Engagement managers don’t have an easy job. After all, employee engagement doesn’t happen magically. Someone behind the scenes has to put serious thought and effort into crafting the most effective engagement program for a particular group of people. And that’s when companies reap the rewards of workers who care about their jobs. Engagement managers are those tasked with the mission, and their job has never been more challenging than it is today.
What Is an Engagement Manager?
An employee engagement manager is the go-to person in a company for all activities related to increasing “the emotional connection between workers and their job, coworkers, and organization.” With so much HR and L&D activity being devoted to engagement, every company needs someone who:
- Understands the need for engagement initiatives
- Is up to date with the latest workforce engagement management principles, while also creating their own methods
- Has the resources for designing and implementing steps to increase engagement
This does not mean that you need a dedicated employee engagement specialist who only works in this role. However, there should be a person on your staff who is an expert in this area and has the task of running engagement programs.
The 3 Levels of Engagement
- Engaged – employee is interested in and enthusiastic about their work
- Disengaged – employee does the minimum and shows no initiative (a quiet quitter)
- Actively disengaged – employee shows consistently poor performance and a negative attitude towards work and coworkers
Put simply, an engagement manager wants to:
- Increase the number of engaged employees, often by finding out what drives them
- Convert a disengaged employee to an engaged one
- Give actively disengaged workers an opportunity to change
Why Is Engagement Management Important?
Today’s labor market is not like any other in history. World events such as Covid-19 and economic chaos have led many people to simply drop out of the workforce. Others want to continue the WFH programs that began during the pandemic. In addition, new generations of employees want more out of their jobs.
It all adds up to a situation where HR departments need to take engagement very seriously. If you want to enjoy the benefits of engaged employees, and avoid the risks of disengaged ones, you need to actively address each engagement level.
The key here is to keep a good thing going. By nurturing people who are already fans of your company, or at least love their jobs, managers and employee engagement experts can build outstanding organizations.
Some companies go to extreme lengths to inspire maximum engagement. Take Google, for example. Employees get free food, exercise facilities, lots of paid time-off, pet sitters, and even laundry services.
In return, Google gets results. 85% of their employees believe that they have a positive work environment, and 80% are “excited about going to work today”. In general, companies with engaged employees outperform those that lack engagement by approximately 200%.
This type of worker likes to stay “under the radar” by doing just enough so that they don’t get fired. But this costs your organization in multiple ways. For example, disengaged employees are often the ones who won’t follow company guidelines for customer relations – think of indifferent waiters or service reps who don’t call clients back. Their attitudes also affect engaged coworkers, who might resent the fact that they are doing their best while the disengaged worker takes it easy. You can also expect a disengaged employee to lack initiative when it comes to problem solving, critical thinking, and career development.
Actively Disengaged Employees
The less-than-stellar performance of disengaged workers may be worrisome, but actively disengaged employees are at a whole other level. This type of employee actually costs your company money – by some estimates, 18% of their annual salary, and that’s just through lost productivity. These types of workers are usually on the verge of quitting or getting fired, and will need to be replaced. That alone will add between $25,000-$100,000 USD to the bill. Then there’s the intangible effect that they have on morale. Actively disengaged employees cause real issues by not showing up for work, forcing other employees to cover for them. They might also be rude to other staff and criticize managers.
What Does an Engagement Manager Do?
Each organization manages engagement programs in different ways. For example, it could be that the person responsible for employee engagement in HR functions only takes surveys, and leaves the rest up to other HR/L&D staffers. However, in general, engagement managers are involved in three functions:
The feeling of being engaged can’t be easily measured, so conducting regular surveys is an essential part of running this show. Like most assessments, you’ll want to have a picture of before and after so that it’s possible to tell if engagement programs have worked. Applying at least one of these methods pre- and post-initiative is a necessity.
Employee surveys – Start with a description of what “engagement” is, and then ask the employee to grade how they feel on a 1-5 or 1-10 scale. It can really help to include qualitative questions such as “what do you like most/least about your role/manager/company”. But keep it short so that you maximize the number of responses.
Manager surveys – It could be that few employees will admit to being disengaged, so it’s essential to quiz their direct manager. Again, a qualitative question such as “how could this employee improve?” might be valuable to include.
Pulse surveys – In light of the growing importance of employee engagement, you should consider putting a related entry on a pulse survey, which tends to ask the same questions of employees over time.
Lifecycle surveys – After onboarding, during stay surveys, and when conducting exit interviews, be sure to ask the employee about their feelings of engagement during the course of their stay with you.
There is often some crossover here as this can be, in some instances, the territory of the L&D department. Engagement programs allow the organization to provide a way for workers to gain some motivation, or meet career goals, or get even more out of a company where they are already happy. Examples of engagement programs are:
Learning and development – As the number one reason for employees to quit their job, a lack of L&D opportunities needs to be dealt with. Of course, organizations should be running personalized development programs to begin with. But to increase engagement, special attention should be paid to the career path which the employee wants to take and the skill gaps that result from the analysis.
Career management – Enabling an employee to visualize their future through career planning can be a very effective motivator. It also allows the company to fill their own skill gaps, plan for succession, and more.
Recognition – Employees who put in the effort to improve their performance will get even more encouraged when they are officially recognized. The typical conception of recognition means money, but there are a lot more options. This includes a mention in an email, “employee of the week” competitions, and even asking engaged workers to mentor the less-engaged.
Feedback opportunities – At times, the reasons behind an employee’s lack of engagement are complicated, and may be personal. Giving them a chance to discuss their challenges, and perhaps why an engagement program doesn’t work for them, can lead to other ideas. It also allows them to comment on how other people in the workplace are affecting them.
Managerial participation – How employees feel about their jobs is often related to their manager. Requesting that managers be part of engagement initiatives will involve somebody who is in the best position to encourage an employee to do better.
The fantastic engagement concepts at Google didn’t happen by chance. You can be sure that an engagement manager, or somebody with a similar role, presented their case to upper management. So yet another task for an engagement manager is to advocate for organizational change in several ways.
Engagement ideas – Many of the programs mentioned above will only happen with the consent of management. Compensation, career management programs, and managerial participation often require comprehensive changes and resources that only the C-Level can approve.
Internal hiring – One of the reasons why employees are so interested in development opportunities is because they want to advance within their companies. But the internal hiring rate at the average organization is about 20%. In other words, despite showing motivation and better skills, many employees don’t move up, which is a sure recipe for disappointment. An engagement manager should be just one of the many people trying to change this situation.
External hiring – An experienced engagement manager will develop a feel for the types of workers who naturally fit into their company. This makes for a great source of advice when it comes to recruiting. Engagement managers should provide input regarding the skills and characteristics of engaged employees. They should also be part of looking out for warning signs and hiring trends.
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