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The key to keeping employees engaged? Managers

Disengaged employees cost the US billions each year. What can managers do?

3 min read




Successfully improving employee engagement in the workplace is a pressing challenge for managers.

At the recent Gallup event “The Competitive Advantage of Engaging Your Employees,” consultant Darryl Gole shared that 85% of global employees are not engaged at work, a figure that hasn’t changed significantly since 2000. Moreover, disengaged employees are costing the US between $483 and $605 billion a year.

Access to the internet has altered the standard American workplace. Employees aren’t staying in jobs as long, and they are less engaged in their current positions. Over half of American employees are keeping an eye out for new job opportunities; over one-third have changed jobs in the last three years; and 91% have left an employer for a new job.

Managers greatly influence employee experience, and, by extension, employee engagement. “One in two employees have left their job to get away from their manager at some point in their career.” Gole said.

In this climate, what can a manager do to keep his or her employees engaged?

Communicate clearly, openly and often with employees

A key part of successful employee engagement is continued communication between employee and supervisor. Many workers, for example, lack a clear understanding of their responsibilities at work.

This problem requires hands-on remedies. Managers need to define optimal job performance for each role they oversee. They should meet with their teams regularly to discuss their expectations and take time to check in with employees one-on-one to make sure they understand how their role contributes to the team’s success.

Let employees do what they do best

“Only one in three employees can strongly agree that they have the opportunity to do what they do best every day,” Gole explained. People want to use their talents, but without the opportunity to do so at work, their performance and engagement may falter. Managers should try to assign tasks to employees based on their strengths and skills. Managers should communicate with their employees to discover what they enjoy most about their jobs and what they feel they do best. Then, they can reorganize assignments to get more people doing what they do best.

Listen to employee requests

Globally, only about 40% of workers feel they have the materials and equipment necessary to do their jobs correctly. To address this problem, managers must follow up with employees regularly to make sure they have necessary tools. They might try holding regular open forums where employees can voice their requests. While it may be impossible to meet every employee demand, it is important for managers to respond promptly to requests, thereby ensuring that all team members feel heard.

Successful employee engagement strategy is primarily driven by open communication and a willingness to meet employees where they are. While there are many tools and surveys to help managers gauge employee engagement and assess problem areas, it is important that these tools not be substituted for the principle of continually working to improve employee engagement.

“Engagement is an ongoing journey;” said Gole, “It’s not an event.”

Note: The information provided in this article has been drawn from Gallup’s “State of the American Workplace” report, published earlier this year.


Teresa Donnellan is an editorial assistant at SmartBrief.

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