The results of our 2018 State of Play Employee Engagement study are in and from our research into the experience for 6,000 employees around the world, one thing is clear — personal relationships are one of the key factors that impact the experience.

Our study looks at employee engagement across a range of sectors in countries including the US, UK, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, France and many more. As well as understanding how each country compares on employee engagement, it allows us to see exactly what’s most important to workers in each country and sector.

Through key driver analysis, we can see the top drivers of:

  • Job satisfaction
  • Advocacy
  • Desire to go to work
  • Retention

Across all those metrics, there’s a recurring theme of personal relationships between employees and their managers.

For example, for job satisfaction two of the top three drivers were ‘having a manager who helps to resolve work-related issues’ and ‘how consistently your manager acknowledges you for good work’.

Similarly on attrition, the top 3 drivers all relate back to managers — ‘having a manager who helps to manage your workload’, ‘being able to try out new things in your role’ and ‘how consistently your manager acknowledges you for good work’.

It’s a pattern we see time and time again. And while we see some variance between sectors — for example in manufacturing we see ‘having the right training to be able to do the job’ as one of the drivers of desire to go to work — the pattern is the same with the relationships with managers having the greatest impact on employee experience.

In fact, when we look at the data through iQ, our predictive intelligence engine, we can see just how big an impact managers have:

  • Employees whose managers don’t consistently acknowledge them for good work are 17X less likely to be satisfied in their jobs
  • 87% of people whose manager consistently acknowledges them for good work are satisfied in their jobs
  • Employees with a great deal of opportunity for career progression are on average 3.58X more likely to be happy in their roles compared to those with just a moderate amount of opportunity for career progression
  • 89% of those who said they have a lot of opportunity to try out new things are happy in their roles. Just 36% of those who said ‘none at all’ said the same

Is it time for HR teams to work closer with managers?

Quite often, HR teams will focus on company-level policies and initiatives that will have an impact on the employee experience, while the role of individual managers is often ignored.

But think about the people you work with every day and who has the biggest influence on you and your work. It’s usually your manager. Managers are the most influential people when it comes to improving the experience for individuals and one of the most effective things an organization can do to improve the experience for their employees is to enable managers to do just that.

Enabling managers to act on the experience for their teams can have a huge impact on the experience at a personal level — in fact research has shown that managers account for as much as 70% of variance in engagement, demonstrating just how important they are.

The most successful organizations in the world recognize the importance of manager-employee relationships and they coach managers and provide them the tools and insights they need to improve the experience at an individual and team level.

Remote and employees in separate offices often have a hard time building a relationship with their managers. One way to combat this is to use video calls instead of voice calls to make 1-to-1 and group meetings with managers more personal.

As well as enabling them with insights into their own teams, it’s also essential to have a leadership development program to help coach and embed good practices in your managers. A 360o feedback program is a great place to start in understanding the key areas for development and tracking them all the way through to improvements in performance and of course, your employee experience.

Report: State of Play: Employee Engagement Trends 2018

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