Spot your most engaged managers by looking at the employees THEY supervise.

Who engages employees? Your managers. So how well are you engaging them? Photo via Innovate 360, Flickr.

Engaged managers know how to engage their employees—and study after study shows that engaged employees are more productive and more satisfied with their jobs! Their connectedness boosts organization efficiency and profitability.

However, a recent Gallup study shows that a majority of U.S. managers aren’t actually engaged. Gallup writer and editor Amy Adkins spells it out in “Only 35% of U.S. Managers Are Engaged in Their Jobs:” 51% of managers are unengaged and 14% are actively disengaged. Gallup identifies a “cascade effect” in which managers’ lack of concern spreads to employees.

It’s extremely costly, writes journalist Dan Cook (“Bad bosses causing employees to quit in droves”). He echoes Gallup’s estimates: unengaged managers cost U.S. businesses $77 – $96 billion each year! Add in the effect of actively disengaged managers, and the annual costs rises to $319 – $398 billion. Wow!

Another Gallup study, “State of the American Manager,” survey finds that half of employees say they’ve left a job because of a disengaged manager.

There’s no doubt about it: manager engagement matters. Read on and learn more about how to grow engagement from the roots up and the top-down!


On a lighter note, Gallup’s survey does show that employees with highly engaged managers are 59% more likely to be engaged themselves.

When working for an engaged manager, 2/3 of employees say they become more engaged when the manager sets clear workplace priorities and goals and encourages employees’ strengths rather than criticizing their weaknesses.

Engaged employees are the ones most likely to drive companies’ innovation, growth and revenue, Adkins writes. They generate new ideas, develop new products and services, and attract new customers. This helps not only their companies, but the overall economy.

What Engaged Managers Believe

To better engage employees, U.S. businesses need to effectively engage more managers! Gallup’s survey identifies several key characteristics and beliefs among the managers who really “get” it, such as:

  • Commitment and Vision: “The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.”
  • Personal Investment: “This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.”
  • Professional Growth: “At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.”

Sadly, of managers surveyed, 40% or less strongly agree with those statements.

Tactics for Increasing Engagement

Stay positive! Gallup suggests various approaches through which senior leadership might increase manager (and employee!) engagement:

  • Maintain clear and consistent communication—from the top down—of the company’s history,mission, vision, and goals. Ensure managers’ understanding of how their roles support those goals!
  • Ensure that managers know how to communicate these same things  to employees with sincerity and enthusiasm.
  • Prioritize continuing education and professional development through classes, mentoring, and coaching.
  • Help managers identify their strengths and structure their jobs to best use those skills.

Business Consulting Solutions LLC founder and principal consultant Robert Tanner offers additional ways to develop engaged managers in “5 Strategies to Engage Middle Managers,” from a worldwide survey by Development Dimensions International

  1. Identify the factors that drive success for your company. That way,  HR can readily define middle managers’ most necessary skills.
  2. Work to align your organization’s recruitment, management, and promotion policies with your business success factors.
  3. Specify what managers should know, what experience they should gain, what types of decisions they’re authorized to make, and what objectives they should accomplish in a specific period of time.
  4. Help managers identify gaps in skill sets and develop a concrete approach to narrow the gap.
  5. Provide newly-promoted managers with training and coaching to help employees improve delegation, communication, and negotiation skills.

Try different combinations of these to inspire engagement:

  • Encourage independent decision making
  • Provide opportunities to develop new skills
  • Recognize achievements
  • Enable employees to participate on high-performing teams
  • Assign employees to lead projects.

Tanner’s article offers this video summary about the journey of developing leaders — we find very helpful!

It takes a concerted effort to develop engaged managers, but the bottom-line benefits are more than worth the effort.
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