A manager’s top 5 ‘must do’s to create an engaged workforce

by Ruth K. Ross

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A manager’s top 5 ‘must do’s to create an engaged workforce

Engagement doesn’t happen without ownership and hard work. It can’t just fall on the shoulders of one person, but rather requires equal but different contributions from senior leaders, managers and employees alike.  That’s how you can create the magic of an engaged and committed workforce.  While everyone needs to be responsible for engagement, I’d like to focus today on the critical role that one of these three groups needs to take on to create an engaged workforce, and that’s managers.

But before we dive into the 5 ‘must do’s’, we need to answer an important question, why are managers like an accordion? Think about it this way, in order to make sweet music (aka engagement) come out of that cumbersome instrument, both sides need to be embraced in perfect harmony. The left keyboard on the accordion stands for top management, handing down a mandate to produce more, in a faster timeframe, all the while keeping resources flat or even reduced. The right keyboard stands for employees who require more of management’s time, energy and support. Each side relies on the other for that sweet music to be made.

Therein lies the lasting conundrum. How are managers supposed to keep both of these sides playing in harmony, creating in-tune music together that results in higher engagement, increased productivity, customer satisfaction and increased revenue? Managers can’t play a harmonious tune if even one person on their team is disengaged. It’s like trying to play a song on a piano missing a key. In today’s tough business environment, managers can’t afford to have a team working for them that is not fully engaged. Even worse, if your manager is operating on a low battery, then how can you expect him or her to charge and reengage others?

Managers have my greatest respect as they play an enormously important role in the journey toward reaching full engagement. Here are my tips to create an engaged workforce.

Managers are the catalyst for linking people to work

People want and need to feel emotionally connected to their work and the workplace environment. Their direct manager is the conduit to making that tight connection. If the connection is frayed, the rope linking them together will break.

A good manager makes people feel valued

How hard is it to show people that they are appreciated for the work they do? It doesn’t take much to convey that they are valued through a word or gesture of thanks. A surefire technique to make someone feel less valued is to micromanage him or her.

Instill trust through transparency

Similar to what is expected of senior leadership, line managers should uphold the company’s commitment to transparency by being honest and forthright with their employees. You don’t want to be the one to start the water cooler chatter by creating an environment of secrecy and closed-door conversations.

Give employees the tools and processes they need to be effective in their jobs

How many of us can remember starting a new job and not even having a computer or access to the company’s systems on day one or two or three? I know I can. There is nothing worse than being expected to perform a task for which you have no training or tools to accomplish your goals.

Paint an exciting picture for the future of what could be and should be, regardless of what is.

Like an exciting journey, it all starts with a roadmap that may involve some detours along the way. But, regardless of the obstacles that prevent themselves, managers should always have an ultimate goal in sight and navigate their employees there.

It’s time to have everyone operating at full power!


Ruth K. Ross is an Engagement evangelist, Speaker, Successful HR Executive for top Fortune 500 companies and Author of Coming Alive: The Journey To Reengage Your Life And Career. After 30 years of working with corporate leaders and managers as a senior human resources leader, Ruth knows firsthand that focusing on engaging your people is the most direct way to improve the bottom line of your business. Disengaged employees can cause even seemingly strong companies to stumble. She has a personal passion for identifying and reengaging the disengaged employee. That’s because she once was one herself. Visit her website at http://www.ruthkross.com or on Twitter @ruthkross.