Let’s begin by defining what employee engagement means. Gallup defines engaged employees as those who are involved in and enthusiastic about their work. Now, a large part of employee engagement is driven by managers. As per a survey, 70% of variance in employee engagement scores is accounted by managers or managerial traits. No doubt that the quote by Marcus Buckingham – “Employees leave managers, not companies” holds true globally. Given all this fact, how many managers think about or spend time on creating a motivating and engaging environment for the employees? Possibly, the percentage is very low. It can probably be unintentional due to busy schedules and other work priorities.
For new managers, thinking about employee engagement is even more difficult because the transition from being an individual contributor to a people manager consumes maximum of their energy. Nevertheless, employee engagement for new managers holds the same meaning and value as for their experienced counterparts.
So, what can new managers do to enhance employee engagement? Here are few tips:
Communication is Key
Two-way, consistent dialogue, through any medium, is the basis of any healthy relationship and is correlated with higher engagement. Two-way dialogue can be promoted by establishing rituals within the team like regular meetings, asking rather than telling (or striking a balance between the two), providing constructive feedback, giving a chance to share not just what is happening within office premises but also outside work and collaborative meetings where everyone is given a fair amount of chance to put across a viewpoint. In a survey by Gallup, engaged employees reported that their manager reverted to calls or messages within 24 hours. Open communication paves the way to build vulnerability-based trust within the team which further enhances employee engagement.
Clear Goal Setting
Communication is the first tip of employee engagement for new managers. The second one is clear goal setting. Performance management can become frustrating if goals set are not clear. Developmental conversations are incomplete and forceful as a result of that. New managers should be clear, crisp and articulate when communicating and leave no room for misinterpretation when setting goals. Unequivocal goals lead to on-point, constructive feedback which overall leads to higher performance. Gallup’s survey also found that managers who excelled performance management built an engaged workforce rather than those managers who struggle with goal setting and performance management.
Leverage and Build on Strengths
What makes you score more in a game of scrabble when you have few letters left? The smart ones would find a way to build on existing words on the board. Typically, the same analogy can be applied on strengths as well. Gallup has proved through research that building on employee’s strengths is far more effective than fixing their weaknesses. Managers who focus on strengths help their employees to learn more quickly, produce quality work and eventually, be engaged with the role and the organization. As per another study by Gallup, 67% of employees who strongly agreed that their managers focus on their strengths were also found to be highly engaged. So, next time you have a performance conversation, you are delegating or giving feedback, focus on strengths and create a plan to leverage them for higher performance.
Enhance Team Cohesiveness
If we go by Patrick Lencioni’s model, 5 aspects contribute to high team cohesiveness – Vulnerability-based Trust, Productive Conflict around ideas, Personal Accountability and a culture of holding one another accountable, greater Commitment and buy-in to common goals and focus on Collective Results. So, employee engagement for new managers and even the experienced ones mean enhancing these aspects to increase team cohesion which eventually makes the members of the team highly engaged.
Be Emotionally Connected
Highly engaged employees are not the satisfied and happy ones but the ones who feel an emotional connection with their managers. Therefore, just team building programs, fun team outings and dinners wouldn’t suffice for increasing employee engagement. To build that feeling of emotional connection, focus on your employee’s growth, development, recognition and trust. Make your employees feel appreciated. Promote a team culture that fosters these drivers and hence make your employees more engaged.
So, here you go new managers. Follow these tips and increase employee engagement within your team.