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Companies and organizations often have that one team that is so exceptional, knocking it out of the park quarter after quarter – while another team can languish, holding many “reasons” and excuses for under-performing.

In this time of low/slow growth factors – and as we all face many uncertainties in the coming year, how are you positioning your teams for growth? Are there opportunities that could be tapped that you may have missed? Are you using the correct metrics, or can those change to motivate your managers to get more efficiency from their teams? Here we address a couple of the several factors that could help you to have a stellar year in 2017.

It’s not a simple answer as there are many. But we all know that one of the big problems in corporate American (and in non-profit organizations) is the lackluster engagement of most employees (70% are disengaged). While it seems that the topic has been over-saturated, there remains some very viable research to indicate that the issue is just not being addressed or not taken seriously enough. So could this be the differentiator between you and your competition?

A recent study by Gallup(1) confirms once again the low employee engagement remains a prime factor, which addresses morale and the other factors that reduce the passion and eagerness for employees to do the very best they can -and do it every day. As a business owner or Human Resource professional, you are most likely aware of the Q12 surveys which indicate the level of your employees’ engagement.

If you have not done one of these surveys – or something similar- in the last 12 months, you could be in for some big surprises – such as employees jumping ship to move to another, better culture, in all probability to one of your competitors. Further, as studies indicate that employees leave managers, not jobs, what are you doing to ensure that your managers are spending the time and necessary effort to cultivate engaged team members – as many are not. Thus, employees get frustrated, may feel unsupported, and may see no room for improvement or movement to higher positions – all which reduce the amount of passion and thus effort, that those employees will expend to further your business interests.

This same study indicates that female managers are clearly generating more engaged employees than do their male counterparts. While the focus of this article is not to again raise the gender issue, there are some notable observations made which indicate that female managers are more likely to support growth and training opportunities, and that they check in with their team reports more frequently. These are the factors that can be addressed both to reinforce the positive behaviors with female mangers and to motivate your male managers to focus more on the emotional needs of your employees. Your employees are not assets like your machinery, rather they are human beings with a multitude of emotions which generate (or don’t generate) the passion they need to carry into the workplace each day, and therefore create the optimal activity that will help your company to grow. The emotional needs of your team thus need to be cultivated – and seemingly this is more a natural attribute to female managers, but which can be learned and cultivated in aware male managers.

Thus, this leads me to the metrics that you may employ in the coming year, to generate more profitability and productivity which seem so difficult to generate organically in the current low-growth economy. Gallup suggests more gender diversity – hire more female managers and develop that natural tendency to support their team. Increase appropriate manager metrics such as turnover, training and development of their direct reports, and annual surveys which indicate the level of engagement. These are as critically important, if not even more, than just sales figures, which can hide many underlying problems.

In light of the coming labor shortages, 2017 should be the year of infrastructure – building solid teams of employees who are happy when they leave at night, and just as happy (and eager) to return the next day. Sound like a fantasy?

See my blog next week (The Exceptional Team – what makes one stand out over the others?”) to see what a real “dream team” looks like and why they act differently.”

(1) Gallup http://www.gallup.com/businessjournal/197552/women-lead-men-key-workplace-engagement-measures.aspx