There are several ways to improve employee engagement; better benefits, flexible work hours and opportunities for growth are just some of them. But if you find that despite these, engagement is still low, look to your managers.
According to numerous surveys and studies, employees indicate that their manager greatly affects their level of engagement. In order to promote engagement, give managers employee engagement training.
Why it’s important to invest in employee engagement training for managers
- It will improve the relationship between employees and the managers. Amongst many other reasons, this will facilitate better communication between the two.
- Employee engagement leads to higher productivity
- Developing managers positively impacts the entire organisation
- Training managers will boost employee retention for both managers and those they manage
- It will help to improve on job satisfaction
- Engaged employees care about the organisation. They are willing to go the extra mile to see it succeed.
The employee engagement training should share why engagement is important, why managers are an important aspect of employee engagement and give managers the tools to boost employee engagement. So the first step to such trainings is to get the buy in of managers.
They need to understand the importance of engagement. Share the results of any engagement surveys you have carried out and breakdown what they mean. Once they are on board, proceed with the training.
Areas to train managers in include:
The bedrock of any relationship is communication. Managers should be equipped with skills to communicate well with their staff. This doesn’t only entail delivering instructions or reviewing employees’ work, it includes facilitating an environment for employees to communicate with them as well.
Listening is an important skill for managers to have if they want to increase employee engagement. First, train managers to foster an environment where employees can freely talk to them.
One on one chats are one way managers can do this. If you hope for these one on one meetings to truly be meaningful then managers need to be good listeners.
Active listening involves paying attention to the speaker, asking questions and responding to what is said. It is good practice to take some notes for later reference.
Following up on an issue an employee raised during a previous meeting will show that the manager was really listening. Listening serves another purpose, it will let management know what employees actually need.
Despite how well colleagues get on, conflicts will arise. In fact, conflict can be a sign of healthy team dynamics. They show that people trust each other enough to share their views without fear. However, if it is not managed it can have disastrous effects.
The good news is that when you train managers in both communication and listening, it will facilitate better conflict resolution.
Managers need to empower teams with the means to resolve minor conflicts amongst themselves while at the time leaving the door open for them to seek the managers’ help if needed. There should be clear steps to conflict resolution, even when the conflict involves their manager.
Empathy helps managers understand situations from the perspective of employees. This can improve the relationship between manager and employee, lead to better problem solving and build trust.
Some people are naturally more empathetic than others but that doesn’t mean that empathy cannot be taught. It can be developed by encouraging managers to seek out new experiences and to be curious about how other people live. Here’s a resource on developing empathy.
The workplace might have a formal appreciation program to recognise employees but this shouldn’t stop managers from giving unscheduled appreciation.
Appreciation is a big driver for engagement. It lets employees know that their managers notice their work, it signals to them that they have done the right thing and it encourages them to keep it up.
As appreciation can be built into the culture, managers can encourage a culture of employees appreciating one another. This too will improve employee engagement.
When planning for employee engagement training for managers, include a section on change management. The organisations of today are constantly changing. Technology changes, systems change and so much more.
Change can be uncomfortable and open up uncertainties. If employees are not prepared for it, this can affect their engagement and even lead them to reject the change. Start by teaching managers to communicate about any changes and being open to answering questions they might have.
Aside from the employee engagement training offered by the organisation, managers can take additional steps to improve the engagement levels of their staff:
Get to know your people
Developing and maintaining a relationship is really integral to having an engaged team. Take the time to learn their hobbies and interests, ask after their children if they have any, know their spouses names and other details about their lives outside of work. Knowing people will help you know how to motivate them and it will build trust between you.
Mentor people or provide mentorship opportunities
Because you will have taken the time to know your people, they will be more willing to open up about their future plans. Step in and be a mentor. Is it possible to delegate some tasks once in a while? Can you have an employee sit in for you as manager for a day so they can get some experience about the role?
If this is not possible, you can suggest other employees who could be good mentors and facilitate that relationship.
Be their advocate
As mentioned above, if your employee is looking for a mentor and they need an introduction, you could be the person to help them out. Engagement will go up if your employees know that you are rooting for them and that you stand up for them.
This may involve representing their concerns to upper management and fighting for policies that will improve their experience at work.
According to many sources, the relationship with their manager is the single most important factor for an employees’ success. This means that managers play an important part in employee engagement.
It is not fair to assume that managers will automatically know what is needed to boost engagement however, that is why employee engagement training for managers is essential. Continuous training will arm managers with the necessary skills to support their employees and as an added benefit, it will boost their own engagement.
Once managers understand the importance of employee engagement, they too can seek out ways outside of the formal training to engage employees.