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Cath Everett

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Engaging employees – it’s a management issue


Line managers play a more important role in keeping staff engaged and motivated than either more senior leaders or the boss, according to a new study.

A survey undertaken among more than 276,000 employees by Best Companies, which compiles the Sunday Times ‘100 Best Companies to Work For’ list, indicated that overall engagement levels had dropped slightly last year to 69.3% from 70.9% in 2008.
But it also revealed that staff concerns over pay and benefits were somewhat less influential than they previously had been in overall engagement terms. This situation indicated that many workers understood that their employer may be having a tough year, but likewise showed that organisations could still increase motivation and loyalty without boosting salaries, the report said.
To demonstrate the important role of line managers in the engagement mix, however, the study also pointed out that almost 90% of staff in organisations with the highest Best Company accreditation of three stars believed that their direct boss cared about their job satisfaction. A further 89% said that their manager motivated them to give their best.
The figures fell to a mere 64% and 56% respectively for those companies that had not managed to become accredited.
Jonathan Austin, the firm’s founder and chief executive, said: “This year’s survey underlines the important role managers have in keeping their team productive and motivated. For the first time in the ten years of our research, employees have cited their own manager as a more important factor in their engagement than the leader and senior management.”
He added that an engaged workforce was essential as organisations started moving out of recession and into a more stable economic environment. Those that had failed to achieve this would find the recovery more difficult and may never be able to win back the trust and goodwill of their personnel.
Only 50 of the 1,086 companies that applied for Best Companies accreditation last year achieved three stars, with winners including Nando’s, Office Angels and Red Gate Software.

2 Responses

  1. The old adage: People leave bosses not jobs is true!

    The manager/employee relationship is absolutely pivotal to employee engagement and loyalty.

    In the Mums Going Back to Work project we (Mayfield Associates, the NCT and Working Families) surveyed and/or interviewed 1500 working mothers who had recently returned to work. The statistics showed a very strong link between the health of manager/employee relationship and the ease of returning to work. It also showed a link between experience of returning to work after maternity leave and loyalty.

    Following the work with employees, we interviewed and surveyed line managers. We found that the unconscious bias a line manager had towards family, work and gender roles predicted the ease of return from maternity leave. Those with an egalitarian view were more likely to have a positive view and experience of managing maternity where as those with a tradition or asymmetrical view of gender roles were more likely to find it difficult.

    Some employers are starting to realise the power of their line managers, actively supporting their personal development, particularly awareness of unconscious bias and emotional intelligence. It can be tough, with intense focus on the bottom line managers need soft skills development to be legitimised and rewarded, both practically and socially, and this needs to come from the very top.






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