Want to Engage Me? Then Why Don’t You Give Me More Control?

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Towers Watson’s latest Global Workforce Study expanded on the firm’s traditional employee engagement research, adding “enablement” and “energy” as two additional factors critical to sustaining engagement over time.

And this is important, as sustained engagement generates operating margins that are three times higher than in disengaged organizations (which is also nearly two times higher than what you get in merely engaged organizations).

Enablement as a key to sustained engagement largely hinges on employees having the tools they need to do their jobs. At the middle management level, I would argue that one of those necessary “tools” is the ability to act on decisions.

Why middle managers need more control

In other words, middle managers need control over their own decisions, divisions. and departments.

Recent research reported on National Public Radio supports this:

It may indeed be lonely at the top, but apparently it’s not as stressful as you might expect. New research finds that people in leadership positions show lower levels of stress and anxiety than workers further down the chain…

Our data indicate that it’s not so much what you’re doing as your perceptions of what you’re doing. Many middle level managers can make decisions, but they don’t have the control to implement them or, you know, to carry them out. So there right now in a lot of organizations are golf outings and stress-reducing activities for the top leaders. But this data suggests they’re actually already doing pretty well, and it’s more the middle managers who could benefit from having more of a sense of control.”

A key component of engagement?

Note that the research does not show middle managers need outings and activities to reduce their stress. They need control over their work and their teams.

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Though the research does not report on this effect among employees who do not manage others, I would expect the results would be the same. Employees who feel they have control over their work (meaning they do not feel micro-managed but rather empowered to get the work done) are more enabled and therefore more sustainably engaged over time.

How well does your organization give direct control managers who, in turn, empower their employees? Do you consider this to be a key component of enablement  and engagement?

You can find more from Derek Irvine on his Recognize This! blog.

Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their company culture. As the Vice President of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek helps clients — including some of world’s most admired companies such as Proctor and Gamble, Intuit, KPMG, and Thomson Reuters — leverage recognition strategies and best practices to better manage company culture, elevate employee engagement, increase retention, and improve the bottom line. He's also a renowned speaker and co-author of Winning with a Culture of Recognition. Contact him at irvine@globoforce.com.

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