How to Motivate and Engage Front-Line Managers

Last Updated Dec 4, 2007 3:38 PM EST

dangling-carrots.jpgConsidering only 25 percent of employees are truly engaged by their work -- and if you believe 80 percent of the work is done by 20 percent of people -- that leaves a lot of employees either going through the motions or otherwise underachieving. Managers are no exception.

We've offered tips for identifying an incompetent manager and learning to say you're fired, but amid a looming leadership crisis, it may not be wise to pull out your best Trump impression every time a supervisor shows signs of struggle. After all, a lot of managers find themselves promoted after excelling in their chosen field but lack the skills necessary to handle people and take charge. Ignorance can destroy confidence, which in turn affects performance. Aside from dangling a few carrots -- which often isn't enough on its own -- what's an executive to do? Depends on who you talk to.

  1. Invest in formal management training, like Dell and Home Depot, "to better motivate and engage workers in an increasingly global and fast-paced environment."
  2. Turn front-line managers into forecasters, but decouple the process from incentive compensation to ensure they don't purposely set low expectations.
  3. Give them greater ownership over the performance management system to instill a passion for quality.
  4. Teach managers to be leaders by engaging them in the leadership process.
  5. Encourage innovation at the frontline, not only because this is beneficial for the organization, but because there is believed to be a link between innovation and motivation.
Have some thoughts to add about management incentives? Add them to the list.

(Dangling Carrots image courtesy of Vic Lic, cc 2.0)