The Role of Leadership in Employee Engagement

Employee engagement is a critical factor in the success of any organisation. In the current post-pandemic world of work, which has seen employees becoming disengaged at work, leading to lower productivity, higher turnover rates and lower profitability for organisations, this is even more crucial.

It’s no surprise that engaged employees are more productive, loyal, and profitable, leading to lower turnover and absenteeism rates at work. However, engagement is not solely the responsibility of employees themselves. Leaders and managers play a significant role in how engaged, or disengaged, employees are. By creating a culture of support, inclusivity, value-driven work, and recognition, leaders can empower engagement in their organisations.

What is Employee Engagement?

Employee engagement is the emotional commitment an employee has to their organisation and its goals. Engaged employees are passionate about their work, feel a sense of purpose, and are willing to go above and beyond to help their organisation succeed. This is not the same as employee satisfaction, though, which is a measure how happy employees are with their jobs. Instead, engagement is a measure of how invested employees are in their work and their organisation.

Why is Employee Engagement Important?

Employee engagement is essential for several reasons. As mentioned earlier, engaged employees are more productive, which can lead to increased profitability for the organisation. They are also more loyal, which can reduce turnover rates and save the organisation money on recruitment and training costs. Engaged employees are also more likely to provide excellent customer service, which can lead to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.

How Leaders Impact Employee Engagement

Leaders and managers play a crucial role in employee engagement. When employees feel that their work has a purpose, they are more engaged.

Gallup’s 2023 State of the Global Workplace found that 41 percent of respondents felt that a change in engagement or culture at their current place of employment would make it a great place to work.

The highest driver of engagement is whether employees feel their leaders genuinely care about them. But here is where employees may feel let down by their leaders at the workplace; Dale Carnegie data indicates that only 28 percent strongly agree that leadership genuinely cares about their health and well-being.

Leaders are extremely influential when it comes to employee recognition. When they create purpose-driven work, show genuine care and empathy, and recognise employees for their efforts, engagement levels will soar. Effective leadership inspires employee engagement by satisfying their employees’ basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, relatedness, and meaning.

So, what can leaders do to boost employee engagement in their organisations?
  1. Ensuring Employees Feel Like Individuals: Leaders can boost employee engagement by treating employees as individuals and not just as cogs in a machine. This can be achieved by having a human touch with their staff; providing personalised feedback, recognising individual achievements, and creating opportunities for employees to develop their skills.
  2. Prioritising Organizational Health: Effective leadership is about contributing to overall organisational health. Leaders can prioritise organisational health by assessing and managing risks, providing open and honest communication, and creating a culture of support, inclusivity, and value-driven work.
  3. Demonstrating Sincere Interest and Trust in Their Teams: Managers need to demonstrate a sincere interest and trust in their teams. This can be achieved by supporting employees, problem-solving, collaborating, and improving productivity. A McKinsey study shows that supporting employees accounts for 89% of overall leadership effectiveness.
  4. Using Surveys to Measure Engagement: Leaders can use surveys to measure employee engagement and identify areas for improvement. Specific indicators, such as whether leaders demonstrate that people are important to the organisation, can be used to detect changes in leadership perceptions.

Conclusion

Employee engagement is critical for the success of any organisation. Leaders and managers play a significant role in employee engagement by creating a culture of support, inclusivity, value-driven work, and recognition. By ensuring employees feel like individuals, prioritising organisational health, demonstrating sincere interest and trust in their teams, and using surveys to measure engagement, leaders can boost employee engagement in their organisations. Effective leadership inspires employee engagement by satisfying their employees’ basic psychological needs for autonomy, competence, relatedness, and meaning.

It’s no surprise that engaged employees are more productive, loyal, and profitable, leading to lower turnover and absenteeism rates at work. However, engagement is not solely the responsibility of employees themselves. Leaders and managers play a significant role in how engaged, or disengaged, employees are. By creating a culture of support, inclusivity, value-driven work, and recognition, leaders can empower engagement in their organisations.

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