5 Key Findings from State of the American Manager Report

Gallup released its latest State of the American Manager Report this week.* The renowned research and consulting company did its homework. The report is based on four decades of research and a study of 2.5 million manager-led teams in 195 countries. These folks analyzed the engagement of 27 million employees. So I tend to believe the results. And they are not pretty.

Although as the Turnaround Authority, I do get more consulting assignments related to the failings of managers as pointed out in this report. But that doesn’t make me happy about the state of management in our country.

Today I’ll share the most important findings of the report, and in future blogs, will delve deeper into some of these findings.

  • Manager talent is rare, and organizations have a hard time finding it

Wow. Research showed that the majority of managers are not suited to their role; 82 percent don’t have the high talent required. That talent naturally exists in just 1 in 10 people, but two in 10 can be trained to be successful managers.

The study listed five talents of great managers. They motivate their employees, make unbiased decisions for the good of the team and the company, create a culture of accountability, build trusting relationships and assert themselves to overcome obstacles.

  • Talent is the most powerful predictor of performance

If you hire a talented manager, you can expect a 48 percent increase in profitability. That’s huge.

These managers are more engaged, function as brand ambassadors for the company and focus more on employees’ strengths than weaknesses.

  • Managers have the greatest impact on engagement

I don’t know how research companies figure out such things, but Gallup research found that managers who are not engaged in their jobs or who are actively disengaged, cost the U.S. economy $319 billion to $398 billion annually. Or roughly the GNP of our entire country in 1953.

And the percentages of managers who are not engaged are high: 51 percent are not engaged, 14 percent are actively disengaged for a total of 65 percent.

Equally disturbing is the finding that at some point in their career, one in two employees have left their job to get away from their manager.

    •   Female managers have an engagement advantage

It’s true guys, according to Gallup. Female managers are more likely to be engaged than male managers, at 41 percent versus 35.

For the highest percentage of engaged employees, look for females working for a female manager. They will have a 35 percent engagement rate. Male employees working for male managers had the lowest rate, at just 25 percent.

  • Specific behaviors can help managers increase employee engagement

I suppose this is a glimmer of good news. At this point in reviewing the report, I felt I needed it.

Two-thirds of employees who strongly agree that their manager helps them set work priorities and goals are engaged. And more than half of employees who strongly agree that their manager is open and approachable are engaged.

I do agree that managers can adapt certain behaviors that can engage employees in their companies. For tips of keeping your employees engaged, see my previous column, “Top Tips for Keeping Employees Engaged.”

Stay tuned in the coming weeks as I talk more about what the findings of the report are and what you can do about it in your company.

* Click here to download a PDF of the report.










Top Tips for Keeping Employees Engaged

Last week in the column, “When Your Employees Hate Their Job,” I wrote about the lack of engagement among workers. In the U.S. it is estimated that only 30 percent of employees claim to be engaged at work, according to a recent Gallup survey of 5.4 million adults. I also included tips on what you could do about it that included changing vacation and sick day policies and letting employees write their own job descriptions.

This week, I’d like to share more radical approaches some companies have taken to make sure they have a more engaged work force. I will also share my top tips for re-engaging employees after a company goes through tough times.

How about paying people to quit? Yep, that’s what Amazon does. You can be paid up to $5,000 just to quit. This simple program is called Pay to Quit and that’s exactly what it is. All employees in the fulfillment centers are eligible for it.

Jeff Bezos, chief of Amazon, talked about the program in a recent article in Time magazine, “Amazon Will Pay You $5,000 to Quit Your Job.”

“Once a year, we offer to pay our associates to quit. The first year the offer is made, it’s for $2,000. Then it goes up one thousand dollars a year until it reaches $5,000,” he said.

The company doesn’t really want its employees to quit. In fact, the headline on the offer is  “Please Don’t Take This Offer.” The goal is to get rid of unmotivated employees. As Bezos said, “In the long-run, an employee staying somewhere they don’t want to be isn’t healthy for the employee or the company.”

The program started at Zappos and was adapted by Amazon when it purchased the online shoe retailer. The reasoning is that it costs less in the long run to get rid of employees who don’t wish to be there than keeping these unmotivated employees on the payroll.

It’s not the first such offer the employees get. After an intensive four-week training program and one week on the actual job at Zappos, employees receive “The Offer.” They will receive a $2,000 bonus in addition to pay for the amount of time they have worked if they leave. According to Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh, 97 percent decline.

In my work as a turnaround authority, I have seen what can happen to companies when the employees are actively disengaged. In fact, reengaging employees is one of my greatest challenges when I take over a company. It can be almost impossible to turnaround a company when employees are unmotivated. They work slower, make more mistakes due to basic negligence and may ignore requests of their supervisors.

So how do you do get them back on board when a company is in such bad shape? By that point, it’s too late for measures like changing leave policies or paying folks to leave. They would probably exit in droves!

At that point my ability to reengage employees and turn the company around relies on two things: communication and buy-in.

I tell the story in my book “How Not to Hire a Guy Like Me” about working with an apparel manufacturer. The president had been fired and the company was undergoing a crisis of leadership. The interim president was constantly changing restructuring plans and announcing firings and closings almost daily, creating an emotional roller coast for the staff.

We had to conduct extensive meetings to earn support to proceed with our forbearance agreement and have time to hire a new president.

We had to be very open and honest about our plans with the staff. Once they learned they were an integral part of the process and were hearing the truth from us, we earned their trust. And we got buy-in from them for the path we were taking.

This kind of buy-in was contagious up and down the organization, and this spirit amongst the staff contributed immensely because people felt they were a part of the turnaround. They were committed to the company and seeing it survive. Anything I needed from them I got. I couldn’t have done it without communication and buy-in.