I was reading an article, "Cultivate Commitment" by Julia Stirling, in The Weekend Australian recently that resonated with my belief that management and leadership is about people. The focus of the article was on employee commitment and the part management plays on the level of commitment.
Keeping employees engaged is one of the biggest challenges for managers. Happy people are productive people, and research suggests relationships are the biggest single determinant of productivity within a group.
There are three levels of employee commitment identified in the article; Engaged, Not Engaged and Actively Disengaged. The level we should be striving to cultivate as managers is the Engaged employee. Engaged employees work with passion, feel a profound connection to their company, drive innovation and move the organisation forward.
What was disappointing to read was the percentage of people that are Actively Disengaged versus Engaged. Only around 10% of employees are Engaged with over 50% at the Actively Disengaged level.
Michael Mere, an educational consultant with Swinburne Industry Solutions says
"The poor levels of employee engagement show how much 20th-century management theory and practices are failing today. Emphasis on obedience, diligence and even thinking are no longer delivering competitive advantage. In the 21st century, what you need to be competitive is a workforce that is using its initiative, is committed to the organisation and is passionate about what it does."
As a manager, we have the most influence over the level of commitment our employees have. What is interesting is that relationships are a major part of this influence. There are two major reasons identified by Mere for why people become disengaged. These are:
dysfunctional relationships (particularly with their immediate supervisor/manager and within their work group), and failure, real of perceived, of the organisation to fulfil an obligation or expectation
Over the years, I've occasionally found myself in situations where promises where made that were never kept and as such I found myself becoming "Not Engaged". I left very soon after.
Because of these experiences, something I've strived very hard to do since I moved into management is to meet the promises I make with my team. I've also worked at cultivating a good working relationship with everyone I work with.
So why do managers have problems with building relationships within their teams? Mere says that the
Lack of emotional maturity in supervisors and leaders is a major contributor to disengagement
Interestingly, this emotional intelligence is not a contributing factor in the promotion of people to a management role, despite how important it is in building and maintaining an Engaged team.