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The role of the manager in employee engagement

Friday, March 15, 2019 - 07:00
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Also, employee satisfaction does not necessarily mean engagement. Employee satisfaction is just an attitude, but employee engagement is a behavior!

New models for confronting disengagement

Most management theory was developed around companies that were built and prospered in an era of labor abundance. Leadership has evolved since we started teaching it at ATI 20 years ago. Leadership 101, I will call it, placed emphasis on the role of the leader within a workplace hierarchy, with specific regard to rewards and punishment. Leadership 201 was more focused on relationships but still relied on hierarchy, and the leader came across more like a disciplinarian than a trusted colleague. Leadership 301 now is more focused on the whole workplace ecosystem, including the quality of social interactions necessary to create a positive, safe and productive work environment. Does the leader do things to employees or with employees? Now, I will be 69 by the time this article gets read and I can remember many, many years ago smart teachers and mentors suggesting owners shouldn’t get involved in their people’s personal lives. Too much drama! Boy have times changed!

The role of the manager in engagement

Owners should drive culture while the managers drive engagement. While a shop might have a great culture that owners have worked years to create, if your employees work under a manager who is not using Leadership 301 skills, your people are not going to feel the positive impact of the shop’s culture. Managers must create the conditions where people want to come to work by creating a safe environment to communicate. They must give validation and recognition while listening well. They need to lead by example while encouraging and mentoring others. If you are wearing two hats, owner and manager, you have a lot of work ahead of you so let me try to help get you started.

The ATI model is to first help you understand what employee engagement looks like. Next, you need to measure it, which we will be doing for all our ATI members in 2019, because if you can’t measure it you can’t manage it. But for now, just assume your shop is average and there has to be some employee disengagement that needs fixing.

So start aligning your people by two-way communication, not one-way. Quite often surveys suggest employees want more communication while owners feel like they are sharing their vision and goals completely. The problem is you are not always letting your employees communicate what they want and need.

Then there is the subject of growth and development. Do your employees feel you’re investing your time and money in helping them grow? Are you interested in helping them get where they want to be in their life? If you are not, I bet there is a shop owner or manager out there who is willing to put forth the effort.

Are you and your manager delivering the recognition needed to continually motivate them to succeed? Recognition is much more than monthly or annual awards! It needs to occur daily when your people are doing things right and succeeding in their job.

It’s time for your managers and you to build relationships with all your people and create trust, so they can accomplish their goals by working for you over decades not just a few years. I realize they are not all like us and that makes it more challenging than befriending the ones that are like us!

If you want to break the habit of being yourself you could take a course on the science of the brain or you could just take a suggestion from an ole guy named Chubby, who was academically dismissed from the University of Maryland in his fun-loving younger days. “Where your mind goes your ass will follow!” I am sure I will take some heat for that famous quote; however, simply begin focusing your mind on two-way communication, growth, recognition and trust with your people.

If you would like a few sample questions to help you deliver better one-on-ones with your people that will force you to ask the right questions to help you deliver better employee engagement, simply go to for a limited time. Give it a try, you’ll be happy when you see 40 percent less turnover and 21 percent more profit!

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