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Only 17% of the workforce in the UK is engaged and managers account for as much as 70% of the variance in engagement scores (Gallup 2013). Aren’t those striking numbers?

Engaged employees can be defined as those who are involved in, and enthusiastic about, their work and workplace. But – according to the studies – “ the majority of employees are indifferent, sleepwalking through their workday without regard for their performance or their organization’s performance”.

We all know the positive effects of a highly engaged workforce like a high retention rate of people and much better performance metrics such as customer satisfaction, profitability and safety.

We also know how managers have to act and behave to stimulate and create a highly engaged team. Consistent and frequent communication, setting clear expectations, showing care, concern and real interest in people, giving positive feedback and recognition and encourage people’s development are  crucial elements of that behavior.

Managers nowadays have to be able to behave in 3 different roles:

  • the traditional managers role,
  • the role of a leader and
  • the role as a coach.

The traditional manager tells, controls, decides, informs people and manages results.

The leader sells, empowers, allows people to decide, involves and delivers results.

And, the coach asks, enables, helps people to decide, inspires and enhances results.

Where the manager focuses on the task and processes, the leader focuses on the people and emotions, while the coach focuses on the individual.

Today’s managers are expected to play all those roles in the right balance. They have to be capable to understand and select the right role at the right time.

“Good” managers are able to do this, where “bad” managers are not.


Of course all managers would like to have an engaged workforce. Unfortunately many of them try to create this by using their traditional manager’s style, almost telling and demanding people to be engaged. They put targets on engagement scores and try to manage the result. They tell people to change but are not willing or able to change their own behavior. Intellectually they do understand the influence of the manager’s behavior on engagement, but one way or the other they do not relate this to their own behavior. They are used to telling and instructing others and are convinced of their own behaviors are right.


Unless we are able to remove this huge blind spot in all managers, we will not see an improvement in the numbers of engaged people anytime soon.



Lisa graduated with an Honours Degree in Occupational Safety and Health from Aston University in 1983 and has been actively involved in Health and Safety across a broad range of areas ever since.

Lisa is a consultant and past president of IOSH, and has particular interests in audits, stress management, behavioural safety and training.

Within the University she has designed, developed and implemented a standard university health & safety management system audit program, introduced a refreshed approach to stress management supported by a ‘Be Your Best’ programme of activities and events and delivered a wide range of Health & Safety training courses.

Her professional interests away from the University include being a current Member of the Risk Management and Audit Committee and a past President of the Institution of Occupational Safety and Health (IOSH)

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