The Real Deal about Employee Engagement

16 Oct

God bless Senior Executives for receiving employee feedback and wanting to act on the issue of Employee Engagement.  However, some fifteen plus years into the ‘knowledge’ of the Employee Engagement gap and we seem to have made little to no progress.  Employee Engagement remains at staggeringly low percentages.

When we talk about Employee Engagement, we are talking about a measure of how willing an employee is to engage in their work.  Naturally then, effort and resources have been focused on issues associated with the employee and the work. Efforts such as flexible work hours, incentives and bonuses, and a parade of recognition programs.  But none of these efforts have put a dent into engagement numbers. Why? Because neither the employee nor the work is the source of the issue.  The impasse is that management has been looking at this as an employee problem when, in fact, it is a management problem, specifically, a front-line manager problem.

The Gallup organization (, one of the organizations that measures Employee Engagement, has been telling us for years that the front-line manager is the key to engagement.  We do not have to conduct another survey to discover what employees want.  Employees simply want a good manager! A manager with people management skills and an earnest desire to see the employee succeed.  Employees want to engage in their work, but they need an advocate.  Someone who cares about their well-being and interested in their development and needs. Someone who is adept at navigating cultural and emotional issues and who can chart and clear the path for each employee.

I can’t tell you why there has been such resistance to the development of front-line managers in the areas of relating with and motivating people, (after all, isn’t that the quintessence of their role!).  And I can’t tell you why senior executives don’t see the investment as a double win – a more engaged work force and a more capable junior management team to draw from. What I can tell you with certainty is that without a focused effort on hiring for and developing people management capabilities within the front-line managers, there will be no change in Employee Engagement results.

How about your organization? Are people management capabilities developed and promoted within  the front-line manager level? Does your direct supervisor work to engage you?  I would love to hear your experiences?

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