Since the 1970s, we have seen an ever-evolving world of employment and management relationships. From the height of Union strength in the 1970s to the individual case increase of the 00s, we can see the dynamic change of people feeling more comfortable in challenging conflict directly rather than through a third party on their behalf.
Since the early 2000s, employee engagement has been on the agenda for large companies. With the rollout of engagement surveys and business incentives such as “the best companies to work for “ list, there is now a strong business case for retaining personnel and including engagement in business strategy. Ideally, a high engagement score would reflect an engaged workforce that supports, understands and lives the business culture. As a result, a regular question being heard among businesses… how can we engage our people?
Engagement takes many forms, and now business can get direct help through managing, improving and creating employee engagement such as third-party collators of data, work perk companies and social media recognition. For many businesses, however, these routes of engagement can be expensive and only used as a quick fix. The question remains… how can we engage our people?
One regularly overlooked answer is reviewing management style. It is easy to forget, as you look at your business from an owner/director/manager perspective, who your employees have a working relationship with. For SME’s the relationship very much could be between you and your employee directly; however, for larger businesses with different levels of management, it is very easy for the relationship to be founded differently. Do your people work for you, or do they work for their direct line manager? This is the key to understanding how to improve employee engagement; if you know who the relationship is between, you can understand what needs to change to see improvement.
When you dissect the employment relationship down to this level, it is essential to ensure you are respecting the journey your management team have been on in their career. Have they been internally promoted based on technical skill? If so, do they have the required “people skills” to encourage the best out of people? Are they able to lead through behaviour and influence rather than manage through process? Can your employees trust the decision making and experience of their direct line manager? Does the manager live and breathe the values and goals of your business?
Ultimately, is the manager’s style reflective of the style of your business?
Unfortunately, it is not easy to train and develop the behaviour traits of a perfect manager to support high employee engagement; it takes time and encouragement, review and investment. It’s a long road to successful management development, but when you get to your destination, it can be the difference between an engagement plan and an embedded culture. Invest in the people skills of your direct managers and engagement will always increase.
This blog was written by our HR Consultant Tara Phillips.