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Is Employee Engagement a Managerial Competency?

This morning, I attended a Canada-wide compensation trends webinar. An alarming study revealed to those in attendance that more than 37% of employees would jump jobs if an increase of 10% or more in pay in the next 12 months₁. With the rising inflation and the lingering effects of the epidemic, employers are scratching their heads to develop operationally feasible and budget-creative methods to ensure employee satisfaction and retention. It is no secret that retaining engaged employees is more affordable than hiring new workers. Therefore, fostering employee engagement has become an urgent employer concern.

Employee Engagement, in its simplest form, means employees are doing the work they are supposed to do, which yields evidence of commitment and meaningful, valuable results. The most common drivers of employee engagement include:

  1. Meaningful and challenging work

  2. Respectful environment and effective managers

  3. Alignment of individual work with the organization’s objectives and values

  4. Ethical and competent leadership

  5. Fair compensation and recognition

  6. Open and two-way communication

  7. Pursuit of individual professional development goals, etc.

Based on this list, it is obvious that managers constitute one of the most critical factors that can either contribute to or crush employees’ engagement: the interactions between managers and employees and the behaviours that managers exhibit significantly impact the workers. Therefore, there has been a discernible trend toward demanding managers develop more people-management competencies in recent years.

People-management competencies can vary widely. What are the two fundamental yet critical engagement skills that managers need to possess?

1. Getting to know the team members

Engagement is an individual concept: how employees feel about their attachment to their organization and how much they are willing to go above and beyond to deliver varies from one person to another. To enhance engagement, managers must spend the time and effort to get to know their staff. Getting to know the team can focus on a few areas:

I. Getting to know the individual’s background

Communicating and getting work done in a virtual environment reduced the emotional connection between team members. Coupled with the fact that many people work multiple jobs to combat the rising cost of living, people have little time left to spend with each other. Getting to know team members builds the trust and connection that are much needed. When managers show interest in the team members, employees also feel more included in the work environment: they are more comfortable working with people they know.

While getting to know the staff, managers should also allow time for the staff to get to know them and develop mutual trust.

II. Getting to know the individual’s strengths and interests

Knowing team members’ strengths and interests gives managers the requisite knowledge of their workers and how to assign/design jobs that will utilize their strengths and match their interests. Research shows that when employees are explicitly encouraged to use their talent to pursue a goal, individual engagement improves from 9% to 15%2.

III. Getting to know the individual’s challenges

The pandemic created and amplified challenges. Few can completely put their personal challenges behind them when they enter the office or log on to a computer to start working. A member of our organization who demonstrated superior performance had shown obvious errors and impatience toward clients. I did not want to make baseless assumptions or lose a great member who needed support. Because of our trusting relationship, I was comfortable inviting him to discuss the issues I observed. Without the need to know all details of his personal challenges, I offered support by adjusting his schedule and workload. In two weeks, this team member gradually showed improvement. After a month, he came to me and said that he had dealt with what he needed to handle and was now ready to go back to the full swing of work again.

A group of employees cheering
Engaged employees

Obtaining resources and tailoring support to team members

Each worker needs their manager in different ways. Some need their manager to be a teacher, some need their manager to be a coach, and others need their manager to be a remover of obstacles. Managers can tailor their support after understanding the team members' backgrounds, strengths, interests and challenges. Furthermore, there are times when the support that workers need is beyond the manager’s capacity. In this case, managers need to use tactics to obtain resources from upper management or stand up for their staff. Employees need emotional support and concrete resources to complete their work, especially if it involves multiple parties.

If you are one of the businesses experiencing declining worker engagement or productivity, you are not in this alone. According to Gallup's State of the Global Workplace report, most employees are disengaged. In 2021, only 20% of employees worldwide and 34% of employees in the U.S. were engaged in their work3. Engagement is an individual connection to the work and the organization, and managers play a vital role in their employee experience. While many organizations emphasize their employee engagement programs, the focus should actually be on ensuring that managers develop the needed engagement competencies.


  1. Charity Village. (2022). Introducing the Canadian Nonprofit Sector Salary & Benefits Report: Pandemic Edition (2022) Webinar.

  2. Brian J. Brim, E. D. (2022, September 22). How a focus on people's strengths increases their work engagement. Retrieved October 26, 2022, from

  3. Royal, K. (2022, April 29). Who's Responsible for Employee Engagement? Retrieved October 25, 2022, from


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