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Engaged Employees Come from Engaged Managers: Why the Job Description is Not Enough

 

In his 2015 article “Obsolete Annual Reviews: Gallup’s Advice,” Jim Harter at Gallup published what should have been headline breaking news. Based on the Gallup studies of the American workplace, only 50 percent of American workers strongly agreed they know what is expected at work. This figure has not changed significantly in the 2016 and 2017 reviews.

How on Earth can leaders expect their employees to execute their visions if half of their workforces are not sure of what is expected of them?

Most people want to do “good work.” But they need to understand the meaning of “good work.” If they don’t, frustration with unclear expectations can quickly lead to apathy. In short, unclear or conflicted expectations can lead to employees working just for a paycheck, instead of working for the organization. I can say from personal experience, as a customer and as a manager, those employees do not understand the value of customer service and are minimally productive.

Even engaged employees cannot move the organization forward if they do not understand the roles they play in the vision and mission of the organization. Employees want to know they are valued, and that they contribute value to the organization. If that message is lost, they are ripe to be plucked by another organization, and then their talents and enthusiasm are lost.

Usually, if you ask about expectations, organizations will point to the job description. I think most of us have had at least one job description that seemed nothing like what we actually did at work. There is a truth in the old joke about “Other Duties as Assigned” becoming a catch-all for additional duties. Clearly, a job description by itself is inadequate for communication of expectations.

Harter also discusses the need to move from annual reviews to regular contacts that set expectations. Citing Gallup research, he proposes four approaches:

  1. Clear and meaningful organizational objectives.
  2. Knowing and developing the strengths of each employee.
  3. Involving the employee in setting challenging goals.
  4. Ongoing conversations with each employee.

In a 2016 article, “Do Employees Really Know What’s Expected of Them?” by Brandon Rigoni and Bailey Nelson, Gallup studies show that:

72% of millennials who strongly agree that their manager helps them establish performance goals are engaged. And across all generations, individuals who strongly agree that their manager helps them set performance goals are nearly eight times more likely to be engaged than if they strongly disagree with the statement.

While it is common to attack millennials as lazy, please note that all generations are more engaged with managers who help them with performance goals. I think this should be obvious, but as the saying goes, “common sense is not so common.” All humans, not just those between 20 and 40, want to feel they provide value at work, want to feel valued by the organization, and want to feel their work has meaning. Millennials are just vocal about it.

It is clear the old model of giving a brief orientation and some forms to employees will no longer work if it ever did. Hire and forget until time for the annual review is not going to work in the 21st-century American workplace. Engaged employees require engaged managers. This means we must be training managers to look beyond static annual or semi-annual performance. Managers can no longer be a remote “boss” but need to transform into partners with the employees to achieve the greatest success.

So, if you are a manager, how do engage your direct reports? If you are a leader, how are you helping your managers engage with their direct reports? Answering these questions will be the key to unlocking your employee engagement and executing the vision and mission of your organization.

This article was originally published at TalkForward.com. © 2018 Bryan G. Stephens

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There are 14 comments.

  1. Reagan

    Great piece @bryangstephens. I couldn’t agree with this more. 

    • #1
    • April 12, 2018 at 1:20 pm
    • 6 likes
  2. Member

     You also need to gear the engagement to each individual. Some people want you to hold their hand, some want you to say “Awesome!” every time they take a step without tripping, and some of them want you to leave them the hell alone so they can get things done.

    • #2
    • April 12, 2018 at 1:29 pm
    • 11 likes
  3. Member

    Bryan, have you read First Break All the Rules? I read that book back when it first came out in the early 2000s when I was a young(ish) manager, and it completely changed my perspective. Jim Harter authored the book with Marcus Buckingham.

    • #3
    • April 12, 2018 at 1:34 pm
    • 3 likes
  4. Member

    A fine post, Bryan. My one regret is I didn’t get to read this before I retired; there’s great advice here. 

    • #4
    • April 12, 2018 at 1:39 pm
    • 7 likes
  5. Thatcher

    Nice work. You nailed it!

    • #5
    • April 12, 2018 at 2:18 pm
    • 3 likes
  6. Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Post author

    livingthenonScienceFictionlife (View Comment):

    Bryan, have you read First Break All the Rules? I read that book back when it first came out in the early 2000s when I was a young(ish) manager, and it completely changed my perspective. Jim Harter authored the book with Marcus Buckingham.

