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Rick Blabolil

If You Want Engaged Employees, Focus on Manager Wellbeing

June is the 7th Annual “Employee Wellbeing Month,” whose sponsors include WorldatWork. By shining a spotlight on employee wellbeing,we draw attention to the value of employees and a holistic view of each individual. I’d suggest, however, that we narrow that spotlight a bit and focus it on one aspect of employee wellbeing: the wellbeing of managers. Here’s why:

“Managers with high wellbeing are twice as likely to be engaged at work,” according to research from Gallup. Yet only 35 percent of managers are actively engaged at work and managers account for “70 percent of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units” according to the same survey.

The culture of wellbeing

I’m not suggesting that employers create special wellbeing programs for managers—that could send a negative message to other employees and even cross some legal boundaries for workplace wellness programs. But I am suggesting a strategy that creates a workplace culture where managers have the opportunity to develop a strong sense of wellbeing. Managers who thrive:

  • Feel their work has a purpose
  • See that their opinions are heard and valued
  • Are encouraged to pursue professional development and supported when they do
  • Are in positions where they are doing what they do best
  • Work in concert with associates who are committed to quality

Of course these characteristics could also apply to employees broadly, but they are strongly associated with managers who are happy and engaged in their work. Engaged managers have a huge impact on a team’s success: employees who are supervised by a highly engaged manager are 59 percent more likely to be engaged than those supervised by an actively disengaged manager. An engaged manager supervising engaged employees leads to increased productivity, better-quality work and lower turnover.

Wellbeing: a shared responsibility

Increasing wellbeing is both a corporate and a personal responsibility. At the organizational level, companies should strive to create a culture of wellbeing, reinforcing to managers and employees that wellbeing is integral to the business strategy. Wellbeing must align with and be part of a company’s policies, structure and incentives.

Five elements have been identified as important to a sense of wellbeing. A comprehensive wellbeing strategy that encompasses all five elements of wellbeing—not just physical health—and that builds on the relationships between the five elements is crucial to improving managers’ and employees’ wellbeing.

These five elements are:

  • Career wellbeing: employees like what they do every day
  • Social wellbeing: employees have strong relationships
  • Financial wellbeing: employees can effectively manage their economic life
  • Physical wellbeing: employees have good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis
  • Community wellbeing: employees feel a sense of engagement with the community in which they live

These elements are the currency of a life that matters. They do not include every nuance of what’s important in life, but they do represent five broad categories that are essential to most people.

Although 66 percent of people are doing well in at least one of these areas, just 7 percent are thriving in all five. If we’re struggling in any one of these domains, as most of us are, it damages our wellbeing and wears on our daily life. When we strengthen our wellbeing in any of these areas, we will have better days, months, and decades. But we’re not getting the most out of our lives unless we’re living effectively in all five.

Although employee wellbeing programs can’t be structured to single out individuals or groups of individuals for special treatment (there are some exceptions but that’s another topic), it is important to recognize differences in motivation. These differences can be reflected in the design, messaging and rewards. It’s the organization saying, “Your wellbeing is the most important thing to us.” Now that is upfront and personal—and encourages your managers to pass it on!

To revise or implement your workforce wellness program, contact a Marketing Innovators solutions expert.

Here’s an earlier blog with some suggestions on getting managers on board with employee engagement programs: How to Get Manager Buy-In for Workforce Engagement


Sources:, Business Journal, April 24, 2015.