What role does a manager play in staff engagement? According to the 80 odd years of data analysis on workplaces that Gallup has done says that 70% of the variance in team engagement is determined solely by their direct manager. In short, employees leave managers.

I became a manager by default like many in our industry. I was a good(ish) waiter who was thrown some keys one night and told to lock up, aside from being shown how to cash up, that was pretty much the extent of my training. I truly didn’t know how good or bad a manager I was and certainly wasn’t encouraged to find out.

Starting my own company 13 years ago meant that any weaknesses I had as a manager were magnified when people looked at me to lead them and I needed a reliable way to get a hold on how my team was feeling. As Peter Drucker says, “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it.”

I found the tool I was looking for when I read Gallup’s “First Break all the Rules” by Marcus Buckingham and Curt Coffman in which they detail Gallup’s findings from over 500,000 interviews with employees and 80,000 managers trying to measure what makes an engaged employee. They helpfully distilled this mountain of information into 12 questions which they called the Q12. 

Each of the 12 questions has one or more links to productivity, profitability, retention and customer satisfaction. With our clients, we usually survey staff anonymously with a mark for the area they work (management, back of house, front of house, kitchen etc) It is quick to do, staff simply mark each question on a scale of 1 to 5. The 12 questions are:

1. Do you know what is expected of you at work?

2. Do you have the materials and equipment to do your work right?

3. At work, do you have the opportunity to do what you do best every day?

4. In the last seven days, have you received recognition or praise for doing good


5. Does your supervisor, or someone at work, seem to care about you as a person?

6. Is there someone at work who encourages your development?

7. At work, do your opinions seem to count?

8. Does the mission/purpose of your company make you feel your job is important?

9. Are your associates (fellow employees) committed to doing quality work?

10. Do you have a best friend at work?

11. In the last six months, has someone at work talked to you about your progress?

12. In the last year, have you had opportunities to learn and grow?

The result? You will have a benchmark on exactly how engaged your employees are and the areas you need to work on to improve. Gather suggestions from your team and make sure you follow through. Rinse and repeat every 3 to 6 months.