Walker cites research by Gallup showing that the quality of middle managers determines 70% of the variance between high-performing and low-performing companies. Because managers can instill (or at least heighten) a sense of purpose and meaning in employees’ work, they drive the critical measure of employee engagement, which Gallup defines as a belief among employees that they’re doing meaningful work in a climate that supports personal growth. And that in turn leads to lower turnover, higher productivity and better profits.
This isn’t really an earth-shattering insight (even if the high level of correlation is eye-opening). We’ve all heard the maxim that workers don’t leave companies; they leave their managers. So this makes sense.
But what’s most dangerous in Walker’s prescription is that companies simply need to hire (or train) better managers, and everything will be right with the world. He places the burden for increasing engagement on the individual manager.
That seems risky to me. There’s so much variability in people and environments that a “good” manager in one situation might not be a good manager in another.