Another survey has been released telling us that supervisors and people-managers have the most important influence on employee engagement. The third Annual “Employee Engagement Survey” by the International Association of Business Communications (IABC) Research Foundation and Buck Consultants found that an immediate supervisor can influence an employee’s engagement level both positively and negatively. 44% of the nearly 1,000 survey respondents said their supervisor strongly increased employee engagement, while 41% said supervisors strongly decreased employee engagement.
Everything else pales by comparison when it comes to engagement. Everything – pay, incentive, working conditions, location, travel, working hours, changes in leadership, even layoffs and downsizing are secondary to the influence that a manager has on the people who report to them. An employee’s working relationship with their immediate supervisor literally trumps everything else in their work-life experience.
This is not the first survey, and I doubt it will be the last, to paint such a clear and emphatic picture about the critical role that our managers play in engagement. And because engagement leads to better performance, and better performance leads to better results, we should absolutely take note and act on this. And yet, it seems we are not. In a 2009 study, Benchmarks and Analysis of Leadership Development Spending, Staffing and Programs, Bersin & Associates revealed that firstline managers are the least ready workgroup in organizations – even less capable than their entry-level employees.
Look where you’re currently investing your time and training dollars and consider your managers’ and supervisors’ needs. Are they excellent people-leaders? If they’re not, what are the consequences on your employees’ engagement, performance, and productivity – and how does that affect your business results? The good news is that any investment you make in helping managers be better employee coaches or to help them see opportunities for increasing engagement can have a lasting and significant impact on the success of your business.