Empowering Managers Is the Secret to Engaged Employees

No matter how much an employee loves their role and is inspired by the company’s mission, not feeling heard or supported by their manager can have a big impact.

A male and a female colleague meet at a desk inside an office to discuss the work displayed on the womans laptop. Background showing rain on the window pane, and a light brick building in the distance.
Courtesy of LinkedIn

Managers are essential to the employee experience.

Skilled managers want to learn and grow, and understand the importance of learning and growth for their teams. When they are empowered with skills and data, good managers take feedback from their team, examine it for strengths and opportunities, and then lead conversations that drive meaningful action.

Here are a few ways employers can support managers in building a happy, productive, and engaged workforce.

Tackle skill gaps head-on

It’s no secret that organizations are struggling to find the right talent to fill jobs. Between a strong job market and the growing skills gap, companies are in constant competition for the workers and skill sets that will future-proof their business. Instead of replacing departing employees with new talent from outside the organization, employers can bridge the gap by cultivating the people already within their organizations.

According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report, 93 percent of employees would stay at a company longer if it invested in their careers. Employers need to invest in up-skilling employees through learning to expand their skill set and keep up with the ever-changing world of work, and ultimately retain their best talent. Data reaffirms this, as example nearly 40 percent of Gen Z and millennials are staying in their job due to opportunities to learn.

Managers have strategic insight on what their teams need in order to up-level their skill set, and they can directly create and impact learning opportunities. In fact, 75 percent of employees would take a course their manager assigned. Employers should leverage this influence by ensuring managers have access to frequent feedback and insights that help them identify the biggest opportunities for their team and its individuals and the resources to help their team act on those opportunities through learning and development programs.

Embrace the power of open conversation

Managers’ listening and conversation skills are a critical, but often underdeveloped, driver of employee engagement, performance, and retention. Creating a culture of open conversation empowers managers to have more skillful, meaningful, and impactful dialogue around feedback and performance.

Feedback and performance discussions between managers and their teams need to be frequent and flexible. It’s important for employers to provide a framework for conversations to be ongoing and action-oriented, while also encouraging managers to communicate openly and provide psychological safety. This framework for continuous feedback encourages managers and employees to share feedback and address issues before they spiral into major problems. By encouraging managers to have quarterly — if not monthly — feedback and performance discussions with their teams, these conversations will begin to feel like an organic part of company culture.

Give managers the tools to take action

Whether it’s a lack of time, data, or clarity on what to do next, many managers lack the tools and support they need to effectively identify actions that will positively contribute to team performance, development, and innovation.

When you provide managers with tools that help them track progress, data to help them understand how their employees feel, and a framework to plan next steps, they are more likely to foster motivated and happy teams. It is not only critical that a manager have access to employee engagement data and be able to digest it, but also vital that managers thoughtfully put that feedback into action.

We’ve found it’s important to focus on action taking over action planning. By focusing their activity on one or two actions from an engagement survey, teams are more likely to sustain momentum and changes will have a more meaningful impact. While it’s human to try to tackle all your blind spots at once, real change happens gradually. In practice, this could mean dedicating the last 10 minutes of every team meeting checking on progress, discussing what is and isn’t working, and reminding everyone to refocus on goals.

Managers sit on the front lines of taking action on employee feedback. The most effective, engaged teams see the impact their feedback has, and their role in it.

Investing in the manager has never been more important as companies strive to tackle the skills gap and compete in the ongoing war for talent. Empowered managers that invest in their team improve retention and help future-proof your business, and by doing so create a more inclusive culture where employees are happier and more successful at work.

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