Solving a problem like low staff engagement is an ever-pressing concern in the US workforce. Gallup’s annual ticker of US employee engagement levels has remained around 33 percent for the last few years, whilst globally, 87% of employees are said to not be engaged at work.
Staff engagement is identified as the number one factor helping companies to grow, but it is also one of the most difficult to maintain. What causes employees to be put off their work so pervasively?
Poor relationship development with colleagues often creates disengagement, as does the feeling that what one says and does has little effect on the organisation as a whole. But the vast majority of issues boil down to poor management; in fact, managers account for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement scores.
In a separate study from Gallup, just 35% of US managers were found to be engaged in their jobs. This is having a huge knock-on effect on productivity, with the American economy losing somewhere between $450 billion to $550 billion per year as a result.
Management may be notoriously hard to recruit and train for, but there are two things I identify as the most important things managers need to get right in their organisation:
- fostering a culture of open and regular communication
- creating an environment of trust
Ensuring open communications channels between managers and staff means people feel they have the means to influence structural decisions. Employees whose managers hold regular meetings, for example, are almost three times as likely to be engaged as employees whose managers do not hold regular meetings. Managers who respond to employee questions and concerns within 24 hours, whether in person, over the phone or electronically, have also been shown to be the most effective at maintaining engagement levels.
Self-awareness is the foundation of people-leading skills. Creating an environment of open communication means a lot of personal self-reflection – in your interactions with others, being emotionally and socially aware can help you build and strengthen relationships.
It also means being open and accountable to your employees, and manager feedback surveys are a way to ensure this. In a reverse of the performance appraisal, this survey allows employees to voice grievances anonymously, whilst creating a clear culture of accountability, based on real, data-based insights.
Creating an environment of trust means people feel valued and comfortable holding their managers accountable to them. Managers today are much better off creating an environment of approachability and open dialogue if they want to get the most out of their employees – be empathetic, and take all concerns and questions seriously.
Managers should be constantly thinking about how to improve the performance of others, and they do that best when they are held accountable to their own performance.