Are your managers boosting employee engagement?

When your managers are inspired, your employees will be more engaged.   

We look at ways to get the best from your managers. 

Are your people getting what they deserve?

No wry smiles please, we’re all professionals here. We mean, have your employees got great managers inspiring and encouraging them to be the best they can be?

With productivity in the UK at an all-time low and stress levels on the rise, forward-thinking companies really need to consider how they can boost employee engagement across the board. Enthusiastic, stimulated employees are not only loyal and committed, but they’re also less likely to go on sick leave or quit their jobs.

By driving employee engagement, you can get the most from your workers, increasing output and creating a working environment that people thrive in, and one they like coming into every day.

Key to this is the undeniable importance of management.


Think about it. How many times have you heard that someone is unhappy in their role because of issues with their main line manager?

“80% of those dissatisfied with managers are also disengaged from employers,” says Dale Carnegie, author of ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’. Hardly surprising, that.

Employees need good leaders to inspire and support them in their roles. With the right people in charge, you can foster a positive workplace culture that lets staff perform to the best of their ability. But it’s not always as simple as promoting people to management level based on their current skillset. As they say, great leaders aren’t born, they’re made.

Sodexo’s ‘Move, Mould, Motivate: UK Employee Engagement Survey’ found that just 17% of employees ‘strongly agree’ that they trust their line manager to treat them fairly and make the right decisions.

So, what can you do to make sure your line managers stand out from the crowd?

Manage your managers

It’s always going to be a gamble, but once you’ve appointed a manager, it’s crucial that they’re managed too. Employees who are supervised by a highly engaged manager are 59% more likely to be engaged also.

Makes sense, right?

If the lights are on and there’s a sense of passion and excitement about the company, you can really drive those targets home. This is where you come in. People learn how to lead from their bosses. If they’re not visible, there’s a disconnect, and that can lead to managers feeling undervalued.

Here are a few ways to get the best from your management team:

  Get to know your managers – and where possible, the people under them.
  Put the onus on coaching and make sure they know you’re there to help. 
  Always give feedback and praise where it’s due – avoid any public negativity.
  Give plenty of training and professional development opportunities like courses and conferences. Stretch them and give them reason to feel invested in. 
  Offer guidance but don’t dictate how they should manage their people.
  Lead by example – if you want them to do something in a certain way, make sure you’re doing it too.

Sodexo’s ‘Move, Mould, Motivate’ study into employee engagement also found that just 21% of employees say their manager sets them specific goals and targets. This indicates a gap between management expectation and execution. And it could be one reason employee productivity is falling short of the mark. 

By encouraging managers to combine simple, agile goals with transparent and consistent feedback, you can boost employee performance and overall work engagement in a measurable way. Like most work-related issues, it all comes back to good communication.

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 Focus on employee autonomy  

While setting clear tasks and goals is important, this shouldn’t be confused with micro-managing people – far from it. Yes, great managers encourage work engagement by being hands-on, but they also know when to step back and let the IKEA effect kick in

Behavioural psychologists agree that if you put effort and hard work into building something, you can enjoy it all the more. And you’ll continue to get credit for your creation. In the same way, the workplace needs to encourage ownership, recognising success and improving performance.

Steve Jobs certainly knew the importance of equipping and empowering his people to get on and do their job well. He once said, “What’s important is that you have faith in people, that they’re basically good and smart, and if you give them tools, they’ll do wonderful things with them.” Inspiring stuff.

If your managers tell someone a project is theirs to lead, they’re likely to work harder for the organisation and everyone benefits. In the same way, if you offer a manager guidance rather than ‘telling’ them what to do, you can let them develop their own style and identity as a leader.

Give your employees room to grow and it’s more likely that they’ll grow with you.

Seek out good training

Like every other member of staff, your managers need to feel invested in too. Give them chances to develop professionally and they’ll be enthused in their work and this will in turn rub off on everyone else.  

If you’re worried about the cost, trust us, it’ll be nothing compared with having to replace a member of staff who doesn’t feel valued by their organisation.

On top of an expensive recruitment process, it takes employers an average of 28 weeks to get a new recruit up to speed, according to Oxford Economics. It’s well worth avoiding if possible as lost time to interviews, internal training and lost output can be a huge drain on existing resources.  

As we know, employee retention has a direct link with employee engagement. By providing inspiring and memorable training opportunities, you can help staff to feel rewarded and stimulated – keeping their eye firmly on the role they already have.


When it comes to keeping people smiling, it’s meaning, not money that drives us humans most. So, just as it’s all-important that your managers praise employees, it’s also important that they feel recognised for their achievements too. 

All too often, we default to sending emails and not actually approaching people in person but the human touch can go a long way.

James Malia, Sodexo UK’s Director of Employee Benefits says, “Humans are social beings and we put real onus on face-to-face interactions. Managers should be prepared to organise regular one-to-one meetings with employees, as well as team meetings where transparency is the priority.”

Yet Sodexo’s ‘Move, Mould, Motivate’ Survey found that 51% of employees still have four or less one-to-ones with their manager per year.

We’re not saying anyone has to buy doughnuts or anything, but by guiding managers towards increasing human interactions, you can really drive work engagement. Employees will feel more in touch with the powers that be and that can really impact how supported they feel and improve overall wellbeing.

The bottom line is, if you can do it in person, just do it.


So far so good. But what else can you do to really invest in your managers? Employee rewards or performance incentives can inspire your leaders to take their responsibilities to the next level – but they need to be well thought out and relevant to really engage people.

It’s true that staff recognition schemes can be a good way to incentivise employees to go the extra mile. But if the rewards aren’t personal or relevant, their impact will be limited.

Sodexo’s ‘Move, Mould, Motivate’ piece also found that just 10% of employees felt that the rewards offered to them were ‘very relevant’ to their lifestyle and personal interests.

Sure, you can offer staff incentives like gift cards and vouchers, fuel gift cards or travel rewards to people, but if the employee rewards aren’t directly aligned to your organisation and its employees, they won’t impress anybody.

The more thought that goes into recognising success, the better. It’s all about saying thank you in a way that’s meaningful and personal to the individual in question. Get that right and you’ll really start to feel the effects of creating the feel-good factor at work.

 And what could be more powerful than that?

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