How New Managers Can Enter Employee Engagement Efforts

Organizations are not static. People enter, leave, and move around - including managers. It’s not uncommon for new managers to enter employee engagement efforts after the latest census engagement survey took place.

As your team’s new manager, you have a lot on your plate. Beyond performing daily job duties, you also need to get to know how your team operates, build relationships, and position yourself as a new leader. On the one hand, jumping right into employee engagement efforts may seem like a quick and natural way to tackle these To-Dos. But how do you make sense of employee engagement feedback that predates you as the team’s manager? And how can you feel accountable for engagement commitments that may have been decided before you were around?

At the end of the day, you are accountable for your team’s employee engagement efforts. These efforts can have a positive impact even if the engagement survey took place prior to you being the manager. Using the approach below can help you get to know your team, build trusting relationships, and balance your position as manager with valuing the team’s opinions and efforts. 

DO: Demonstrate that engagement matters.

DON’T: Ignore the data from the previous engagement survey.

Managers need to  be accountable for their team’s employee engagement efforts. How you approach it will set the tone for the rest of the team. Make it clear right off the bat that you place a great emphasis on employee engagement and will be discussing engagement more as you get to know the team. And just because the last survey was administered before your arrival doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. That data is filled with insights into what is and isn’t working in the team and organization. It’s basically a cheat sheet to help you get caught up on where your team and the organization stands.

DO: Seek understanding.

DON’T: Take immediate action.

There is value in setting the tone for your team from day one, but we recommend taking a slower approach when it comes to engagement. You don’t want to come in and immediately make sweeping changes. Do your homework first: review the engagement survey results, ask your team members questions, request feedback, and try to gauge where the team is mentally and emotionally.  Be a sponge and understand the workplace before you act. This research will help you gain a sense of the current culture and team members. Once you have this information, you can begin considering adjustments.

DO: Get to know your people.

DON’T: Bring biases into the job.

No two organizations are exactly alike, and it would be wrong to assume what worked and failed at your previous position will do the same in this new opportunity. Use one-on-one meetings with employees to gain a sense of where the organization and team stand. Keep an open mind at all times.

DO: Value efforts that have already been made.

DON’T: Completely start over with the team.     

You might be tempted to hit the reset button on the previous manager’s employee engagement strategy, but patience is a virtue. If commitments have already been made, promote those through and see how they turn out. Source feedback on engagement efforts you’re unfamiliar with. Get perspective from the team. Sometimes the original intent of an initiative was good, but the follow-through was lacking. Keeping an open mind and trying out the committed efforts can open you to new ideas. If they don’t work, you can make adjustments.

DO: Communicate.

DON’T: Stay quiet as you learn and absorb.

As you gather your intel, continuously communicate back what you’re seeing and hearing. Explain how this helps you better understand the team’s engagement strengths and challenges. Communicate what next steps may occur and when as it relates to the team’s employee engagement efforts. This constant communication reinforces that you are making engagement a priority and truly care about the employees’ well-being.