Economists continue to debate if we, in the United States, are heading into a recession. The belief is that after the Federal Reserve began raising interest rates, the recession would begin. But what is missed, unless you’re in a human resource management type of role, the country is already in a recession – not an economic recession, but an emotional one.

Decrease in employee engagement

Gallup has been tracking U.S. employee engagement since 2000; since 2020, we have been trending downward. Meaning those disengaged engaged employees will continue to experience a decrease in productivity, customer loyalty, and profitability.

In HRM, we face the fact that there is one role that fixes the situation. One role that, when developed to near-perfect performance, they carry the weight of their teams’ engagement up to 70%.

That role is the one leaders deem ‘manager.’ Manager of people, not process. Globally, Gallup found common answers to improve workplaces when asked, “What changes would you make to make your workplace better?”

Here are some quotes from the study results:

  • “I would change the boss” (Brazil)
  • “I would like it if the managers were more approachable” (UK)
  • “I would like there to be a good working environment where we all treat each other with equality and respect” (Mexico)
  • “The boss must treat everyone fairly” (South Africa)

Many HR leaders believe that employees generally enjoy their daily work, but what they really want is a good manager. A manager that acts more like a coach and less like a boss. HR Leaders must rely on managers to create a great employee experience for their organization and customers during this emotional downturn. The world depends on it.

The importance of strong managers

A coach-like manager is someone you can rely on to be on the field with you. Additionally coaching you through decisions and helping you remove workplace barriers for you to do what you do best every day. A coaching manager cares about the person well enough for them to know their employee’s talents and ways they can individualize to each team member.

The payoff to business is the most competitive edge attribute companies can tell their story about – employee engagement.  In years past, the term engagement was soft. It was considered more as a survey once a year. However, proven by scholars of behavioral economics, like Noble Prize winner Daniel Kahneman, that emotions elicit a reaction that is driven by behaviors.

In business, increasing the engagement of the employee yields performance excellence. The role who owns up to 70% of this process is the manager.

Finding and recruiting skilled managers is difficult and will remain a challenge in the competition for talented individuals. HR leaders can start immediately by ensuring that the competencies of what they expect of their leaders align with the techniques of a coaching manager.

For example, a coach’s primary purpose is to develop the skills of their team. Translated into a competency could be ‘develop people.’

Therefore, in your competencies, ensuring that the behaviors are aligned with developing people would start with ensuring your interview questions are aligned with this concept of hiring a coaching manager. After all, the desire for a coach like a manager remains among the top 3 reasons employees leave or join an organization.

About the author

Adam Hickman, PhD, is an adjunct instructor within CUWAA’s MBA program. He also serves as the Vice President of Organizational and Cast Development at the Walt Disney Company and is an internationally known expert in workplace management practices. He consults with clients to develop integrated programs for employee development based on the latest scholarly resources and practitioner knowledge. As a scholar and practitioner, Dr. Hickman helps clients worldwide assess their human capital management needs and design performance optimization strategies.

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