Employees who like their immediate supervisor tend to feel prouder and more enthusiastic about their organization as a whole. So if you want a more engaged workforce, enhance your supervisors’ ability to manage well.
Telling supervisors, “You need to do a better job connecting with employees” isn’t enough. Instead, create systems to ensure better.
Start by sparking dialogues with your supervisors on their team engagement efforts.
To launch these conversations, distribute surveys to employees that they can complete in a minute or two. Don’t wait to send long annual questionnaires; shorter and more frequent surveys give you an ongoing “pulse check.”
In these anonymous surveys, ask questions such as, “How can your relationship with your supervisor improve?” and “Cite examples of your supervisor’s positive/negative behaviors.”
Treat the responses as a springboard to discuss supervisor performance. Review verbatim survey comments and explore what root causes led employees to form such impressions of their supervisor.
Another way to strengthen your supervisors’ skills is to train them to face sensitive topics head-on. When employees complain about their compensation or lack of job security, some supervisors instinctively turn silent. Coach them to handle these and other delicate subjects honestly.
Finally, instruct supervisors to extract customer insights from their team. You want them to encourage employees to share what they’re hearing and learning from shoppers and clients. For example, invite service reps or field techs to log their observations about customer behavior on your organization’s intranet—and then ensure supervisors follow up on those observations.
—Adapted from “The Four Secrets to Employee Engagement,” Rob Markey, blogs.hbr.org.