This article was updated on Aug. 29, 2018.

"First, Break All the Rules: What Great Managers Do Differently" is a book by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman that provides a unique perspective on talent acquisition, engagement and retention. As part of a series of must-read books for HR leaders, this is a deep dive into their advice on employee engagement. The author's assert that employees often leave firms because of managers.

HR leaders can help develop managers' talents and their ability to engage with their staff in order to increase engagement. Here are some insights the authors share about improving engagement.

Levels of Engagement

Gallup identifies three types of employees along an engagement spectrum. A shocking 70 percent of employees aren't engaged, according to Gallup. The three levels of engagement are:

  • Engaged. An engaged employee is one that's passionate about their work, feels connected to the business and is driving forward with innovation, progress and goals.
  • Not engaged. When an employee is not engaged, they're in a "checked out" mode. They show up for work each day and do their tasks, but aren't passionate, innovative or making deeper contributions.
  • Actively disengaged. Not only are these employees deeply unhappy, but they're acting out and may be working against the organization's objectives on a daily basis.

Increase Engagement With These 4 Steps

HR leaders can implement the insights from "First, Break All the Rules" to help improve employee engagement.

1. Align Employees With Roles Where Their Talents Help Them Succeed

When employees are using their top talents every day, they show up at work as the best possible version of themselves. Managers and HR leaders can support this by ensuring that they place workers in roles that align with their talents and support their strengths. When weaknesses are identified, managers can work with employees to manage around these and focus on helping employees to overcome challenges.

2. Engage Employees Around Their Development

Focus on helping employees with their own development. Recognize what they're doing well, and take the time to understand their long-term goals. When your management activities center on an employee's long-term development goals, it can increase their engagement as they sense opportunity and have something to work toward.

3. Make Personal Connections

While professional boundaries should always be respected, employees are more engaged when they have strong relationships at work. This includes elements such as having friends at work, feeling like they're part of a team and believing their manager cares about them as an individual. In order to foster these bonds, encourage your managers to take the time to build relationships and connect with one another on a regular basis. Stronger bonds can lead to higher engagement.

4. Proactively Manage Employees

The authors note that successful managers keep evaluation models simple. Employees have clear metrics that they're performing against. Managers should meet frequently with employees to assess their progress and provide feedback. When possible, focus on the future, including ways to improve and how that opens up additional avenues of growth for the worker.

Empowering your managers to actively connect with employees can have a profound impact on employee engagement. From building relationships that focus on positive reinforcement to communicating regularly about performance, HR leaders can guide management teams to take small steps that make a major difference. Taking steps to move disengaged employees to a state where they're excited, motivated and performing at their highest levels can drive a significant boost to the bottom line.

Other articles in this series:

"First, Break All the Rules" on Talent Acquisition

"First, Break All the Rules" Is a Must-Read for HR Leaders

"First, Break All the Rules" on Employee Retention

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