Protected: Engaging Managers Hub: Your Local Drivers of Engagement
In Part 4 we looked at how you and your team inhabit a complex engagement ecosystem, subject to many factors beyond your immediate control or influence. However, there are many aspects of the individual and team experience that are entirely yours to own and manage.
In Part 2, we looked at the ‘four enablers’ – the key factors we consider essential for effective employee engagement:
- Strategic narrative
- Organisational integrity
- Engaging managers
- Employee voice
These are the critical, high-level drivers of engagement that run through the veins of the engaging organisation. If managed effectively, they can have a profoundly positive impact on levels of engagement throughout the workforce.
Your local drivers of engagement are your principal areas of people management responsibility and control. Understanding them and how to apply them is key to being an engaging manager. Think of them as levers you can pull or dials you can turn to help create the conditions that drive engagement and maximise employee contribution. Managed well, they can be just as effective as the four enablers.
In Part 2, we also recognised that ‘engaging management’ means:
- strong management capability;
- providing clarity for what is expected from individual employees;
- treating employees as individuals;
- ensuring that work is defined efficiently and effectively; and
- taking personal and professional ownership of employee engagement.
But what does that all mean in practical, actionable, everyday terms?
‘Standard’ engagement drivers are often categorised at a relatively high level, grouping and summarising more granular detail for organisational leadership. Whilst there is value in reviewing broad strategic themes for the organisation, for our purposes we’ve grouped all the relevant factors together into the following four categories:
- Local team mechanics
- The employee lifecycle
- Employee wellbeing
- You, the people manager
A team is not a self-fulfilling solution. Drawing a circle around a group of people and labelling them a ‘team’ does not make them a team, and it certainly doesn’t make them an effective one.
Your team – the group of people reporting to you – is your responsibility, including how it functions and how well it functions. A team that functions well performs well and is more likely to achieve higher levels of engagement.
But teams are not automatically effective. They require planning, management and monitoring. Without due care and attention, teams can deteriorate into dysfunction. A dysfunctional team performs poorly – at the mercy of complexity, inefficiency, conflict and groupthink – and is fertile ground for disengagement.
You may be familiar with the Tuckman model of the team lifecycle and performance curve, which defines several stages of team development: forming, storming, norming and performing. In the ideal end state, the role of the team leader – your role – becomes virtually redundant.
Team managers often make one of two mistakes:
- They assume their team leadership role is virtually redundant before the team has reached an appropriate level of maturity.
Or, if their team has reached an appropriate level of maturity:
- They assume their virtual redundancy allows them to abdicate all responsibility for the team.
The engaging manager leads the team with fair management and firm support. They will only retract their leadership for the benefit of team development, and never take their eyes off team engagement and performance.
A team is more than the sum of its parts: there is more to a great team than the people in it. Think of your team like a miniature organisation in its own right. Everything the parent organisation needs is also required by the team, albeit on a smaller scale: identity, purpose, culture, structure and ways of working.
With adequate, managed provision for these requirements, not only will a team be well-equipped, well-organised and well-positioned, it will also benefit from cohesive, constructive and productive team dynamics – positive psychological undercurrents that promote engagement and influence team behaviour. Meeting the needs of the business is in balance with meeting the needs of the team and its members. Team members are more likely to feel included, supported, aligned, enabled and proud of the team and their collective contribution to organisational goals.
In the diagram below, we feature what we consider to be the core ‘mechanics’ of team management. We recommend that you review your own team against each of these criteria to identify strengths and areas for development.
Any room for improvement may well represent an important engagement opportunity. Feedback from your team members themselves will help, as will input from select colleagues outside your immediate organisation structure.
Regardless of who we are, where we’re from, what we do and why we do it, we all follow the same natural path through our employment with any given employer. We make contact; we join; we deliver and develop; and eventually we depart. It is an employer’s responsibility to facilitate this journey, usually referred to as the employee or employment lifecycle.
The employee lifecycle is most commonly defined from the employer’s perspective – a visual representation of all people management policies and processes that define, govern and enable employment from start to finish – and may look something like this:
Depending on the scale and nature of the organisation, delivery of the employee lifecycle can depend on any number of individual roles, but never less than two: the employee and the manager. The employee has a fundamental role to play in proactively managing their progress through employment, and so do you, their manager.
From the management perspective, the employee lifecycle may be nothing more than a system for the acquisition, management and disposal of human resources. From the employee’s perspective, however, the employee lifecycle represents their personal employment journey, setting the scene for what lies ahead and setting expectations for how it will unfold.
