IMAGE: iStock/fizkes

In an emergency, people look to their leaders for guidance and direction. It’s no different in the enterprise. Company leaders took responsibility in hand as in-office employees quickly became a dispersed workforce in the first efforts to stall the spread of COVID-19. Nine months on, organizations have comfortably accepted the benefits of remote work and adapted as well. But with concerns regarding the impending frost of winter, coronavirus on the rise, and impatience for a vaccine, engagement is a challenge, according to a new report from Achievers Workforce Institute, “Manager Empowerment Report.”

“The relationship between manager effectiveness and employee engagement is undeniable,” the report stated. People who recommend their manager are twice as likely to be very engaged and 96% of that population feel their strengths are appreciated and encouraged.

Perhaps caught up in technical adjustments, a plethora of virtual meetings, and noisy news distractions, managers are unprepared to keep employees engaged. The report found that just over a third (37%) of managers have received training to support direct reports. Less than half of managers (48%) are trained to conduct the essential one-on-one meetings, coaching, recognition, or professional development.

SEE: CompTIA’s 10 trends for 2021. No. 1: There is no normal. (TechRepublic)

“With less than half of employers training managers to coach and lead their teams, according to the survey, it represents a risk area for organizations,” said Natalie Baumgartner, chief workforce scientist at Achievers, in a press release.

The report emphasized that in this time of great uncertainty, communication and concern demonstrated by managers is critical. It cites four significant predictors of management effectiveness, which it says are both achievable and necessary actions: Train managers in crucial effectiveness areas, recognition of reports, professional development discussion between managers and their reports, and empathetic leadership from managers.

Everyone needs a pat on the back, every now and then. Employees, like the Rolling Stones, want satisfaction. They also want frequent recognition, as both strongly correlated with manager effectiveness.

No one wants to be “stuck” in a position. They want the ability to move forward or at least have the potential. What they don’t want is to replicate the Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) quote from “Annie Hall,” in which he likens a relationship to a shark and says: “It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.” More than nine out of 10 (95%) respondents recommend their manager regularly recognize their work.

Image: Achievers Workforce Institute

If a manager has moved up from the job that her/his/their supports do daily, it’s assumed they understand what’s needed and involved in a day of work. Empathic leadership drives manager effectiveness, the report stated. Ninety-one percent of respondents recommend their manager should feel and be understood as a person, and Achievers called it “metric empathic leadership.” It requires a manager’s understanding of the team’s needs and feelings, prioritizing them, and responding individually, instead of viewing your employees as a generic group that can all be motivated in the same way.

The most at-risk employee, Achievers found, is the “junior individual contributors” or the youngest and newest staff members. They are the most susceptible group for disengagement and attrition, the least likely to have consistent one-on-one meeting with managers, and they’re the most likely to have received formal recognition from their manager in the last year. They have limited access to manager-driven support, the report said, “leaving them feeling adrift and alone in their early years of work.”

“Our data shows that manager effectiveness directly impacts employee engagement, with recognition and professional development playing especially big roles in driving effectiveness,” Baumgartner said. “Organizations need to offer widespread training to all managers to empower them to better lead their teams. If an organization can empower all their managers to be great leaders, they will see direct business impact at every level.”

Achievers compiled the data based on a survey conducted from nearly 2,100 employed respondents.