It is a question that gets thrown around quite often. And, answers too! Most commonly, I have heard people say that it’s the direct manager who drives engagement. And inevitably, we hear “People join companies, but they leave managers.”
I say – Maybe or Maybe Not!
Managers are without a doubt important in building engagement, but there are situations where they may be impotent. Consider and organization with symptoms such as:
- Limited visibility of the leadership team among employees
- Low trust levels
- Systemic issues with key people processes
- Excessive focus on short-term targets
- People as “resource” mentality
- Widespread issues on communication / collaboration etc.
It will be an uphill task for a manager to engage his / her people if the broader system does not facilitate people focus and engagement. What good will be a discussion on individual role clarity, where the leadership has not been articulating and aligning people with the broader goals? How effective can recognition be if the focus is only on quick-wins and managers have to overlook people with far-reaching long-term ideas? How can you ensure role-talent fit if your recruitment processes is targeting the wrong people?
In situations such as these, I believe, it is the Leadership team which builds and drives engagement. The Leadership sets the tone. It begins with leaders taking a long-term view on people performance and using a systems thinking approach to people processes. And it continues till every small gesture and what is speaks to the employees. Such leaders develop an understanding of intricate relationships between the various variables of the organizational ecosystem, using every action to build a culture that stresses on people, trust and purpose. And, in effect, they work towards creating a platform which can be leveraged by individual managers to drive engagement in their teams.
So, my conclusion tends to be that “Engagement is a continuous journey, which tends to begin with the Leadership and tends to end with individual managers.” Remember, it tends to – there are no definitive end-points of the journey.
What do you think? Feedback, comments?