Employee EngagementWhen I poll audiences for the key performance outcomes their leadership development efforts are aimed at improving, employee engagement gets many of the votes. While many session participants agree that the immediate manager plays an important role in engagement levels, most are surprised by extensive research data showing the influence of the manager on his or her direct reports levels of engagement is around 70%.

Many organizations put extensive effort into regular engagement surveys. These focus on division, department, branch, plant, or organizational factors. But this accounts for only 30% of engagement factors. That “majoring in the minors” is a big reason engagement levels aren’t improving in many organizations.

Joe Folkman has just published the results of a large engagement study in Talent Quarterly. He looked at data from approximately 250,000 people in six extremely different organizations. He studied employees with the highest level of engagement and looked at their satisfaction with other factors in the survey. These had the highest influence on engagement:

  • Open Communication
  • Career Opportunities
  • Individual Development Opportunities
  • Organization Reputation
  • Organizational Efficiency/Productivity
  • Confidence in Management
  • Recognition
  • Teamwork/Collaboration/Cooperation
  • Satisfaction with Work
  • Workload

Many of these factors appear to be determined by the broader organization. But at least seven of these ten factors are highly influenced by the immediate manager. We see that direct connection in our 360 assessment data of leaders assessed by managers, direct reports, peers, and others. The assessment contains a mini-engagement survey based with 5 to 7 measures. How a leader is rated by everyone around him or her correlates to his or her direct reports’ engagement levels.

As Joe points out, “The manager has a tangible, personal connection with the employee that far transcends the larger more impersonal institution. The manager is the window through which employees see the organization. A dirty window or an extremely small window distorts the view.”

Go to A Fresh Look at Employee Engagement to download Joe’s research paper published in Talent Quarterly.