    I am read most of it. I was introduced to it in my Gallup Strengths Coach Training. 

    • #6
    • April 12, 2018 at 4:17 pm
    • 1 like
  7. Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Post author

    Gary McVey (View Comment):

    A fine post, Bryan. My one regret is I didn’t get to read this before I retired; there’s great advice here.

    Preach it to anyone who will listen. 

    • #7
    • April 12, 2018 at 4:17 pm
    • 1 like
  8. Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Post author

     

    Jamie Lockett (View Comment):

    Great piece @bryangstephens. I couldn’t agree with this more.

    Thank you

    • #8
    • April 12, 2018 at 4:17 pm
    • 2 likes
  9. Thatcher

    Hear! Hear!

    • #9
    • April 13, 2018 at 10:44 am
    • 1 like
  10. Thatcher

    I’d like to preach this to the people who run our parent company. One of their supposedly prime values is “employee engagement”. Unfortunately, their new regime is 100% top-down, and “policy deployment” comes first. To me, that says “we tell you what to do, and you do it”. That may be why people have been leaving in droves since the new system was forced on us in 2015.

    The new “office 5S” rules now include a regulation that says you can only have two paper trays stacked on your desk, and no more than three items on your cabinet. We tell you what to do, and you do it.

    • #10
    • April 14, 2018 at 4:35 pm
    • 2 likes
  11. Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Post author

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    I’d like to preach this to the people who run our parent company. One of their supposedly prime values is “employee engagement”. Unfortunately, their new regime is 100% top-down, and “policy deployment” comes first. To me, that says “we tell you what to do, and you do it”. That may be why people have been leaving in droves since the new system was forced on us in 2015.

    The new “office 5S” rules now include a regulation that says you can only have two paper trays stacked on your desk, and no more than three items on your cabinet. We tell you what to do, and you do it.

    I am available for engagements!

    • #11
    • April 15, 2018 at 3:14 pm
    • Like
  12. Thatcher

    Thanks, Bryan, but no way would the powers that be listen to you. Hell, they don’t listen to us! It’s “their way or the highway”, and many, many people have taken the highway. They don’t seem to care.

    • #12
    • April 15, 2018 at 4:28 pm
    • 1 like
  13. Moderator

    There is something of a corollary to this: you do have to make sure your employees also fit with your managerial style. There’s a difference between being engaged, and being a micro-manager, and too many managers and employees both conflate the two. There are some employees out there who, either due to their own natures, or due to years of having worked in micro-managing environments, only seem to do well in companies that are rules hide-bound. Frankly, micro-managing is exhausting and I hate doing it, but I have had employees who have deeply resented engagement, and insisted on overly detailed rules for everything (I swear, I had one person who would have written a handbook on how much toilet paper was allowed). They resented engagement because engagement requires something from them, seeing the managed and the managers as human beings. So one does have to choose how to engage, and sometimes some employees just aren’t going to get it.

    • #13
    • April 15, 2018 at 5:04 pm
    • 2 likes
  14. Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Post author

    SkipSul (View Comment):

    There is something of a corollary to this: you do have to make sure your employees also fit with your managerial style. There’s a difference between being engaged, and being a micro-manager, and too many managers and employees both conflate the two. There are some employees out there who, either due to their own natures, or due to years of having worked in micro-managing environments, only seem to do well in companies that are rules hide-bound. Frankly, micro-managing is exhausting and I hate doing it, but I have had employees who have deeply resented engagement, and insisted on overly detailed rules for everything (I swear, I had one person who would have written a handbook on how much toilet paper was allowed). They resented engagement because engagement requires something from them, seeing the managed and the managers as human beings. So one does have to choose how to engage, and sometimes some employees just aren’t going to get it.

    This is where using something like the LBAII helps.

    Don’t be a S1 Supervisor, for a D4 Employee. 

    Coaching is always useful. If an employee does not want to engage with you as a coach, get them off the team. Actively disengaged employees (which is what I highlighted above) cause more problems than they are worth. They damage the company. They should be fired forthwith. 

    • #14
    • April 16, 2018 at 4:26 am
    • 1 like