When upper management identifies high-potential candidates for management, it should provide those candidates with a comprehensive preparation program to prepare them to assume a management role.
Part of the training should focus on teaching candidates a basic employee engagement model. This includes how to create an environment that drives engagement and, just as important, how to hire employees who have the potential to fully engage in their jobs.
After high-potential candidates assume a manager role, their development should continue to expand beyond the basic model to a more sophisticated development process that ensures they start the management role with all the tools and resources needed to develop an engaged group of direct reports.
An initial employee engagement model should include the following key components:
- Emphasize job importance. Employees should understand the big picture, including how they affect the results of the organization. Managers can play a crucial role in helping employees understand how important their jobs truly are to the team, the organization, and their personal satisfaction.
- Align expectations. Employees who have a clear understanding of what good looks and sounds like are more likely to achieve it. A clear set of challenging, realistic expectations motivates employees because they know exactly what they need to do to be successful. Managers need to involve and guide employees in gaining alignment around what this ideal state will be and how to achieve it.
- Ensure employee communication. Today’s workforce demands dialogue with management. Managers need to provide regular opportunities for employees to voice their perspectives. Managers who lead teams of employees with high engagement have implemented processes and systems for routinely communicating with employees. Activities that take busy managers away from their direct reports cause a decrease in engagement.
- Develop employees. An engaged workforce is a learning workforce. Engaged employees evolve and develop new ways to accomplish tasks and goals. Managers drive this evolution by providing new challenges and developing employees to achieve them. Research confirms that one of the best retention strategies managers can employ is to provide effective development to top performers.
- Build internal relationships. If engaged employees feel like they are part of something positive and important, they will fully commit to the team. We can all think of employees who went beyond their job descriptions to do something for a team. Managers can create this esprit de corps among their team members. An occasional Friday afternoon happy hour with the team can go a long way toward creating fully committed employees.