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August 31, 2011

How important is an effective manager?

Daily Briefing

    The following is adapted from EEI Insights, the dedicated newsletter for the Employee Engagement Initiative.

    While many factors of an organization impact engagement levels, the relationship between managers and employees is arguably one of the most critical. Well managed employees are able to overlook many other shortcomings of their organization, including lower pay, older equipment, and slimmer benefits. The general belief is that people leave managers, not organizations–but how true is this?

    Recent research from the Employee Engagement Initiative national database shows that individuals who rate their manager as excellent are five times more engaged than those who rate their manager as poor. Put another way, 85% of employees with excellent managers are engaged versus only 17% of employees with poor managers–that’s quite a large discrepancy. On the flipside, less than 1% of employees with excellent managers are disengaged, versus nearly 25% of employees who rate their manager as problematic.


    Clearly, managers and supervisors have a profound impact on the work life of the employees who report to them. This responsibility can be daunting--managers can make or break an organization’s ability to retain its top talent. How can we best support them in this critical role?

    What really matters to staff?
    In order to improve management, we must first understand what makes a manager effective. EEI has isolated ten drivers that measure the quality of an individual’s manager:

    Manager Effectiveness Index

    • My organization helps me deal with stress and burnout 
    • My manager stands up for the interests of my unit/department 
    • My most recent performance review helped me to improve 
    • Conflicts are resolved fairly in my unit/department 
    • My manager is open and responsive to staff input 
    • My manager communicates messages that my coworkers need to hear, even when the information is unpleasant 
    • My manager helps me learn new skills 
    • I have helpful discussions with my manager about my career 
    • I receive regular feedback from my manager on my performance 
    • My manager helps me balance my job and personal life
    • My organization helps me deal with stress and burnout 

    How should these drivers influence the way managers interact with their direct reports? Our researchers have identified four primary themes from the list above to help translate the data into action.

    1. Care for people as individuals, not just employees
    Only 36% of employees agree that their organization helps them deal with stress and burnout, despite the fact that it is the number one indicator of manager effectiveness. The good news is it doesn’t take much to make an employee feel valued as a person. Beginning each meeting by asking how their day is going, remembering important personal events, and acknowledging a job well done with a hand-written thank you note are all simple tactics that can go a long way.

    2. Provide regular feedback on performance
    Four of the ten drivers indicative of manager effectiveness reflect the importance of holding regular discussions with employees about professional development. Ongoing constructive feedback not only helps employees enhance their skills, but also builds trust and encourages open communication among managers and employees. Don’t reserve feedback for formal performance appraisals–give it early and often to promote continued growth.

    3. Keep the lines of communication open
    Two-way communication is critical to developing a healthy manager-employee working relationship. Employees want to feel as though they are a valued member of the team, and their feedback is appreciated. The good news is we are performing well in this area (nearly 65% of employees feel that their manager is open and responsive to staff input), but there is still room for improvement. Don’t simply gather feedback-–act on it. If a suggestion cannot be implemented, take the time to explain why.

    4. Serve as an advocate for employees to both peers and leaders
    As more and more demands are placed on frontline staff, it’s increasingly important that they feel supported by their manager. As such, it is not surprising that having a manager who is willing to stand up for the interests of the department is the number two driver of manager effectiveness. Employees want to trust their manager is not only willing to address conflicts among staff and communicate difficult messages, but they are also comfortable representing the department’s best interests to leaders or peers in other areas.

    Access now
    Employee Engagement Initiative members may access the Dynamic Resource Crosswalk for best practices on increasing manager effectiveness. Daily Briefing readers with questions about the Employee Engagement Initiative may email

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