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Monday, August 16, 2010

Engagement: "It's Not My Job!"

As many as one-in-three organizations don’t hold their managers accountable for employee engagement levels. Forty-six percent try to do so, but they don’t have any formal systems in place to monitor. Meanwhile, our research and many other knowledgeable sources reinforce that a strong correlation exists between engagement levels and leader behaviors and actions.

Not everyone believes that managers impact engagement, as noted in recent article in Employee Benefits News. Some managers believe that keeping employees engaged is not part of their job description.

Employee engagement is a complex issue. It is true that engagement is driven by many factors which both include and exclude a managers’ influence. And it’s a natural reaction to feel frustrated about being held accountable for things that are often ill-defined. However, some of the top drivers identified in our global research are actually directly aligned with those behaviors cited in the Employee Benefit News article as those for which a manager should be held accountable, such as providing employees with guidance, necessary tools, empowerment and respect. These behaviors have been shown to directly influence engagement levels. The issue isn't just accountability, but understanding how strategy, leadership, processes, culture and customer service factors correlate with engagement.

Employee engagement can’t be dismissed by managers with a “not my problem” attitude. It has to be addressed through management where challenges to engagement levels can be reliably linked to actions or inactions. However, the other factors outside the manager’s influence that drive engagement levels need to be understood and contextualized for each organization so that accurate and effective action plans can be developed and implemented. If you don’t know what drives engagement in your organization, it’s impossible to create an employee engagement strategy. It’s different for every organization, country and industry.

One of the common challenges many organizations face is that managers are often not provided with the coaching or support to develop the behaviors that are important for driving engagement. Many managers are focused on “managing” and getting things done, with little effort on leading and empowering others.

Do you know the engagement drivers for your organization and are you providing the leader development needed to foster engagement-related management behaviors?

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