Engage your employees – and see productivity rise

18 February 2015 -


Employee engagement and wellbeing are meant to go hand in hand. Focus on just one in your management style, and neither will be sustainable

Ben Walker

The importance of employee engagement cannot be stressed enough. Of the world’s most-admired companies, 94% believe engaged employees create a competitive advantage, illustrating the relationship between engagement and productivity. Not to mention its positive impact on revenue growth, innovation and profitability, in addition to job satisfaction and mental and physical wellbeing at an individual level, too. SMART objectives (specific, measurable, assignable, realistic, time-related) are central to managerial success and employee engagement is key in realising them.

Despite its significance, engaging employees is one of the most difficult tasks for leadership styles to address. We are all well accustomed to the dramatic changes organisations have faced across the world in the past few years. Harsh economic conditions and increased global competition have led to organisational restructures, downsizing and an overall feeling of fragility. This means many organisations are focusing on the wrong areas – or neglecting the issue altogether.

But a focus on engagement alone is not enough. Research for CIPD from Rachel Lewis and Emma Donaldson Feilder has looked at evidence from other academics that suggests employee engagement and psychological wellbeing go together. Employees who are highly engaged and have high levels of wellbeing are the most productive and happy, whereas those that are disengaged with lower levels of wellbeing are likely to contribute least.

So who is the first port of call for improving engagement and wellbeing? Managers, of course, and line managers specifically. According to Dame Carol Black’s review of the health of Britain’s working age population, “Good line management can lead to good health, wellbeing and improved performance”. To achieve sustainable engagement, organisations must improve line manager skills and relationships. And, to do so, Lewis and Donaldson- Feilder have come up with a framework made up of five behavioural themes or competencies. Line managers should:

1. Be open, fair and consistent. Manage with integrity and consistency, and take a positive approach in interpersonal interactions

2. Deal with employee conflicts and use appropriate organisational resources

3. Deliver clear communication, advice and guidance

4. Build and sustain relationships. Adopt empathy and consideration with employees

5. Support employee development and career progression

It may be difficult for a manager to decipher how successfully they are already employing these behaviours, but it’s important to identify which are currently being used. The most useful tool in this exercise is feedback. Whether this is from employees, colleagues or your own managers, ask for insight into your own behaviour against this list. From there, you can make appropriate changes to your management. This may be easier said than done, but through coaching, development programmes and your own efforts, a transformation will soon ensue. And you’ll reap the benefits of increased employee engagement and wellbeing.

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