Regardless of how well-defined your responsibilities may be within your organisation, your people will expect you to deliver them completely, competently, proactively and with the right attitude. By doing so, not only will you enable effective, efficient and compliant employment, you will build trust between the employee and yourself and ultimately the organisation, helping them to feel welcome, secure, supported, valued, committed and confident that they have made the right decisions.
We recommend that you:
- familiarise yourself with all people processes in your organisation – making sure you understand what is required of you;
- pay close attention to all related material designed for employees as well as managers – helping you to understand all the expectations being set, and thereby manage them appropriately;
- develop a strong understanding of the employee lifecycle as applies to each individual member of your team – including the past, present and future of their employment journeys; and
- engage in regular one-to-one conversations with your team about their experience of the lifecycle to date and any current requirements or expectations that may benefit from discussion.
Some parts of the employee lifecycle relate to employee engagement more closely than others, so while all elements should be managed responsibly, as a manger you are likely to have more responsibility for certain elements. This is likely to vary depending on the size and scale of your organisation. The key element of building trust with individuals in your team is to have regular conversations with them. This could be about any aspect of the lifecycle, for example, their performance, career aspirations or training and development they require. As a manager it’s important to recognise that the better your relationship with your employee the more likely they are to trust you throughout the whole lifecycle.
Employers have a duty of care for the welfare of their employees throughout employment. At the root of this are key moral, legal and ethical obligations, but many employers recognise an important relationship between wellbeing, engagement and performance.
‘Employee wellbeing’ means different things to different organisations, but most definitions are built around a core of responsibility for the human rights and physical and psychological welfare of the employee. Common elements include:
As with the lifecycle, your responsibility as a manager is to help the organisation fulfil its duty of care for the employees in your team. Familiarise yourself with all relevant policies and processes and strive to ensure the right actions are taken in the right way at the right time.
At the same time, work to develop a robust level of awareness, intuition and sensitivity across all aspects of employee wellbeing. The need to take action can be hard to recognise and the ‘right’ way to respond can vary from one situation to the next.
With the right development, you’ll be in a much better position to mitigate risks and manage any issues in the best interests of everyone involved. As a result, employees are more likely to feel accepted, understood, cared for, valued, respected and comfortable that their needs as individuals are provided for.
Doing the right thing is not enough. What you do is important, but how and why you do it is just as important. Maybe even more so.
Great people management – the kind that helps to drive engagement and performance – is more than just planning, processes, controls and carefully prescribed interventions.
Great people management is commitment, consistency, authenticity, empathy and valuing employees above all else…
If that sounds a little too ‘soft and fluffy’, remember: being an engaging manager is not about making everyone happy. Your goal is to maximise employee contribution, and that requires more than just going through the motions.
It’s not about winning friends, but it is about influencing people.
You wouldn’t expect a customer to buy simply because you tell them to. You wouldn’t expect to win a promotion simply by telling your boss you deserve it. Why would you expect an employee to give you or anyone else 110% simply because you demand it? Being a manager doesn’t entitle you to discretionary effort from people in your team any more than being a sales assistant entitles you to a sale.
To get the very best out of your people, you will need them to want to give it to you. You will have to work hard to win them over and keep them on board. You will have to convince them that you – and the organisation you represent, and the customer, and the work itself – deserve their very best.
In other words, if you want your team to go constantly and consistently above and beyond the minimum requirement, you have to go constantly and consistently above and beyond the minimum requirement.
What does that mean? It means you’ve got to:
- do the right thing,
- in the right way,
- at the right time,
- every time.
And it means you’ve got to do it:
- with the right attitude,
- for the right reasons,
- every time.
It means taking the basics of team and people management to the next level or, to put it even more succinctly, proving that you care. If you’re not prepared to do that, everything else you do will be a complete waste of time, energy and resources.
The good news – as we’ve already seen – is that the right things to do are well-defined and documented best practice standards in team and people management. Mastering them may require the occasional leap of faith, sometimes beyond your comfort zone, but these processes, procedures and tasks are all techniques that can be learned, as can all the science behind them.
The art of engagement through team and people management, however, is an altogether different matter. It’s less about your role as a manager, more about you as a person, and may require more fundamental, deeper development on your part.
We could list all the many, many different ways in which you can be more engaging whilst fulfilling your role as a manager…
For example: celebrating the achievements of your team rather than simply acknowledging them; expressing thoughtful interest in each team member’s personal circumstances; striving to attend and participate in every team meeting; and managing any frustration you may ever feel in the most appropriate way possible.
…but ultimately these are all just outcomes of approaching your role with the right attitude, regardless of whether you are genuinely doing it for the right reasons or simply because you recognise what the right reasons are.
In the diagram below, we have identified what we believe to be the critical success factors for becoming the best people manager you can be.