The Gatehouse Blog

The Engaging Manager – making the case for investment

Earlier this week I led a free Gatehouse Academy webinar exploring the notion of The Engaging Manager.

Focused on the critical role of line managers in the communication/engagement mix, it was attended by in-house communicators for the UK, France, Germany, Denmark, the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (if you’re an in house practitioner and you missed it, don’t worry – we’ll be running it again on March 11 so make sure you sign up today). 

One of the topics we discussed during the session was the business case for investing time and energy in line managers – a topic I’m passionate about.

Survey after survey reinforces what we already know in this area and what our gut has told us for years. For example, a recent Watson Wyatt survey ‘Capitalising on Effective Communication’ headlines that “the best [companies] invest is in helping managers communicate with their employees”. They go on to say that companies that are highly effective communicators had 47 percent higher total returns to shareholders over the last five years compared with firms that are the least effective communicators.

Meanwhile Best Companies, the organisation behind the respected annual Sunday Times Best Companies to Work For survey lists “How employees feel about and communicate with their direct manager” as one of their leading engagement indicators.

Elsewhere there is evidence that poor line management is, quite literally, making people and organisations sick. The National Institute for Health & Clinical Excellence (NICE) reckons the total cost to the UK economy of work related stress, anxiety and depression is now a staggering £28bn – more than 14 million work days are lost every year due to these conditions. It says that businesses can make their employees happier, reduce costs and boost productivity by following a few basic guidelines – like giving positive feedback, encouraging flexible working and giving days off as a reward. These are all influenced, at least in part, by line managers.

Underlining this point recruitment firm Badenoch & Clark recently found that 91% of employees are stressed at work – and worse still, seven in 10 are too scared to raise their concerns with their bosses. And back in the Spring a Finnish study concluded that poor team spirit at work can increase the chance of developing depression by more than half.

The evidence has been stacking up for over a decade now and there are dozens of studies that can be used to show the links between line manager behaviour (good and bad), employee engagement (and disengagement) and the bottom line.

Recent experience has underlined our long held view that creating the right environment for effective and valued line manager communication to flourish is the real battleground for communicators. More than ever before organisations are crying out for their employees to be more engaged. We all know the theory and buy the logic – the question now is can we now deliver on it?

Lee Smith, Gatehouse