Over the past decade, there’s been plenty of research on how engaged employees outperform those who are disconnected from the work they do (and workplace). For example, Gallup has reported on how engaged the workforce is on a near-daily basis. Currently, 34% of the U.S. workforce is engaged, tying the highest number in Gallup’s history of measurement. While it’s great that this number has been improving recently, it still begs the question: What about the other 66% of employees who aren’t excited about the work that they do, or where they work? Why is this number so low? How can we improve it?
A Better Working Environment
For the last few years, I’ve been studying this topic in detail; to understand how organizations can improve. After all, the average person spends forty hours per week at work; is it possible to make work just a little bit better? The more I read, the more I realized who can have the greatest impact on this trend; the team leader (or manager). Buried in Gallup’s research is a key piece of insight: managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores.
That’s not all! Gallup’s research also indicates that when employees strongly agree that their team leader knows what projects/work they are working on, they are seven times more likely to be engaged. Finally, managers who hold regular conversations with employees are almost three times more likely to be engaged at work. Back in 2013, Bain & Company presented compelling reasons why front-line supervisors need to lead the charge. Knowing team leaders are a major piece of the engagement puzzle, how do we then take the best practices of team leaders and create systems to make this easier, so it’s something that can happen across the entire organization? If we can accomplish this, we'd likely increase employee engagement and enjoy all the benefits that come with it.
A Shift in Behavior
Creating these systems with team leaders requires behavior change; it’s possible that team leaders need to learn to recognize people on their team a bit more often. For others, it means that they need to do a better job managing performance or holding regularly scheduled 1:1 meetings. But behavior change is very difficult! It’s a struggle to try to change my own behavior, how am I going to change someone else’s? According to B.J Fogg, a leading behavioral psychologist at Stanford, there are three key components to changing behavior and they must all converge at the same time:
- Motivation: How motivated is the person to do the action?
- Ability: How easy is it to perform the action?
- Trigger: What prompts the person to complete the action?
If there are several managers who need to recognize their team a bit more often, we may hold a day-long management workshop to review the benefits of giving recognition. While this is a helpful exercise and is likely to increase motivation and ability, it lacks a trigger outlined in the behavior change model above. At Friday Feedback, we believe that technology can help aid the process to building better leadership practices. While technology can never replace a great leader, we believe it can play a complementary role.
For example, if a team leader is working to say, “thanks” more often, why can’t technology send them a reminder to do this once a week? If a team leader is working to check-in with their team more frequently and ask how things are going, why can’t technology help create triggers and make this process easier for them? If the team leader is a critical piece of the employee engagement equation, shouldn’t we spend a bit more time working to give them the tools and systems to continuously improve? It’s not easy to change behavior across the organization, but it’s possible, especially with a little help from technology.
Next time you run an employee engagement survey and see variance across teams and departments, we hope it sparks discussion and thoughts on how you can help build a culture with high-performing team leaders. Your company’s performance depends on it.
Catch the Webinar Replay
It's powerful to know what your employees think! Learn to identify problems like poor supervision, communication breakdown, and mounting plans to leave your company before expensive turnover affects your business. Check out the 20-minute recording of employee engagement survey expert, Leila Zayed, of Best Companies Group and Best Employee Surveys, to learn:
- How employee engagement is defined
- Simple ways to boost engagement
- Do you have what it takes to be one of the Best Places to Work?