It is well known that managers play a significant role in engaging with employees. This is especially so for businesses whose key asset is their people.

When managers are able to encourage employees in the right way, businesses are more likely to see increased productivity, a boost in profitability and overall increased chances of success. Because of this, more companies are now exploring what makes an engaging manager, how managers can become more engaging and whether certain personality traits of an engaging manager are inherent or if they can be learned.

Last year, the Grass Roots Group conducted a survey among 75 practitioners from organisations around the world to understand the perceptions of the impact of a manager on employee engagement. The survey also explored how organisations can achieve a community of engaging managers.

Here are some key findings:

Equip managers with the right skills

The majority of respondents (89 per cent) believe that organisations can help managers become more engaging, rather than this being an inherent trait. This suggests that organisations can provide management training and support programmes to boost skills such as motivation, team development and coaching among their managers. This training is particularly important when individuals who have a technical background are promoted into a people management role, which requires new skill sets to engage and motivate teams.

When it comes to recruiting, can an organisation try to hire people with the right behaviour traits? The majority of the respondents believe that there are not enough of such natural-born types to provide the engaging management levels required. Because of this, they feel that it is better for organisations to put in place a programme that supports both new and existing managers to develop and maintain their engagement skills.

Barriers managers face

Organisations have known about the importance of employee engagement for a long time, but not all businesses focus on this area. It is useful to look at the barriers that prevent managers from being truly engaging.

Interestingly, “lack of support” was highlighted by survey respondents as the major barrier. This included the corporate culture, senior management not “buying in”, the organisation focusing on wrong targets and managers not given the tools needed for engaging better with employees.

The good news is that these barriers can be easily influenced or removed, with the right approach and empowerment from senior management.

Responsibilities of managers

Fortunately, most line managers regard employee engagement as one of their key responsibilities, and 63 per cent of the organisations surveyed have put in place measurements to see the impact that line managers have on employee engagement.

However, this does raise the issue that nearly a third of the respondents either did not see employee engagement as a key responsibility or have not been able to influence the corporate culture in such a way to make it one.

This can sometimes happen when employee engagement is believed to be the responsibility of the HR department or a particular individual, and line managers prefer to devolve responsibility or wait for others to tell them what to do.

Such situations can be avoided, by providing line managers with clear communications on their roles and responsibilities, and ensuring they have the tools and support needed.

Organisations that invest more in talent management significantly outperform the competition. While these findings are only a snapshot on some of the issues, it is clear that organisations need to pay attention to line manager engagement and find ways that they can positively engage their teams.