By now, everyone in HR – and likely, everyone up and down the organizational chart – knows that employee engagement is critical to a company’s success. And we all know that most employees believe that the CEO, senior management, and first-line managers are responsible for engaging workers.
However, it’s not clear that we understand the importance of engaging leaders. After all, how can a leader who is not engaged be expected to have motivated and satisfied workers?
That’s one of the questions Dr. Salvatore Falletta of the Organizational Intelligence Institute (OII) sought to answer in his report “The Hidden Drivers of Leader Engagement.” Falletta, who is the EVP and Managing Director of the OII, conducted a study of business leaders and high potentials (employees with the ability and desire to assume more senior roles).
Falletta discovered that overall, leaders were more engaged than employees. But among people managers (those who write a performance review of at least one direct report) and organizational leaders (those who have an organizational leadership role and manage a business unit, function, or department), Falletta says it’s more difficult to “move the needle” on engagement.
“Such results are not surprising when you consider that people managers and organizational leaders are increasingly being asked to do more with less while expected to maximize the engagement and performance of others,” explains Falletta. But increasing engagement among these leaders is critical.
Employee engagement and organizational effectiveness are linked, he says. “So there is an even more important link to leaders, since they are in power and have the keys to the kingdom. They inspire others and sanction rewards, and their efforts have a cascading effect on the organization.”
Stacy Shamberger, EVP of OII’s parent company, Skyline, adds, “Similar to the cascading effect is the ripple effect. When a leader is not engaged, you will start to see an increase in attrition and employee turnover, because a disengaged leader does not participate in the employee’s development.
She continues, “The employees of disengaged leaders are a direct reflection of those leaders. The external ramifications include poor customer service – and poor customer satisfaction for client-based departments.”
Trying to engage leaders and employees is a complex dynamic because emerging leaders are not necessarily driven by the same motivators as employees. Salvatore’s study found that most companies employ the following strategies to increase employee engagement:
- Leadership development/training
- Core values – communication
- Strategy, goals, and objective alignment
- Employee communication improvements
- Employee learning and development opportunities
However, the top engagement drivers for high potential leaders are:
- Organizational leadership opportunities
- Advancement and promotion opportunities
- Compensation (base pay, bonuses, commission)
- Organizational culture
- Job fit
Just as the drivers for employees and leaders are different, Falletta says that drivers may also change based on your company. As such, he recommends four ways to determine drivers in your organization:
- Segment your workforce and determine what matters most for critical talent segments (Remember the 80/20 rule: 80% of business results are directly tied to the top 20% of workers)
- Develop robust workforce, talent, or HR analytics capabilities
- Measure workforce engagement via employee/organizational surveys on a regular basis
- Avoid a “one-size-fits-all” approach and tailor strategies to each employee’s unique motivations, career aspirations, and values