1 in 2 employees have left their job to get away from their manager at some point in their career.

What drives employee engagement?

In a resent study published by Gallup called State of the American Manager Chairman and CEO Jim Clifton writes that organisations fail to choose the candidate with the right talent for the manager job a whopping 82% of the time. That is a horrendous big number and it means that only 18% of existing managers have the high talent required for their role.

The reports title can be misleading to the reader as the report is based on over four decades of extensive talent research, a study of 2.5 million manager-led teams in 195 countries and analysis from measuring the engagement of 27 million employees.

In my search after what drives employee engagement, both through personal experience having worked in 2 of the worlds most sought after companies; namely for Microsoft when Messenger and Hotmail were at its peak and now recently being close to 4 years at Google, and in my reading through leading change management articles like this HBR article https://hbr.org/2015/04/what-great-managers-do-to-engage-employees containing the top findings from the Gallup study and this Forbes article http://www.forbes.com/sites/johnkotter/2013/04/24/put-down-your-tps-reports-study-reveals-office-space-culture-in-42-of-companies-part-ii/ supporting the same findings, I’ve found patterns of what engages employees.

And the managers that cannot seem to engage their employees? I’ve seen it happen too many times, especially in the field of sales and marketing. Great employees with high performance in their particular field get promoted to managers based on their performance and not their managerial skills. The Gallup study states that you can achieve 59% more growth in revenue per employee if you hire the right managers and they do employee engagement right. Would that be beneficial for everyone and especially your company?

I will briefly give you an outline of how to drive employee engagement in this article and it does by no means include all ways to drive employee engagement. Rather I invite you can look at it as a good list of well-proven ways to engage employees based on research, articles and best practice real life examples. As Growthitude is specialising in employee engagement in partnership with The Change Corporation, we will continue to publish several articles to come on the subject, feel free to sign up for our newsletter by sending us a mail.

First; what is employee engagement?
There are several definitions of this, however by using Wikipedia, an “engaged employee” is one who is fully absorbed by and enthusiastic about their work and so takes positive action to further the organisation’s reputation and interests.

Since we now know that every company benefits from having engaged employees (and if you need more research, please read this Forbes article with a list of researches done) I’m going to jump to it and give you the list:

How can you drive employee engagement?

1. Good quality communication
This may seem basic, however it is crucial to establish the connection needed for the employee engage with you as a manager and with the company. Communicate daily and several times a day with your employees by phone, email or face to face. Be open and approachable and engage yourself in their work as well as in their personal lives. Engage to get engaged employees. A great example of leadership is the case of Market Basket. The Forbes article on Market Basket is about the leadership of Arthur T Demoulas. He was fired which resulted in over 50% of the employees supporting the protest against his departure, employees walking off their jobs as well as customers boycotting the company. What was his way of leadership? Leading by the heart as well as the head. It takes more than logic to create a company with thriving employees, a strong culture and loyal customers.

2. Create a safe environment for the employees to try new approaches on solving the challenges that arise. Reward risk taking and make failing ok since failing is a proof the employee took action and tried to solve the problem.

3. Create clear goals and give clear expectations.Performance management can create frustration if the things the employees are measured by is too process oriented and does not make sense to them in regards to what they actually do.

4. Celebrate success in a way that rules out “what if” and “but”. Say thank you and leave it at that. Do not say what they can do better or improve for the future.

5. Focus on strengths instead of weaknesses in all employees. This will create a culture where employees learn and adapt more quickly and they become more productive. A great video to watch of why everyone should be focusing on his or her strengths is Trombone Player Wanted by Marcus Buckingham.

6. Encourage participation from all levels, the normal hierarchy does usually not allow non-manager employees to step up and be innovators and leaders. A great example of this is the 20% time at Google where engineers get 20% of their time to focus on engineering they are passionate about and that is aligned with the company’s guidelines. This aligned freethinking builds a change-engine into the company culture and allows non-managers to become change agents for the company.

The most successful 5% of the worlds companies maintain agility to make strategic shifts and take advantage of windows of opportunity.