Who should be responsible for employee engagement at my business?
Provided you’re not afraid of the extra scrutiny that comes with it, employee engagement can work wonders for your business, from improved productivity to better staff retention and reduced absenteeism. But, at the end of the day, who is responsible for employee engagement?
Who owns employee engagement
Employee engagement affects every level of an organisation. But who’s actually responsible for creating a workplace culture with highly engaged employees? Is it senior leadership? After all, the senior team has unparalleled ability to affect organisational change from the top down. But there can still be a divide between the culture a senior leader strives for, and the culture their employees embody.
So, perhaps it’s HR – many people would say so.
Human Resources personnel typically work behind the scenes to enact policies and handle large-scale workplace challenges. So, in the discussion of who is responsible for employee engagement, it’s easy to pawn it off on them. Whenever a policy needs implementing, like a new system of feedback or new benefits packages, it’s down to HR to establish practical frameworks for them.
But some workplace cultures have a divide between HR and other employees. A 2018 survey found that over 70% of employees in large tech companies are distrustful of HR. This, combined with how hidden they can be, means they also can’t lead by example like managers and CEOs do.
Like senior leaders, managers can lead by example. The amount of time they spend with their teams gives them direct insight into the issues their team deals with on a daily basis.
But a manager’s influence doesn’t usually extend far past their team, or past their level of seniority. While managers might know what needs to be done, they don’t have the ability to affect broad change across the whole organisation.
So, who is responsible for employee engagement?
The simplest answer is that we all are, from the company’s founder and CEO, right down to their most junior employee. But there are a few standouts…
Employee engagement roles and responsibilities
Just because engagement is on everyone’s shoulders doesn’t mean that we all contribute in the same way. A well-oiled machine needs a variety of different parts, so it’s important for people on different levels of the business to push for engagement in the ways only they can.
C-Suite: Engagement Champions
One of the biggest blockers to high engagement is when a company’s most senior leadership aren’t on-board with engagement-centric policies. As your company’s most powerful influencers, it’s therefore essential that your CEO or board of directors be serious employee engagement advocates. Engagement champions must craft a long-term vision for engagement, while supporting HR’s policy rollouts. They’re also responsible for communicating and providing updates across the business.
HR Leadership: Engagement Facilitators
Much of the busywork of enabling engagement falls to HR leadership and their subordinates, including the shaping of general policy. They need to work alongside IT to pick the right tools for employees, and provide solid answers to any engagement-related queries.
It's down to HR to reciprocate the support given to them by senior leaders and managers advocating for engagement. But it’s also their responsibility to hold people accountable, whether they’re a high-ranking manager or a ground-level employee.
Managers: Engagement Implementors
Without exaggeration, managers can make or break employee engagement, as they account for 70% variance in engagement statistics. Managers are responsible for setting goals and motivating employees to reach them. They should frequently exchange open and honest feedback with their staff, which requires a high level of trust. Beyond feedback, managers should take the time to recognise employee contributions and achievements, while identifying employees who show enough promise to be promoted.
IT Personnel: Engagement Gatekeepers
Although HR play a key role in determining what tools are needed in the workplace, it’s down to IT to mediate this process. IT personnel need to be able to perform a cost/benefit analysis of any new hardware or software.
HR leaders need to involve IT in these decisions early on, as they’re the ones who will be conducting installations and specialised training. They’re the ones most likely to know about compatibility issues or other problems that might send you back to the drawing board.
Your people: Engagement Benefactors
The main responsibilities of employees in engagement-centric workplace cultures are to understand why these policies are being implemented, to provide feedback on what is or isn’t working, and to seek out opportunities for career development or personal growth. They should also regularly share progress and experience updates with their manager to provide data for HR.
Employee engagement activities for your business
So, with the issue of who is responsible for employee engagement out of the way, it’s time to talk about the practical methods for improving engagement across the whole organisation.
- Continuous feedback: Anonymous engagement surveys and annual performance reviews are seriously outdated. If you want anything more than a snapshot in time, you need ongoing feedback processes like an employee check-in. Ongoing feedback ensures HR can track changes over time, and that issues don’t get swept under the rug.
- Employee recognition: To be engaged, employees need to feel valued beyond just getting their paycheck. Recognition from a manager is better for long-term engagement than performance-based incentives, but it’s important not to overlook peer recognition, as according to SHRM, it’s actually more effective than managerial praise.
- More effective goal tracking: Employees tend to be the most engaged when they’re able to approach work in their own way. Using a modern goal-tracking system like SMART Goals or OKRs enables you to take a more results-focused approach, while making it clearer than ever how employee contributions add up to business success.
- Better 1:1 conversations: Annual performance reviews may be dead, but that doesn’t mean employees don’t want to sit down with their boss. 1:1s enable you to have personal, private discussions about anything from employee wellbeing to goals for personal improvement. Much like recognition, direct 1:1s add a vital human element that helps engagement.