It’s not a secret that employee engagement is one of the most important predictors of your organization’s success. Engaged employees feel an emotional connection to and enthusiasm for their work. As a result, they are more productive. Engaged employees have higher levels of engagement with customers, which directly affects your organization’s bottom line. Engaged workplaces also have lower rates of turnover, shrinkage, absenteeism, and injury.
Employee engagement seems like a simple solution to many problems, yet 68 percent of U.S. workers are disengaged. Why? In a word: managers. Managers can make or break employee engagement. Regardless of the rewards, recognition and benefits programs you have in place, managers are the key to elevating your organization from good to great.
How do I know? In nearly 30 years of working as a management consultant in a variety of industries, I’ve often seen that the biggest contributor to an organization’s well-being is the quality and strength of its managers. There’s no question about it – your organization will not thrive when employees are not engaged, and your employees won’t be engaged without exemplary managers. Poor management destroys your organization’s ability to harness the talents of its workforce. All the time, money, and energy your organization puts into developing new products, serving customers, or nurturing your brand is wasted when ineffective managers or management practices are driving the process.
While I strongly believe that managers are the single most important factor for your organization’s success, this isn’t just my opinion. Gallup, an organization that has been researching best practices in organizations for decades, has reached the same conclusion. A recent Gallup report stated, “The single most profound, distinct and clarifying finding—ever…is this one: 70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by the manager.” According to Inc. Magazine, nearly 75 percent of the things workers hate about their jobs can be traced back to management. Over 50 percent of employees who leave organizations name management as the number one reason for the exit.
So what should managers focus on if they want to increase employee engagement? My answer: inclusionary practices, process, and tools that can be scaled across the entire organization. I’ll give three reasons why this is such an important investment. First, inclusion improves engagement. A Gallup study found that employees whose managers communicate with them regularly are almost three times more likely to be engaged than employees whose managers do not. Today’s workforce includes employees from a variety of lived experiences. So, today’s managers must learn to communicate, motivate, and harness the full potential of employees from all of these backgrounds. Learning to communicate clearly, consistently, and inclusively will lead to better engagement.
Second, inclusion will help you create a fairer workplace. As a manager, you are in a position of power. So, you need to understand power dynamics, inside and outside of your team or your workplace. You must be aware of the nuanced realities that different members of the team experience. Those who belong to the majority culture (white, male, straight, Christian, etc.) and those who live outside of that culture often see similar situations through different lenses. Interactions between workers with varying degrees of power in the workplace are complex. When historical injustices and power imbalances are layered on top of this already complex dynamic, the risk of miscommunication – or worse – intensifies. Employees who feel that their manager disrespects or refuses to see their unique talents or background are more likely to disengage. Understanding power dynamics and learning to see situations from a variety of viewpoints will help you engage your employees.
Finally, culturally competent managers unleash the potential of people from diverse perspectives. Employees in non-inclusive environments often hide their differences for fear that they’ll be used against them. As a result, they disengage. On the other hand, inclusive managers cultivate an environment where each person’s unique background and contributions are recognized and rewarded. By doing so, they positively impact their employees’ motivation and engagement levels.
Now that you know what to do to transform your organization, let’s talk about how to do it. Inclusive managers and leaders share certain practices. These practices can change individuals, teams, and organizations. Inclusive managers:
- create space for people to bring their full identities, energy, creativity, and commitment to advancing the organization’s goals;
- use structured tools to ensure equitable and authentic participation of all team members;
- develop relationships with employees that allow for building rapport, encouraging empathy, and nurturing trust;
- possess emotional and social intelligence and have sophisticated cross-cultural skills;
- use individualization as a technique for customizing approaches to motivation, feedback, and coaching;
- use multi-directional feedback loops to ensure that information is being shared across power lines and in increments that allow for right-sized course corrections; and
- commit to an ongoing, intentional inclusion practice that includes reflection, feedback, practice, and adjustment—forever.
Developing skills in yourself and your team to cultivate a more inclusive workplace environment is an imperative as strategic as any other you are currently pursuing. Though your time is at a premium, remember this: practices that enhance workplace inclusion are not “in addition to” your work: they are your work.
Hopefully, you are motivated to continue investing in becoming the kind of manager who engages employees through inclusive practices, processes and tools. If you are, here are four things you can do today that will help you move toward this goal.
- Click above or on this link to view a video where I explain these concepts in more detail.
- Click here to check out the Inclusive Managers Hiring Checklist. It will give you concrete action steps to create inclusion in your recruitment process. It’s great to share with colleagues or your HR manager.
- Keep an eye out for my next email. It will include strategies for creating inclusion in your team and across your organization. (If you aren’t on my mailing list, sign up here.)
- Register now for The Inclusive Manager’s Toolkit. This live, online program will provide you with practical tools for maximizing workplace inclusion and workforce performance. The Program will help you distinguish yourself, build your team, navigate your knottiest leadership challenges and transform your workplace.
As always, if there is anything that we at DeEtta Jones and Associates can do for you, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We would be honored to be part of your leadership journey.