 1;
  • Frequently reviewing and renewing those expectations with new and more seasoned employees;
  • Providing every worker ample opportunities to express uncertainty and to ask for clarification as to what’s expected;
  • Conveying information about expectations in a variety of media: face to face, documentation, email, team meetings.

2. Manager Engagement with Confidence.

An engaged manager expresses two types of confidence: real and potential. He demonstrates both types by engaging with confidence. For example, to show his confidence in the company’s contributions to the community he participates visibly and vocally in community projects. He may show confidence in the potential of a new  process by working with energy and honesty toward its success. The more actively a manager digs into doing and showing what builds his confidence, the more employees’ confidence he builds. That confidence has driving impact on greater engagement by employees.

3. Manager Engagement by Communication.

Communication gets the most attention as an “employee engagement tool.” Deservedly so; yet that attention may be superficial. Assuming we all know what communication means and does, we feel we don’t need to pay too much attention to its details.

Not so. A manager’s communication with employees should always do all it can to boost and bolster their engagement. That communication must be viewed as a skill worth consistently improving. Honestly, how many managers do you know who do more than just one or two of these:

  • Schedule informal meetings?
  • Hold regular one-on-ones?
  • Evaluate their own communication skills?
  • Work to improve their messages, especially email?
  • Prepare for meetings?
  • Consciously read employees’ body language and apply it to communication?
  • Invite formal and informal feedback from employees? Frequently?

4. Manager Engagement with Attention.

A manager makes her engagement known by what she does and says. That shows she pays attention on distinct levels. She pays attention to the business as a whole: from vision through goals and YTD performance to current challenges. She stays attuned to her team and what is/isn’t working, how well it is fulfilling its objectives and contributing to the company’s, and what can be done to ramp up its effectiveness. She pays attention to each of her individual employees. This means knowing every employee’s skills and where he is on the weak-to-strong continuum for each skill. This feeds her ability to coordinate team members for performance synergy.

Note that this manager behavior is not merely “paying attention.” A manager’s engagement must be demonstrated, made apparent to employees. Consider the three preceding behaviors: expectations, confidence, and communication. Each of those can be a powerful avenue for expression of an engaged manager’s attention.

5. Manager Engagement through Self-Awareness.

A positive manager wants (and assists) continuous improvement for his employees. He also seeks and finds opportunities for his own self-improvement. Strong self-awareness generates this desire to improve constantly. And strong self-awareness comes from the manager’s:

  • Listening: When a manager listens to everything around him, it lets him know where his knowledge can be improved. Conversations on a variety of topics offer a turnkey start. Topics like the work environment, job processes/procedures, customer concerns, suggestions for streamlining, and more.
  • Studying: The studying may be only as structured as reading one professional/industry journal each week. It may be a class in professional development. It may be working one-on-one with a mentor within the company. This engagement demonstrates management responsibility.
  • Learning: Commitment to understanding information and concepts, to self-improvement, to turning knowledge into wisdom is the direction of learning. A manager who is thirsty to learn and makes that apparent in a variety of ways is likely to stimulate the same in his employees. Their learning is component to their engagement.

A manager’s engagement is the motivator for employee engagement. There’s little chance that an employee is spurred to become work-engaged if her manager’s not. The employee whose manager demonstrates engagement continuously is much more likely to engage herself.

photo credit: *Crazy Diamond* via photopin cc

Social Learning in Business: Sneak Peek

(Editorial Note: For the full preview of this week’s topic, read “Igniting Social Learning.” Or to see the weekly recap, read Digging Deep into Social Learning #TChat Recap)

Engagement performance. It’s a key to learning in today’s world of work. But exactly what is it, and how can we leverage this concept to achieve desired business results?

As Michael Clark, CEO of ReCenter, suggests in this video, it starts by aligning engagement with business goals, and applying social tools that help us perform more effectively.

Michael views “engagement performance” almost as one word – performance is everything that happens after the moment we decide to engage. And in today’s social workplace, it means that individuals and organizations can transform the way they conduct business in profound ways.

During the coming weeks, TalentCulture will explore this concept and offer opportunities for hands-on social learning skills development.

Join us this week, and let’s explore the potential of social learning skills together:

If you don’t see the video window above, watch the sneek peak on YouTube.

4 Employee Engagement Drivers: Workplace Social Technology

We’ve heard the term “employee engagement” a gazillion times, and one could even say it’s now just a buzzword.  If you ask me, it is the most critical aspect of any successful organization….without a doubt!  A positive correlation exists between employee engagement scores and business results (via Right Management – “Employee Engagement, Maximizing Organizational Performance”).

I have worked with a dozen plus diverse organizations on their employee engagement strategies, not only identifying their top engagement drivers, but facilitating strategy design and execution.  I can see how it could be a buzzword to many because they have not the slightest clue how to take employee engagement beyond just simply talking about it.

Regardless, my definition of employee engagement is, “an intimate emotional connection that an employee feels for the company they work for that propels them to exert greater discretionary effort in their work.”  Take note that their are many definitions that exist, and whichever one you favor, remember this…it all comes down to the positive emotions that employees possess, individually and collectively.  In my experience the top 4 engagement drivers are the following:

  1. Strength of leadership capabilities of direct managers.
  2. Perception that advancement opportunities exist, and are attainable.
  3. Opportunities for personal growth and development.
  4. Appropriate recognition for the good work that I do.

