Managers hold key to engagement: Six steps to help them succeed

The good news: American workers are two-and-a-half times more likely to be actively engaged in their jobs than their counterparts around the globe. The not-so-good part: only three of 10 U.S. workers are feeling the love.

Those numbers are straight out of Gallup’s recent State of the Global Workplace: Employee Engagement Insights for Business Leaders Worldwide: 30% of American workers feel they’re engaged in their jobs. That number is only 13% worldwide.
What’s worse, actively disengaged workers — those folks who actually can submarine an organization — outnumber engaged ones by a ratio of nearly 2-1 on a worldwide scale. Here, too, the U.S. does better. But we’re still looking at almost one in five (18%) employees who admit they’re just not into their companies.
And then there are the 52% of American employees who say while they’re not actively disengaged, they’re not engaged, either.

China’s workers not a happy bunch

Some other tidbits from the Gallup report:
East Asia has the lowest proportion of engaged employees in the world, at 6%, which is less than half of the global mean of 13%. The regional finding is driven predominantly by results from China, where 6% of employees are engaged in their jobs — one of the lowest figures worldwide.
In Australia and New Zealand, 24% of employees are engaged, while 60% are not engaged and 16% are actively disengaged. The resulting ratio of engaged to actively disengaged employees — 1.5-to-1 — is one of the highest among all global regions and similar to results from the U.S. and Canada (1.6-to-1).
Gallup found the highest levels of active disengagement in the world in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, particularly in Tunisia (54%), Algeria (53%), and Syria (45%).

Tactics to get people into the fold

Global figures are interesting, but U.S. HR pros want to know why engagement levels aren’t higher — and how employers can pull them up.
Here’s what the Gallup researchers suggest:
Define engagement goals in realistic, everyday terms. While the overall organization may set lofty goals for engagement, leaders must make these objectives meaningful to employees’ day-to-day experiences. Managers should discuss employee engagement elements at weekly meetings and in one-on-one sessions with employees, connecting engagement with workers’ daily interactions and activities.
Find ways to meet employees where they are. Cultural influences and economic conditions, as well as more specific variables such as job type and education level, all play roles in shaping employees’ workplace experience. Managers should be aware of the factors most relevant to engagement among their workers. They should also understand that every interaction with an employee has the potential to influence his or her engagement and inspire discretionary effort.
Bring engagement into the company’s everyday language. The companies most successful at engaging their employees talk about engagement in the workplace every day. Regular communication from company’s leaders and informal communication between employees will begin to breed a culture of engagement, leading participation rates of employee engagement metrics and other interventions to be more successful.
Focus on engagement at the enterprise and local levels. Transformation occurs at the local level, but it only happens when the tone is set from the top down. Companies realize the most benefit from engagement initiatives when leaders weave employee engagement into performance expectations for managers and enable them to execute on those expectations. Managers and employees must feel empowered by leadership to make a significant difference in their immediate environment.
Select the right managers. Whether hiring from the outside or promoting from within, organizations that scientifically select managers for the unique talents it takes to effectively manage people greatly increase the odds of engaging their employees. Instead of using management jobs as promotional prizes for all career paths, companies should treat these roles as unique, with distinct functional demands that require a specific talent set. They should select managers with the right talents for supporting, positioning, empowering, and engaging their staff.
Hold managers accountable for their employees’ engagement. Gallup’s research indicates that managers are the principal influencers of employee engagement. Companies  should coach managers to take an active role in building engagement plans with their employees, hold managers accountable, track their progress, and ensure they continuously focus on emotionally engaging their employees. Savvy employers make employee engagement part of  managers’ formal review process, and many use these improvements as a criterion for promotions.