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Is the line-manager relationship the key engagement factor?

An employee’s relationship with their line-manager can play an enormous role in their overall engagement with their work. Many readers, for example, might be able to think of a personal experience where they enjoyed their job but struggled to get along with their manager; or an instance where they were indifferent to a role, but stayed because their line manager was supportive and skilled.


Line managers are often employees’ principle touch-point with the organisation’s hierarchy, and may well be the sole translator of much of the organisation’s strategy, mission and values. This means they are a large part of what employees consider as representative of the organisation at large, while also being responsible for taking high-level strategy and making it relevant to the teams that will get things done.


Supporting these line managers to properly facilitate this engagement is, therefore, crucial for organisational success. They need the proper time, resources and training to fully engage with their staff, and they need to be able to motivate employees through a clear crystalisation of what the organisation is trying to achieve. In short, they need to be at the centre of an organisation’s engagement approach.


Managers, for example, need to understand how to adapt their approach to management to different teams and individuals, being responsive to different personal and cultural motivations. To do this, managers need to be equipped with suitable skills to be able to turn their approach to different needs, and they need the time to be able to properly understand what drives different members of their team.


This connection with their team also runs the other way, in terms of line managers being empowered to feed engagement drivers up the organisation. Providing opportunities for line managers to feedback to senior managers and leadership on what their teams need to keep them engaged provides an opportunity for senior leaders to stay engaged with what is happening ‘on the shop floor’. This means a more genuine two-way relationship occurs throughout the whole organisation, and removes the perception that strategy and demands are simply fed downwards.

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