The “What” Versus the “How”

I just listed what I have seen to be the top 4 common engagement drivers.  The next natural question would be, “now what?  How are we supposed to improve engagement if we now know where our focus needs to be?”  There is no cookie-cutter response because it depends on each organization, because each organization is unique due to the distinctive make-up of their workforces.  But, I will say this…the “how” (i.e. executing an employee engagement strategy) is as important, if not more so, than the “what” (i.e. what we need to focus on).

This is where social technology could theoretically play a huge impactful role.  I say theoretically because again, the success of strategy execution does not lie in the technology/platform itself, but in how it’s executed.  At the top of my head, key things that are required for successful execution are strong leadership, people change management, communication, trust, authenticity, and ultimately a strong perception of competence in the eyes of employees.  Notice how this is nothing different than any other major organizational initiative?

One Step Further

You need to also recognize that workforces in North America are more diverse than ever before.  Work is now fully integrated into our personal lives, rather than being completely separated like it was just a few decades ago.  We value customization, personalization, flexibility, variety and choice.  Organizations need to understand this, and find a way to fully integrate these characteristics into how employee engagement strategies are executed.  Now enter social technology!

Where Technology Could (Really Should) Play a Role

Keep in mind that technology by itself means very little.  It’s a very similar concept to strategy, which I’ve said many times before, “is just a piece of paper with words on it” (see Strategy = A Piece of Paper…).  If you don’t execute it well, it doesn’t matter how great the technology/strategy is.  All technology does is enable organizations to be flexible, offer variety and choice, enable personalization and customization.  It’s a vehicle, albeit a very effective one ONLY if you actually get the “how” part and focus on executing.

Having made my point about what technology is I will say this.  The market has just been bursting with new niche social technology platforms that aim to help make business easier, more effective and efficient, and ultimately more successful.  The mainstream platforms include the likes of Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube, Google and others.  Example niche HR platforms include Rypple, ZuzuHire, SurgeHire, Yammer, Yackstar, ClearFit, Success Factors and I Love Rewards.  Thousands more exist out there, but you get my point.

Tying it All Together…

So, I have talked about the following:

  1. Employee Engagement, Maximizing Organizational Performance
  2. How employee engagement strategy is executed is more important than what you’re executing.
  3. Impact of workforce demographics on our preferences for customization, flexibility and personalization.
  4. Work is now fully integrated into our personal lives—no longer separated.
  5. Social technology is a huge part of our lives, and social platforms are highly effective vehicles to support strategy execution.
  6. The key in all of this is that leveraging technological platforms within traditional HR functions, particularly as it relates to employee engagement strategy will enable organizations to optimize their ability to drive positive employee engagement results.

(Note: The next post in this series of 3 posts will explore a case study of an organization that integrated social technology into its employee engagement strategy to drive positive results.)

Image Credit Flickr

Social Media Meets Lightning Workplace Learning: #TChat Recap

Two camps.

One that digs social media as THE engine driving recruiting, learning and organizational development.

And the other that does not.

That was pretty clear during last night’s #TChat about social media in the workplace.  Some of you may have tired of the social conversation, but many of us have not.

Remember the resistance to e-mail and the Internet?  Good Gosh — what business value do those time-wasters and secret sharers have?

So much fantastic input last night — like workplace laser word tag.  Zap.  Zap.


For me, “social” has always been about networking and learning outside and in the organization and taking the conversation offline to “live” to further discuss:

  • That job opportunity
  • That sweet hire opportunity
  • That business opportunity
  • That learning opportunity
  • That sharing knowledge opportunity
  • That mentoring opportunity
  • That business birth opportunity
  • That consulting opportunity
  • That collaborative R&D opportunity
  • That partnership opportunity
  • You know, these opportunities and more

Again, the key is taking these conversations offline to “live.” The anecdotal statistics are there for me and many others; I’ve generated many of those opportunities above as I’m sure many of you have as well.

But, the business metrics are still all over the place and underreported and overestimated.  Such is the life of a business metric, right?  I wrote a little about that yesterday in my post I say recruit how we do business, and do business how we recruit.

With the rise of the mobile/virtual workforce, I can’t imagine the world without organic and holistic social connectivity.

The “does not dig” camp is choking on the words organic and holistic right now.  We are here to share different views. Like a real workplace. Like a real social community.

Here were the questions we asked last night:

  • Q1: How has #SM specifically impacted the way you conduct a job search and manage your career?
  • Q2: Within your org, how have #SM platforms/tools been used to enhance HR/recruiting initiatives?
  • Q3: Within your org, how have #SM platforms/tools been used to enhance learning initiatives?
  • Q4: How have #SM platforms/tools been effective – or not – at any or all levels within your org?
  • Q5: What business metrics have you established to measure how effective your #SM efforts are?
  • Q6: What specific barriers do you see within your org that impede top to bottom acceptance of platforms/tools?
  • Q7: Be honest – how do you see yourself improving your efficacy in utilizing #SM platforms/tools within your org?

Thank you to all who participated.  It’s good folk like you who make every #TChat a lightning learning round of workplace laser word tag.


Social is about us, not the technology.

Here were the top contributors from last night:

  1. @talentculture – 172
  2. @meghanmbiro – 129
  3. @KevinWGrossman – 105
  4. @IanMondrow – 89
  5. @JeffWaldmanHR – 79
  6. @gregoryfarley – 77
  7. @LevyRecruits – 77
  8. @CyndyTrivella – 64
  9. @dawnrasmussen – 53
  10. @Kimberly_Roden – 52

See you next week, January 25, 2011, 8-9 pm ET (5-6 pm PT).