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Great Managers Trump All

“The practice of management has fallen behind how people work, live, and want to experience their lives.”

That’s the conclusion of a massive study published this year by the Gallup Company, a leading tracker of management trends. Management practices around the world have failed in maximizing human potential, the study found. The result is a bleak global workplace situation—just 15 percent of employees are engaged at work.

“If that number were to rise to 50 percent, workplaces everywhere would change—and so would the world,” Gallup says in the study, which it published this year as a book, It’s the Manager.

For the study, Gallup reviewed tens of millions of previous interviews of employees and managers conducted in 160 countries over the last few decades, as well as 30 years’ worth of data from its global workplace tracking activities. Gallup also conducted roundtable interviews with chief human resource officers of 300 of the world’s largest organizations and interviewed several prominent economists.

Employee disengagement is a significant problem globally, the study found. In Japan, for example, 94 percent of workers are either not engaged, or actively disengaged, at work. The problem is so serious that the Japanese government has intervened with new policies to address the issue.

“The current practice of management is not only destroying the future of work in Japan, it is destroying Japanese culture,” according to Gallup.

This trend may seem daunting, but there is a solution, Gallup says: great managers. The “manager of the future,” Gallup found, will be those “who maximize the potential of every team member.”

How can a manager of the future do this? To answer this question, Gallup studied the preferences of Millennial and Generation Z employees—those age 37 and under, or the workforce of the future. Gallup then took six of those preferences and made six recommendations for managers.

First, employees want jobs that have meaning, working for organizations with a clear mission and purpose. Managers should make sure that their firm’s culture reflects this.

Second, employees want more than just job satisfaction—they want to pursue development. Managers should ensure development opportunities exist.

Third, employees don’t want bosses; they want coaches. Managers should help employees understand new things, build their strengths, and value them as individuals and employees.

Fourth, employees want ongoing conversations, not annual reviews. The manager should sustain an ongoing dialogue and work on phasing out the annual review.

Fifth, employees don’t want managers who fixate on their weaknesses. The manager should understand weaknesses but focus instead on maximizing strengths.

Sixth, employees now evaluate their jobs with the same high standards they do of their lives: Does this organization value my strengths and my contributions? Does this organization give me a chance to do what I do best every day? Managers should express how the employee is valued and is contributing, and look for opportunities for employees to shine.

Other management experts are advocating for the importance of employee engagement as an effective management and business strategy. For example, in a recent article, executive wellness coach Naz Beheshti said that research shows that employees who feel their voice is heard are nearly five times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work.

Managers also need to understand the increasing expectations of their employees, Beheshti wrote. A recent Glassdoor survey found that 87 percent of employees expect their employer to support them in balancing work and personal commitments.

“The embrace of employee wellness and engagement as strategic imperatives is a significant paradigm shift…that will only grow stronger in the coming year,” Beheshti said.