Most companies spend a great amount of time and money to make sure employees are fully committed each day to giving their all to help the organization succeed. But polls show that employee engagement has hardly budged in the past 15 years. Programs and annual engagement surveys aren't the answer. Giving managers the right tools to motivate the workforce is. My company has studied the specific actions managers can take to maximize engagement with their teams, and I share those insights in Raise Your Team's Employee Engagement Score: A Manager's Guide (Amacom, 2017).
Here are 10 ways your organization can determine whether supervisors are building highly engaged teams, along with suggestions to help make it happen:
- Rate supervisors on engagement-building behaviors and give them their scores. Hold supervisors accountable for desired behaviors and outcomes associated with building highly engaged teams by periodically giving them their own engagement survey scores.
- Monitor whether they build trust. Start with how they manage their relationship with their own supervisor. Are they completely transparent? Willing to admit a mistake and apologize? Publicly support company policies and decisions?
- Determine whether they are courageous enough to hire top performers. Substandard supervisors tend to hire moderate performers, employees they like or employees who remind them of themselves, rather than employees who can think better and do more than they can. Top-level supervisors appreciate an occasional smart challenge from below.
- Encourage them to coach top performers to do even better. The tendency is to coach poor performers and assume top performers don't need help. In fact, coaching top performers to perform even better provides the best opportunities to increase productivity.
- Gauge their ability to identify poor performers early, coach them and fire them when necessary. Top supervisors know there are a limited number of chairs and each must be filled with someone who pulls their weight and makes colleagues better. Co-workers often see performance weaknesses before supervisors do and start the clock on whether action will be taken.
- Make sure they address employees who disrupt the team. Some employees perform their jobs well but make work difficult for others. Unusual ways of working are OK, but those that make others uncomfortable or sabotage work are not.
- Ask your supervisors to conduct periodic stay interviews with their teams. Train supervisors on how to conduct stay interviews so they can build interview skills, ask questions and create engagement-boosting plans that work.
- Ask them to forecast engagement levels for their teams. Supervisors should learn to forecast each of their team's engagement scores and present their results.
- Monitor employee turnover and inter-company transfers. Tell supervisors from day one that your policy is to meet with employees who are leaving to learn the reasons why.
- Be available to two-levels-down employees. Call them by name, build relationships with them, find ways to work on assignments with them, and be available. Walk the fine line between not encouraging end runs but being there for someone who reports to a supervisor below you.
Raising engagement isn't a short-term project. Helping managers learn and apply practices that boost engagement is a long-term solution.
Richard P. Finnegan is the CEO of C-Suite Analytics, a consultancy specializing in engagement and retention solutions based in Orlando, Fla.