Employee Engagement: The Manager is Key

Gallup is an employee engagement researcher that carries out extensive surveys of U.S. companies. They consider one of their most important findings to be the outsized role that managers play when it comes to keeping employees engaged. They claim that the manager or team leader alone accounts for 70% of the variance in team engagement. This is a striking finding, and it means that managers have a huge responsibility on their shoulders. In this post, we’ll look at how managers can rise to the task and at what senior leaders can do to support them.

Gallup uses twelve basic questions as a framework for measuring engagement. It is noteworthy that four of the twelve questions are related to employee recognition. Let’s look at questions four through seven:

  1. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  2. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  3. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  4. At work, my opinions seem to count.

All these questions relate to feeling seen and valued at work, and whether an employee gives affirmative answers depends in large part on their manager. Getting recognition from colleagues is great, but managers can give recognition on behalf of the organization as a whole, and that’s meaningful. They send a message from higher-up that an employee is on the right track.

This is why recognition programs that connect managers to employees are so important. Engagement is often thought of as an “HR thing,” but this is a mistake. It should be clear by now that engagement is a “manager thing,” too. Recognition programs help managers clarify their expectations and set clear performance goals. They get managers directly involved in building an engaged workforce. This makes progress measurable and evaluable.

It’s hard to feel as if one’s manager is concerned with one’s personal well-being and professional development if they don’t adequately recognize one’s work. A recognition program makes doing so a part of a manager’s daily routine. It teaches them to look for behavior that reflects company values, and to reward that behavior with recognition. Recognition programs help managers show that they care about their employees’ well-being and that their employees’ opinions can make an impact on the way things are done.

While a manager’s role will vary between organizations, they are often at their best when they act as coaches. This requires them to build a relationship of mutual respect and trust with their employees. Coaches don’t just tell players what to do, they must identify their players’ unique strengths and develop their potential. Coaches look to the future and invest in the team’s continued improvement. Leaders need to equip managers with the skills they need to achieve this. They need to communicate the company’s values and desired culture so that managers better understand how certain behaviors affect the company’s success. By choosing managers with care and investing in their leadership skills, companies can see big improvements when it comes to employee engagement.






Gallup (no date). Gallup’s Employee Engagement Survey: Ask the Right Questions with the Q12® Survey Available at: Gallup’s Q12 Employee Engagement Survey – Gallup (Accessed 8/15/2023).

Gallup (no date). What Is Employee Engagement and How Do You Improve It? Available at: How to Improve Employee Engagement in the Workplace – Gallup (Accessed 8/15/2023).

Gallup (no date). People Management: Pros, Cons and Development Opportunities. Available at: The Perks and Challenges of People Management – Gallup (Accessed 8/15/2023).