Manager’s Role in Employee Engagement More Important than Ever

July 23, 2010
When companies take proactive steps to help managers recognize employees, they are more likely to reap rewards in the form of better employee productivity, improved customer service, revenue growth and return on working capital, according to a new executive briefing released by Madison Performance Group. The paper offers specific strategies companies can use to support a front line manager's role in enterprise wide engagement efforts.

“For companies that rely on people as their primary source of competitive advantage, having innovative and customer focused employees is the most crucial factor in winning and keeping business,” says Mike Ryan, senior vice president of Madison Performance Group, a premier global reward and recognition design and consulting firm. “Many firms overlook the importance of the manager’s role in driving employee engagement, but there is a lot of evidence that shows employees perform better when they feel their manager understands their job and encourages and rewards them.”

Company executives must take the lead in encouraging managers to recognize employees’ efforts. “Companies that streamline the process of recognition not only make it easier for managers, but also communicate that recognition is an important part of the organization's culture,” adds Ryan.

Six ways to make your recognition program more manager-friendly include:

Sweat the small stuff during design – Any engineer will tell you that dependability is in the details. When you build your platform, think beyond the program’s general rules – think exceptions to the rules as well. What happens to approvals if/when a manager’s position is vacated? How do you handle eligibility when an employee is transferred or placed on probation? Exploring the range of “what if” scenarios during program design will give it the ability to handle any contingency without manager intervention.

Make it easy to manage – After considering all the details, build the system to mimic your existing brand aesthetics, administrative workflow and reporting hierarchy. This will allow you to introduce a solution to managers that is seamless, simple and intuitive.

Communicate from the onset – The goals of your program only can be met if managers buy into it and participate. Be sensitive to possible competing messages. Let managers know why you are establishing a recognition program – and that recognition is not contrary to other austerity messages/mandates in play – but instead is an important part of your employee engagement strategy.

Establish a champion – Programs that have executive support/visibility outperform those don’t. Utilize a top executive from the C-suite to serve as the program’s spokesperson. Preset messages can be delivered via email or online and can be tailored to match a manager’s ongoing utilization of the program.

Make training available on demand – Just in time (JIT) training devices like video and Flash movies can help a manager become comfortable with the program and the supporting system at their own pace. A catalogue of training videos helps managers access information when they need it, saving precious time.

Use reports for both control and insight – A user-friendly reporting process should give planners an immediate sense of the program’s vital signs. The best reporting tools, such as data dashboards, allow for correlation between a manager’s recognition activity and the performance of his/her workgroup against other metrics. That allows you to make the connection between recognition activity and better business outcomes, thus sustaining the manager’s commitment.

Ryan says that when it comes to driving and sustaining higher engagement levels, the most admired companies hold managers accountable.

“A 2008 survey by McKinsey concluded that line managers are not sufficiently committed to the development of their employees’ capabilities or careers, and in that regard, they may be taking their cues from the top,” said Ryan. According to him, the same study found that CEOs and senior leaders are not sufficiently involved in shaping talent management strategies and outcomes.

Performance Perspectives offers six strategies to make recognition programs more manager-friendly.

Headquartered in New York but global in its reach, Madison specializes in web-based reward and recognition programs that translate corporate goals into individual action. Their customer-centric design approach incorporates a sponsoring company's processes, preferences, and brand parameters into a customized solution without limits or compromise. Their network of in-country award partners covers over 90 countries, and their next generation tools provide the flexibility planning teams need and the control financial executives demand.

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