Rick Blabolil
President
February 5, 2015

How to Get Manager Buy-In for Workforce Engagement Programs

Your employee engagement program may start in HR, but it doesn’t end there. Although HR usually is the department responsible for supporting workforce engagement programs, the success of those programs depends on manager and/or supervisor buy-in across the enterprise. I’ve seen dozens of organizations grapple with this challenge, and those that are successful generally do most, or all, of the following:

Engage managers and supervisors at a strategic level. They need to know more than program components and KPIs. They need to know the intended impact on the organization as a whole, that its purpose is part of the big picture. For example, how will a higher level of employee engagement improve service quality, support revenue growth and positively affect the business in their marketplace? How might the program influence organizational culture? Or, will greater engagement be a point of distinction from competitors? Managers and supervisors need to know that their commitment to the program’s success will make a difference.

Provide management training. An employee engagement program needs to include a management training component. Managers need to know how the program works, why it is structured the way it is, and where to go when they need help. And don’t take for granted that your managers will lead the charge – make them feel special as well.

Training should also help managers hone the people skills they need to get every one of their direct reports on board with the program. Getting that kind of commitment isn’t easy. For one thing, managers and supervisors in today’s organizations are dealing with widely diverse populations and a barrage of activities. Help them understand that engagement needs to be part of the DNA of what they do every day. It lives and breathes within their work flow.

There is a paradox here: Managers need to treat people as individuals, acknowledging their diversity and making engagement one-to-one and at the same time it is essential for managers to unite individuals into collaborate productive teams. This is not an easy balancing act. However, engaging individuals to operate as engaged teams is a key directive for managers.

Keep the information flowing. Informed managers (and employees) are engaged managers. Consider monthly or quarterly reports on your employee engagement program that address its progress and impact in total. When possible, show movement toward organizational goals—and every department’s contribution toward those goals. Encourage manager feedback about the program and act on it.

Focus on program sustainability. Interest and enthusiasm will fluctuate over time. It’s inevitable. Frequent communication with genuine, encouraging and actionable information will be well received and will help bolster the emotional lulls in the action. With the many competing priorities managers have, and the fact that priorities are constantly changing, an employee engagement program is in danger of becoming just one more thing that needs to be done—an item on a checklist. But if it’s not made part of how we connect, how we talk and communicate, then engagement happens sporadically.

So, clearly managers play a vital role in employee engagement. They are the face of the message and the accelerant. If your managers understand the organizational purpose behind your workforce engagement program, and they understand how it fits within strategic goals, then they have a clear line of site from engagement at the department level to the corporate vision. That kind of clarity aligns personal effort to team performance to corporate outcomes to customer satisfaction. What a great stream of success.

Check out this infographic for more detail on the business impact of engagement.

To learn how engaged employees boost customer service, read our white paper, “Engaged Employees Provide Better Customer Service.”

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