What Senior Leaders Are Doing to Disengage Managers

by Dora Wang on Jun 25, 2015 11:00:00 AM

What Senior Leaders Are Doing to Disengage ManagersThere’s a reason why employee engagement remains as elusive as the Holy Grail. While it’s important to an organization’s success, only one-third of American employees report being engaged at work. The latest news on this front is that managers account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores.

Now that doesn’t necessarily mean that companies are hiring terrible managers or that firing supervisors with disengaged teams will solve the problem. Instead, consider the larger domino effect that results when your managers are disengaged. According to Gallup, employees are 59% more likely to be engaged if they work for an engaged manager.

But unfortunately, the majority of managers are as disengaged as the front-line employees they are they supervising:

  • 35% of managers report being engaged

  • 51% of managers are not engaged

  • 14% of managers are actively disengaged

So what can senior leadership do to engage their mid-level managers so they, in turn, engage their teams? Here are three strategies to start with:

Help Them Develop Skills

Managers aren’t born — they’re made. Like other employees, they yearn for career development, so help them become better at their jobs with ongoing opportunities for learning.

  • If you can’t afford to send them to a workshop at the local business school, get your experienced managers to design an ongoing series of seminars.

  • Encourage managers to use their newfound skills in their day-to-day activities, and hold them accountable by setting related performance goals.

  • Establish a mentorship program where a senior manager partners with a more junior manager for the first six months and coaches them through the trouble spots. This is especially useful for new or inexperienced managers, who may need extra support as they find their feet in a different environment.

Investing in career development promises long-term gains since employees who get the opportunity to continually develop are twice as likely to say they will spend their career with their company.

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Don’t Overwork Them

Good time management is the hallmark of a good manager, but if they’re overwhelmed by their workload, they’re less likely to have time to devote to their employees’ needs. Do your managers have too many people reporting to them? Consider smaller teams or reassign certain managerial functions to other levels of leadership. If your managers are bogged down by too many meetings, assess the need for them to attend every meeting or place a limit on meeting length to give them more one-on-one time with their team.

Focus on Their Strengths

Just like their employees, managers too are more motivated when they can showcase their strengths. Begin by hiring naturally talented people to managerial positions, and then allow them to shine in projects that are unique to those talents. Marcus Buckingham, a consultant and author, notes that “no employee, however talented, is perfectly well-rounded,” and that “capitalizing on uniqueness makes each person more accountable.” By figuring out what managers are good at and then letting them focus on that while improving on any weakness, you give them the chance to define their own contributions.

Disengaged managers don’t just result in disengaged employees; they’re costing the United States $77 billion to $96 billion annually by Gallup’s estimates. But they’re also part of the solution. Help them develop their skills and strengths — and see the difference in engagement.



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This post was written by Dora Wang

Dora is an employee engagement researcher for TINYpulse and managing editor of TINYinstitute. Having grown up in Texas, she is now firmly settled in Seattle, where she spends her free time reading comic books, wrangling her three cats, and (of course) rooting for the Seahawks.

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