The Importance of Being Known
I admire people who are able to easily separate their work and personal lives. Many people are able to go to work and then go home without mixing the two. I am not one of them. As a professional, as a blogger and as a mother, my work and personal lives spill over constantly. It’s part of my human nature to want to know my co-workers as people, to understand what motivates them both professionally and personally. For me, it makes me an empathetic team player, a more engaged employee, and all around happier person.
In this same vein, BlessingWhite’s most recent piece of workplace research reinforces the positive impact that managers can have on their team’s engagement – simply by opening up a bit more and becoming better known as a person.
One of the interesting aspects of employee engagement is that there are no single-shot solutions. If you really want to move the needle on engagement it takes a concerted effort and attention to detail on several fronts. It’s not just about managers coaching employees, it’s not just about rewards and recognition, and it’s not just about inspirational leadership from up-above.
And these different channels all work a bit differently. Take managers and executives for example.
Managers vs. Executives
In this context we define an executive as a senior manager with broad span-of-control who is two or more levels of management above those they aspire to engage. Managers, on the other hand, have direct working relationships and daily (or at least frequent) interactions with those they aspire to help get engaged.
Senior executives need to inspire the workforce despite few (if any) direct interactions. They face the challenge of having few opportunities to communicate yet are subject to a high level of scrutiny and cynicism – especially from those who are less engaged. A key focus for executives as a consequence is to build trust – through their words but most importantly through their actions.
Managers have the option of going beyond trust-at-a-distance and becoming known to their direct reports as a person. Yet many managers elect not to do this, hiding behind their title and remaining aloof. This is a missed opportunity because becoming known as a person to your team is one of the biggest facilitators of engagement.
As part of our ongoing research, we have focused increasingly on the relationship between the individual and their immediate manager. We have found compelling correlations between an employee knowing their manager well as a person and key working dynamics such as effective use of talents, rewards and recognition, providing regular feedback etc.
So who benefits the most from getting to know their manager as a person?
We asked respondents to rank their manager on a number of important aspects of their working relationship such as delegating tasks and utilizing talents. We also asked them how well they knew their manager as a person. By cross-referencing the two we can see clear patterns of who most benefits from better knowing their boss.
Naturally this correlation between knowing your manager as a person and working effectively day-to-day is closely correlated to engagement. For instance 85% of European Engaged employees report having that positive working relationship, but only 35% for Disengaged. In North America 87% Engaged employees report having that positive working relationship, but only 30% for Disengaged.
While they do benefit greatly, Engaged employees appear much more tolerant of not knowing their manager as a person: when it comes to scoring their direct manager on these 8 critical items, the gap between engaged employees who know their manager well and those who don’t is not nearly as large as the gap for the other 4 less-engaged segments. So while engaged employees have other factors to hold onto (interesting work, a sense of contribution, career hopes), less-engaged employees are far more dependent on knowing their manager as a person to reach higher levels of engagement. This becomes apparent if we look at the average gap over all 8 of the factors in our most recent study, by engagement level:
|Average gap on favorable responses to 8 manager items between employees who report knowing their manager well as a person and those who don’t.|
|Engagement Level*||Europe||North America|
|Crash and Burners||51%||57%|
|Honeymooners and Hamsters||59%||60%|
[*For an explanation of the 5 levels of engagement, please refer to the online video found at http://www.blessingwhite.com/theX]
So what does this mean in practice? While companies focus on equipping managers with tactical skills such as delegation or matching individual talents to tasks, engagement is driven more effectively through leadership and connection skills. Particularly difficult for a manager is the challenge of authenticity – because typically they are being taught how to behave, how to ‘play a role’. In actual fact, it’s becoming better known as a person to their direct reports – not being the person they think they ought to be – that will build the relationship needed to increase engagement.
Where’s the data?
As the following tables show, items such as a ‘great working relationship with one’s manager’ are contingent upon knowing that manager as a person. Here we have ranked the items based on the gap size between those who know their manager well and those who don’t. It quickly reveals (as we would expect) that manager tasks that require strong connection skills become more difficult if the manager has not built that relationship based on being known as a person.
In the tables below, we are looking at all employees – from Engaged to Disengaged and all levels in between. Tables 1 & 2: Impact of being known as a person on a manager’s effectiveness (in the eyes of his or her direct report)
|ITEM – Europe||Overall Favorable Response||Know manager well as a person||Gap size||Do not know manager well as a person|
|‘Soft’ / connection skills||I have a great working relationship with my manager.||64%||82%||70%||25%|
|My manager has built a sense of belonging in our department or team.||45%||61%||69%||19%|
|My manager treats me like an individual with unique interests and needs.||63%||77%||57%||33%|
|My manager recognizes and rewards my achievements.||57%||72%||53%||34%|
|Tactical Management Skills||My manager provides me with regular, specific feedback on my performance.||46%||55%||53%||26%|
|My manager encourages me to use my talents as much as possible.||60%||72%||47%||38%|
|My manager asks for and acts on my input.||68%||79%||41%||47%|
|My manager delegates assignments effectively without micromanaging me.||73%||80%||30%||56%|
|ITEM – North America||Overall favorable response||Know manager well as a person||Gap|
|Do not know manager well as a person|
|Soft Skill||My manager has built a sense of belonging in our department or team.||50%||66%||73%||18%|
|Soft Skill||My manager recognizes and rewards my achievements.||58%||73%||66%||25%|
|Tactical Skill||My manager provides me with regular, specific feedback on my performance.||48%||59%||64%||21%|
|Soft Skill||I have a great working relationship with my manager.||68%||83%||63%||31%|
|Tactical Skill||My manager encourages me to use my talents as much as possible.||67%||79%||56%||35%|
|Soft Skill||My manager treats me like an individual with unique interests and needs.||69%||82%||55%||37%|
|Tactical Skill||My manager asks for and acts on my input.||69%||81%||54%||37%|
|Tactical Skill||My manager delegates assignments effectively without micromanaging me.||70%||78%||40%||47%|
Percentages indicate favorable responses based on a 5-point Likert scale. Percentages include responses ‘strongly agree’ or ‘agree’ to each statement.
|Find out more in Blessing White’s upcoming report update.|
Intended for business executives and HR leaders, the soon-to-be-released North American Employee Engagement Update 2012 is based on survey responses of more than 3,500 employed professionals – 2,616 of whom reside in North America and 629 in Europe. The recommendations focus on the roles and responsibilities of executives, managers, and individuals in driving engagement every day. The survey was conducted between March and June 2012, and results were compared to data gathered in 2010 and 2007. More than half of respondents hold executive, management, or supervisory titles.For more information on how BlessingWhite can help your organization reach the next level, call 1.800.222.1349 or email email@example.com.
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