For a few minutes yesterday I dropped in on the always interesting #Nextchat on Twitter which was on the always popular HR and Talent topic of employee engagement. In the discussion most of the comments and observations around the topic of engagement were what we have come to expect, (and know to be true). Nevertheless, there were some excellent insights shared by many of the participants.
But you know the story around engagement, right?
Employee engagement is a reflection of the 'extra effort' people choose to make or not make, bad company culture drives much of the measured low levels of positive engagement, and most interesting to me, that managers are the prime drivers or enablers of engagement in the organization.
If the organization has bad managers, or not enough good managers and then you will have an engagement problem, (and a retention problem and a recruiting problem, and on and on). Managers need to be engaged themselves in order to have a better chance at rank-and-file employee engagement. Managers are often the barrier to engagement, as they simply don't know or realize the importance of engagement in a broader organizational context. Managers are the devil's spawn and their mere presence haunts the hallways of the company headquarters.
Ok, that last comment was not really stated, but you get the idea. The manager as the key to engagement, (and lots of other really important talent management practices), was beat to death.
After watching the discussion carry on in that manner for a bit, I finally (at least to me), offered the only suggestion that might actually have an immediate impact, (not necessarily a positive impact, I admit).
Here it is:
Since 'managers' seem to be the cause of all the disengagement, then what if we simply had way fewer managers? #nextchat— Steve Boese (@SteveBoese) November 20, 2013
I was kind of being a wise guy but not totally.
If (bad) managers are truly such an important driver of engagement and talent management, and we have known this for ages, and at least according to the consistently poor engagement levels we see in many if not most businesses we are doing a terrible job of selecting and coaching these managers, then wouldn't it make sense to simply have far fewer of them?
Find the 20 or 30 percent of the managers that actually are really good at engaging teams, guiding career development, challenging employees to reach their potential, etc. and just let them manage everyone. Take the rest of the managers that aren't good at those things and either let them focus on the actual work they are good at or let them move on. Or make them sort of 'technical' managers that don't have the messy 'people' manager side of things and can focus on the work, sort of like how football teams have offensive and defensive coordinators that set strategy and tactics but don't really have to deal with the players on an individual and personal level.
I don't know, it just seems like after years of lamenting about the shortcomings, disinterest, and general imperfections of 'managers' that at least some of the problems could be solved by having fewer of them.
What do you think?