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Your Manager: The (Not So) Secret Ingredient to Employee Engagement

“depending on the boss you have, it’s a good company”

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Expecting employees to rally around a strategy on some presentation slide is like asking someone to run a marathon with no finish line or cheering crowd at the end. It’s painful and pointless.

Sure, engaged employees want to bring their “A” game to work each day and understand, to some level, that in doing so they are helping support the company as a whole. However, their job satisfaction and desire to deliver is not driven by some strategic pillar.

Rather, employees equate their degree of engagement with the relationship they have with their immediate team and, most importantly, their direct supervisor. In fact, in a recent engagement study my team conducted for a global electrical supply company, one employee candidly stated, “depending on the boss you have, it’s a good company.”

This theme, time and time again, appears when conducting benchmarking research for nearly every company, no matter the industry. Employees can wrap their hearts and minds around a team goal and the desire to support their peers. And when they have a strong and respected leader at the helm, they are ready to step it up, big time.

Clearly, managers can, and should, play a fundamental role in building that connection between team effort and corporate strategy. And certainly, effective manager communication plays a role in this, as demonstrated in research we did for a global health care company, where 72 percent of employees selected managers as their preferred source of company news and information – far above all other channels, including the Intranet and email. However, in this same study, employees felt this channel was unreliable or, worse yet, broken. Managers just were not given the tools and resources needed to help build that important link between strategy and team effort.

And, unfortunately, this isn’t an exception. In a recent Melcrum Members Study, communicators say “improving line manager communications” is their No. 1 challenge and, according to a recent report by Towers Watson, only 41 percent of employees say their leaders create a dialogue with them.

This is why it’s so critical that companies treat communication as a core competency when evaluating and developing their management pool, and that they have a solid manager engagement strategy in place.

Bob Bullen is a senior account supervisor in Employee Engagement

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