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Developing employee engagement: management's role

Douglas McGregorEvidence gives responsibility for employee engagement to managers and their management style. But is that responsibility to direct employees to engage or to  develop their engagement (and engagement culture)?

Douglas McGregor, in The Human Side of Enterprise (1960), said: “The effectiveness of organizations could be at least doubled if managers could discover how to tap into the unrealized potential present in their workforces.”

McGregor distinguished the now familiar Theory X and Theory Y management styles. Theory X stems from the manager's belief that employees work just for the money. Consequently, those employees are not motivated to demonstrate involvement or creativity; they must be constantly pushed to perform.

A Theory Y manager believes people strive to be the best they can be and they seek self-actualization. Consequently, such employees actively participate and get involved (read, engaged) and love the challenge of doing a good job.

McGregor intended that managers should know both theories and, depending upon situations, choose appropriately. However, factors used today to calculate employee engagement point more to the benefits of a Theory Y management style.

Gallup Corporation's familiar Q12 survey is a list of 12 simple questions, asked of an employee, and answered with a 1-5 scale. Ten of the 12 questions (83%) specifically ask about management's role in stimulating the employee to engage in her work. 83% responsibility for developing engagement among employees gives businesses reason to focus there.

Towers Perrin, now Towers Watson, is another strong player in employee survey and statistics. Closing the Engagement Gap by Gebauer and Lowman of Towers Watson also stresses the manager's role. Five of the seven chapter titles invoke managers to know, grow, inspire, involve, and reward their employees. Then Chapter 7 chapter wraps it up with Key Acts of Engagement: How Leaders at All Levels Can Drive Engagement.

So where does the manager go, what does the manager do, how does the manager learn specific tactics that generate engagement among her employees?

Tomorrow we look at 5 specific steps any manager can take, immediately, to begin an engagement boost.

Hope you'll drop in!

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