By Scott Drake, Founder
6 minute read
A recent Gallup study found that only 34% of North American workers are engaged, and globally that number is only 20%.
Think about that.
Only one in three employees show up at work excited to be there and consistently bring their best effort.
Only one in three employees go the extra mile to take care of customers and work hard to be a great teammate.
It's no surprise that improving employee engagement is a high priority for many organizational leaders. They know that organizations with employee engagement problems:
Here's the hard truth. Employee engagement is manager problem, not an employee problem.
The way many managers lead is demotivating and causes disengagement.
Most managers don't do this on purpose. They just don't understand what creates motivation or the impact their behavior is having on others.
In our work with leaders and organizations, we see four common manager mistakes that cause the bulk of these engagement issues.
When managers correct these mistakes, employee engagement can sky-rocket. Organizations can go from having big problems to having a thriving and engaged workforce.
Let's explore these mistakes.
Savvy managers hire for four factors:
Many managers hire only for the first two. They think about the skills, experience, and education a successful candidate must have and the pay and perks that will entice someone to join the organization.
More sophisticated managers also hire for Team and Organizational Fit. They have defined permission-to-play values, differentiating values, and a code of conduct to which all team members happily adhere. Instead of hiring bad fits and hoping to coach out unwanted behaviors, they have learned to hire for desired behaviors.
The most advanced managers also hire for Intrinsic Motivators, which author Daniel Pink defines as Purpose, Growth, and Autonomy.
Savvy managers hire people who are aligned with the Intrinsic Motivators the organization can provide and then build these into all aspects of their team's work.
When you think about hiring, are you taking into account all four factors? If not, you're damaging your engagement.
The work in modern organizations takes two forms.
The first is routine work, where the goals are "consistency and efficiency." Think about a fast-food restaurant that has processes and procedures for everything. Because the work is routine, managers design systems, train employees, and leave few decisions to the frontline workers. Routine work requires a mechanistic approach to management.
The second is creative work, where the goal is "innovative solutions for unique problems." Think about the teams that create those fast-food systems, solve irregular or one-off problems, or tackle special projects. For this type of work, the return-on-investment for complex systems isn't good or efficient systems may be impossible. Creative work requires an organic approach to management.
During the Industrial Revolution, many employees played vital roles in routine work like manufacturing and distribution, and leaders learned to think about management through the lens of consistency and efficiency.
In today's world, robots, software, and other systems perform a large percentage of that routine work, and more of people's work is the irregular and creative work that systems can't handle. This shift means that more work done by people needs an organic approach, and the management lens of consistency and efficiency is counterproductive and can damage engagement.
Too many managers don't understand these two approaches or know how to flex between them as needed.
Ask yourself: What types of work in your organization are routine and benefit from a mechanistic approach, and what are creative and benefit from organic techniques? Are you and your management team flexing when needed?
Leadership happens in small interactions between two or more people.
When these interactions go well, employees walk away with clarity, increased motivation, and a desire to give their best effort to help the leader.
But too often, those interactions don't go well, and the leader may not realize they confused or demotivated the employee.
Think about past managers with whom you've struggled. What was the problem? What were they doing that you found challenging? Was it something big, or did they handle any of these small interactions poorly?
How are you responding in these small moments of interaction? How are the other leaders in your organization?
Here's a research project to undertake.
As you interact with other managers in your organization, ask them the question: "How do you know you're doing a great job as a leader?"
There's a good chance you'll see some head-scratching and hear many different answers. Most managers don't have a clear idea of what the job entails.
Here's a short answer.
Leadership is "working through others to get things done." There are things you need to be done, but you can't or don't want to do them yourself, so you choose to work through others.
You'll know you're doing a great job as a leader if you achieve your goals in these four, sometimes conflicting areas:
These goals are sometimes conflicting. For example:
A common mistake that destroys motivation is a leadership team that does not understand this balancing act of sometimes conflicting goals. It's also common to see leaders in the same team strive for a different level of engagement versus results.
Are all your managers on the same page?
Employee engagement problems are often caused by managers making honest mistakes.
The four most common manager mistakes that lead to disengagement are: