Managers are Key to Employee Engagement

Columbus Chamber
The Columbus Chamber provides connections, resources and solutions that help small businesses and Fortune 500 enterprises grow Central Ohio's economy.

Member Insights by Becky S. Cornett and Barb Smoot

Many of us are familiar with the Gallup organization finding that only 30 percent of employees are engaged, a finding that has stayed about the same for well over a decade. What does it mean to be “engaged” at work?  Engagement refers to commitment to the organization and its goals, or as the microlearning company Grovo offers: engagement is a “deep, personal, and empowered investment in work.”

Numerous studies report that company managers are the #1 factor driving employee engagement.  Cathy Brown, former Executive Director of Engage for Success says: “leaders need to be able to clearly articulate the story of the organization” and help employees see how they contribute to that continuing story. Engaged managers provide scope and focus for employees; they coach, counsel, and challenge individuals and teams to achieve optimal results.  They “walk the talk,” demonstrating integrity and respect for employees at all levels.

Great managers know the importance of communication and feedback and frequent recognition of employees’ contributions. Excellent employees make the manager look good, too! Encourage employees to keep learning – provide opportunities for them to up-skill to enhance and extend their roles and responsibilities. Employees will be even more engaged, and your business is more likely to continue to thrive. reminds us that “managers can make employees love their jobs or dread coming to work. People don’t leave organizations, they leave managers.”Managers’ most important role is to help employees deliver results for the company. Employees’ attitudes and behaviors can make or break the manager- and the company.  

So how should mangers engage employees for success? Consider these best practices offered by Alicia Wyant of Cornerstone University: 

  • Share good ideas and practices among teams; encouraging employees to share their ideas with other employees, and not just upper management, gives them the chance to shine.
  • Allow employees to raise issues and provide feedback about the performance of their project, unit, program, department, division, or the company overall.
  • Recognize learning styles and preferences. Know who likes to work in groups, who is more effective working alone and which employees are natural leaders. Use this knowledge to increase productivity.

Gallup tells us that engagement starts at the top: leaders are aligned in prioritizing engagement as a competitive, strategic point of differentiation. Highly engaged organizations hold their managers accountable — not just for their team’s measured engagement level, but also for how engagement relates directly to team and overall company performance.