How middle managers can boost employee engagement and customer experience

Manager Meeting

It’s pretty well understood that having a high level of employee engagement fuels better levels of service, a more engaging customer experience and better business results. Gallup research supports this and shows that firms with a highly engaged workforce experience tend to have:

  • 37% less absenteeism;
  • Between 25% and 65% lower staff turnover, depending on the industry;
  • Up to 41% fewer quality issues;
  • 48% fewer safety incidents;
  • 28% less shrinkage;
  • 10% higher customer ratings;
  • 21% higher productivity; and
  • 22% higher profitability.

Moreover, research by the Temkin Group published in their 2015 Employee Engagement Benchmark Study found that companies that had a market leading customer experience had 50% more engaged employees than the majority of their competitors.

But, what holds back many organisations efforts to improve their employee engagement? Well, according to Gallup, 70% percent of the variance between top quartile and bottom quartile performing companies, in terms of employee engagement, can be explained by the quality of that organisation’s managers.

So, what should firms do? Should they be investing more in their front-line and middle managers?

Perhaps.

Research from Deloitte in 2014 shows that first-level managers each receive, on average, only 34 percent of the leadership development funding that emerging/high potential leaders receive and around 20% of the amount that senior leaders receive.

But, if you consider how many first and second level managers there are this could prove, for many if not most firms, pejoratively expensive in terms of financial, resource and administration costs.

So, the challenge seems to be….how can organisations help front-line and middle managers improve and get better at managing their people that is both cost, time and resource effective?

One way could be to institute a system that learns from the one recounted by Ricardo Semler in his classic book ‘Maverick’ first published in 1993. In the book, Semler explains how at Semco they implemented a system where team members were actively involved in the hiring, evaluation and the pay and bonus setting of their bosses, supervisors and line managers.

Now, I’m not suggesting that organisations should exactly replicate Semco’s system but there are, I believe, lessons to be learned from how their employees, front-line workers and team members evaluated their supervisors and how it helped them achieve some outstanding results.

I believe that the learning and development of front-line and middle managers could be supplemented and immeasurably enhanced by establishing a regular feedback mechanism between them and their team.

Imagine a situation where a team leader asked their team, as part of their weekly meeting, a series of short questions like:

  • What did I do well last week?
  • What didn’t I do so well?
  • And, what do you think I could do to get better?

Now, to reap the benefits of such an approach, an organisation would have to have the right sort of culture (accountability, openness, honesty and commitment to learning, development and improvement) and the right level of management and leadership approach to get the most out of it.

But, I, for one, believe that adopting such an approach could go a long way to towards helping organisations improve their level of employee engagement as well as ensuring that they are also improving the quality of their front-line and middle managers in a resource conscious way. Moreover, it’s also likely to help them improve their overall level of service, experience and drive better business results.

“Through learning we re-create ourselves. Through learning we become able to do something we never were able to do. Through learning we reperceive the world and our relationship to it. Through learning we extend our capacity to create, to be part of the generative process of life” ― Peter M. Senge

 

 

 

This post was originally published on Forbes.com here.
Photo Credit: Wonderlane Flickr via Compfight cc

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