Is your organization on a mission to improve employee engagement?  If it is, this is probably for a very good reason:  organizations with engaged employees significantly outperform those without engaged employees.  In our last blog, Does Your Company Need a Health Check Up, we asked you to look at the indicators you use to measure the level of engagement at your organization.  If like so many organizations, your key way for measuring engagement is your annual engagement survey, you are relying on past data.  That’s what is known as a lagging indicator.   The problem with lagging indicators is that they alert you to a problem after the fact, when it is challenging or maybe impossible to do something about it.  If your goal is to improve engagement, you can’t influence the future using old data.  But don’t get alarmed – we are not suggesting getting rid of your survey.  Instead, we recommend broadening the ways you keep tabs on the engagement in your organizations by using also leading indicators – ones that are future oriented and you can influence.  

In our last blog we suggested several leading indicators you can consider.  Here we want to take a closer look at just one leading indicator – the quality of relationships between your managers and their employees.  In the article The No. 1 Quality That Makes a Manager Great Gallup emphasizes the importance of managers connecting with their employees. If you want to proactively grow engagement in your organization, improving the quality of manager-employee relationships is a good place to start.  Why?  Through their daily interactions with their teams, managers affect the engagement of their employees in numerous ways – through the way they communicate with employees, develop them, conduct meetings, how transparent they are, and various other actions.  It’s the daily words, actions or gestures from the managers that form an impression in the mind and heart of the employee and greatly influence how the employee behaves and performs.  The good news, of course, is that this is all in the manager’s hands.  If you want stronger engagement, help managers cultivate effective relationships with their employees. 

How can managers affect engagement through small, daily interactions?  Here is a simple example.  If you are a manager and Linda, your employee, has just gone through a challenging project, when you are debriefing the project you might ask some questions along the following lines:
What about this project did you find most stimulating?  Is there anything we can do to make sure that those elements that meant the most to you will also be there on the next project? 

You can sense the power of such questions.  They get Linda thinking about what she loves doing, and forge a stronger cooperation between you and her in pursuit of work tasks that she cherishes.  If your interest in helping Linda do more enjoyable work is not short-lived and results in some tangible and beneficial changes on the next project, she will show her appreciation though greater commitment – over time, she will become more engaged! 

Clearly, this is one of many examples. Every day, almost every interaction with employees can be rich with opportunities for the manager to connect with employees.   How can managers have impactful interactions with employees? By being intentional – by intending to make the interaction meaningful, even it’s an exchange that lasts a minute.   Are your managers capturing moments such as the one described in the simple example of the manager connecting with Linda’s aspirations? All this takes is a shift in perspective – from: “My job is to drive performance,” to: “By interacting meaningfully I help employees grow and this impacts their performance.” 

You may be thinking, “This is easy to say, hard to do.”  And you are right.  But if you are seriously looking to improve engagement, help your managers not miss the daily opportunities that are all around them!  Want to learn more about this?  Look for the forthcoming book due out this spring, It’s the Manager, which focuses on Gallup’s work in this area of helping managers become more effective.  Enjoy the upcoming article! 
If you need strategic solutions to increase engagement in your organization let us know. We specialize in helping managers to build employee engagement and improve performance. 

We look forward to hearing from you.