Photo Source: Linus
By ADAM ZUCKERMAN
Anyone who has ever held a job knows the power of one’s immediate manager to influence employee engagement.
While this seems true regardless of how you might define engagement itself, it is certainly so when you consider Towers Watson’s concept of sustainable engagement.
This model of engagement moves beyond an employee’s mere willingness to exert extra effort and incorporates how enabled an employee is to get the work done and how energised he or she is to do it.
Indeed, it seems nearly impossible to imagine a scenario in which the manager does not play a key role in driving these critical factors.
This view is supported by the results of Towers Watson’s Global Workforce Study, which found that one’s attitude towards the immediate manager is among the top five drivers of sustainable engagement globally (other top drivers include senior leadership, work/life balance, goals and objectives, and company image).
Clearly, then, a well-designed engagement survey should include questions that address the manager’s role.
But which managerial attributes in particular are most critical to assess?
For guidance on this important topic, we turn to the Manager Redefined Performance Model, developed by colleagues at Towers Watson based on decades of first-hand experience and validated through client-specific empirical research and global polling studies.
The model identifies five key attributes of top-performing managers. The first, calledCrafting Jobs, involves planning work, clarifying roles, structuring tasks and monitoring performance.
But managers who excel at the activities associated with this first attribute go beyond these basics to help employees craft jobs that have ample energising elements (such as interesting work and fulfilling team relationships) combined with the right level of challenge and the fewest possible performance obstacles.
The second component of the model is called Developing People, and involves at its core creating opportunities for each employee to add to his or her storehouse of skills and knowledge.
Exceptional managers don’t just connect people with training, coaching them or giving frequent feedback, however.
Rather, they seek to personalise each employee’s development experience by working with him or her to craft an individual long-term plan for growth and development.
This could include, for example, the creation of a network of internal and external learning contacts uniquely relevant to that employee.
Delivering the Deal, the third component of the model, focuses on ensuring employees are rewarded for their efforts.
Solidly performing managers apply the organisation’s reward systems equitably. They adhere to the company’s stated (though rarely well-executed) pay-for-performance philosophy and do their best to administer reward systems effectively.
But managers who strive for excellent performance go well beyond these basics. They understand that pay frequently fails to reinforce performance and that ownership behaviour doesn’t result from holding a miniscule portion of a company’s equity.
Rather, they use the entire portfolio of intrinsic rewards at their disposal (satisfying tasks, opportunities to master skills, recognition for success) to make employees feel individually appreciated.
The fourth component of the model is Energising Change. This involves helping employees respond to change that is both imposed and unavoidable (e.g, reorganisation, strategic redirection, downsizing) as well as leveraging and creating change sparked by innovation and creativity, such as when people develop new offerings or find better ways to work.
This requires managers to help employees through change that is both affirmative and forward-looking (although not necessarily easy) as well as the kind that is less favourably perceived, such as when economic conditions or market trends make adapting merely a requirement for survival.
The final component of the model is foundational and underlies the preceding four: Authenticity and Trust.
Every manager, of course, must act with integrity. But the best managers also display the humility, intellectual honesty, interpersonal sensitivity and behavioural consistency required to perform effectively across all core elements of the manager model.
These elements form a basis for establishing a trusting relationship between manager and employee.
Looking across the model’s components, we can clearly see a common theme: Effective managers understand what each individual requires and leverage the organisational systems to deliver it.
This means paying attention to each person’s talents and interests, and customising their work, their development opportunities and their rewards accordingly.
Our model predicts these actions will improve sustainable engagement and, therefore, business performance.
Of course, it is always desirable to test these assertions and examine their unique aspects inside each company by incorporating the right questions.