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Is Employee Engagement a managers job?

Posted by Meg Bear on December 5, 2007


We’ve been talking about Employee Engagement for some time.  How do we engage people, why do we need to engage people – all that touchy/feely stuff that causes some of us to feel warm and fuzzy and others of us to hold back a gag reflex.

I’ve also been thinking about a Manager’s role in the overall Talent story for some time.  I think that to really do innovative things in Talent you not only need software and a HR vision but you really need solid line managers.  Initiatives like building, sharing and retaining talent fall down quickly with bad managers.  As the saying goes people join a company but they quit their manager.

I’ve read a few things lately that are food for thought for those of us who are managers.  Now I do not intend to suggest that we as individuals yield our own responsibility to define, nurture and grow our own careers but for those of us who are managers it can’t hurt to check in and see if we could be doing more.

Here is a quick article that talks about employee engagement and how “managing with a human touch” is a necessary ingredient for that to happen. 

I also recently read Three signs of a miserable job and found an interesting assertion on the responsibility of a manager.  This book focuses on how a manager is responsible to make the job of their employees something that they can feel positive about.  The most interesting thing that he points out is that the work is not really the most significant factor.  In other words, a movie star, a super model, a professional athlete can be less engaged in their job then a cashier a janitor or a factory worker.   His core points were that

  1. People need to be recognized – he used the word Anonymity as the problem.  Managers need to engage with their teams as people first and employees second.  Yes, here is where the touchy/feely part comes in – if it makes you squirm as a manager then guess what?  Maybe you shouldn’t be in management.  People often confuse what is not legal to ask in an interview process with what they should not ask an employee.  So the question is: do you like your team?  Do you know them?  Do you care about them as people? Do you send them birthday gifts on Facebook? (ok that last part was a joke but you get the idea)
  2. People need to be able to measure their work (Immeasurement)– If you can’t measure what you do or worse if you are measured on something that has no clear connection with what you do then you are probably less satisfied with your job.
  3. People need to see a value in their contribution (Irrelevance)– People want/need to know that they make a difference in the lives of others with their contributions.  One very interesting point he raised is that managers are often not comfortable being clear to their teams that they need them. => So in case there is any doubt for my team – ohmygod do I need you guys😉

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