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Employee engagement is everyone's responsibility. Not HR’s alone.

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Tra­di­tion­al­ly, the respon­si­bil­i­ty of mea­sur­ing employ­ee engage­ment has been pushed to HR. This usu­al­ly con­sists of year­ly employ­ee engage­ment sur­veys, with hun­dreds of ques­tions to rep­re­sent how engaged the work­force is. How­ev­er, research shows that only 22% of com­pa­nies are get­ting good results from engage­ment sur­veys. In real­i­ty, this approach has a cou­ple of flaws. First­ly, how can HR accu­rate­ly gauge whether employ­ees are engaged in their work, if they aren’t direct­ly involved in their day to day? Sec­ond­ly, respons­es to occa­sion­al sur­veys are sub­ject to how your employ­ees are doing at that par­tic­u­lar time. Any issues an employ­ee may have expe­ri­enced a few months ago, is rarely tak­en into account. Or if an employ­ee is hav­ing a par­tic­u­lar­ly bad week the week of the engage­ment sur­vey, that could influ­ence their answer, regard­less of how immersed they usu­al­ly are in their work. This results in dis­tort­ed and unre­li­able data. 

If you tru­ly want to find out how engaged the work­force is, you need to share the respon­si­bil­i­ty. Direct man­agers, senior lead­ers and employ­ees all have a shared respon­si­bil­i­ty towards engage­ment with HR as the facil­i­ta­tors of engage­ment ini­tia­tives. In this arti­cle, we look at the ways in which HR, senior lead­ers, man­agers and employ­ees, can all con­tribute towards work engagement. 

HR should hold every­one accountable

HR should take own­er­ship of the engage­ment strat­e­gy by pitch­ing it to senior lead­ers and ensur­ing it runs smooth­ly. How­ev­er, you shouldn’t be held account­able for the engage­ment ini­tia­tives them­selves. Instead, you need to hold man­agers account­able for ensur­ing that the engage­ment ini­tia­tives are fol­lowed through. As facil­i­ta­tors, HR should choose the sys­tems and tools to allow man­agers to fol­low engage­ment ini­tia­tives in an easy way. When any issues arise, it should be your respon­si­bil­i­ty to address them and pro­vide employ­ees with the right tools to address them. In addi­tion to ensur­ing employ­ees are engaged, HR lead­ers must ensure that man­agers and lead­ers are engaged too. A sur­vey by Build­ing Staff Engage­ment revealed that three in five L&D lead­ers thought that management’s engage­ment was one of the biggest bar­ri­ers to suc­cess. Man­agers need to be engaged in their work and be com­fort­able report­ing that. 

Senior lead­ers must dri­ve the cul­tur­al shift

Senior lead­ers play an impor­tant role in cre­at­ing a cul­ture where engage­ment is a pri­or­i­ty and where it can thrive. Get­ting senior lead­ers on board shows the com­mit­ment of an organ­i­sa­tion to bring­ing engage­ment ini­tia­tives to life. This kind of cul­tur­al shift can have a huge impact on pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and prof­itabil­i­ty of a com­pa­ny. For exam­ple, one long term study showed that good com­pa­ny cul­ture increas­es rev­enue. This study looked at 200 com­pa­nies – some with per­for­mance enhanc­ing cul­tures and some with­out. Com­pa­nies that had per­for­mance enhanc­ing cul­tures had an aver­age increase of 682% rev­enue growth, com­pared to 166% in com­pa­nies with­out per­for­mance enhanc­ing cul­tures. If senior lead­er­ship set the tone for engage­ment ini­tia­tives for the rest of the com­pa­ny, it can hold a lot of value. 

For exam­ple, senior lead­ers could cre­ate a cul­ture where employ­ees are empow­ered to use their ini­tia­tive to solve prob­lems. Hyatt hotel chain fol­low a sim­i­lar prac­tice in which their employ­ees (or asso­ciates as they’re called at Hyatt), use their own intu­ition to solve prob­lems rather than fol­low­ing scripts of what to do. Despite oper­at­ing in an indus­try known for high staff turnover, Hyatt’s employ­ee reten­tion is high which is large­ly due to their focus on employ­ee development. 

The key to employee engagement

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Direct man­agers must under­stand and moti­vate their employees

Direct man­agers work with employ­ees on a day to day basis. They know what’s going on and under­stand them much bet­ter than senior lead­er­ship or HR can. How­ev­er, accord­ing to Gallup, man­agers account for over 70% of the vari­ance in employ­ee engage­ment. This is huge. Man­agers have so much impact on how engaged an employ­ee is which makes it impor­tant for man­agers to imple­ment engage­ment ini­tia­tives set out by lead­er­ship and HR. Any con­cerns and opin­ions from employ­ees should be relayed back to HR and leadership.

How­ev­er, mere com­mu­ni­ca­tion between man­agers and employ­ees is not enough to increase engage­ment. Man­agers need to talk about not just work but what hap­pens out­side work. Gallup reveals that employ­ees who feel their man­ag­er is invest­ed in them as peo­ple are more like­ly to be engaged. Man­agers also need to under­stand that each per­son they man­age is dif­fer­ent with dif­fer­ent chal­lenges. They need to know their employ­ees as peo­ple first.

Putting your team’s engage­ment first can help you devel­op strong rela­tion­ships with them. You can work togeth­er to cre­ate mean­ing­ful goals and iden­ti­fy team mem­bers ready for pro­gres­sion and new opportunities.

Employ­ees must be respon­si­ble for their own engagement

Employ­ees need to be open and hon­est about what is and what isn’t work­ing with the cur­rent engage­ment strat­e­gy. They should seek learn­ing and devel­op­ment oppor­tu­ni­ties for their per­son­al growth and pro­vide updates on per­son­al growth. They should be think­ing about what is going to improve the employ­ee expe­ri­ence, and what is going to make them feel immersed in their work and be able to share that with their managers.

One way employ­ees could feel more engaged at work is through Cog­ni­tive Craft­ing. Cog­ni­tive Craft­ing encour­ages you try to think of your day to day tasks dif­fer­ent­ly. Rather than think­ing, I have to do this,” it may be bet­ter to ask your­self what can I learn from this?” A study found that when employ­ees are moti­vat­ed by curios­i­ty rather than oblig­a­tion, they feel more sat­is­fied with their achievements.

Unless employ­ees assume some respon­si­bil­i­ty for their engage­ment, ini­tia­tives by man­agers and HR may have lit­tle impact on improv­ing employ­ee engagement.

Learn more about employ­ee engagement

Find out how engage­ment impacts per­for­mance, pro­duc­tiv­i­ty and the bot­tom line in our recent eBook on Pow­er­ing per­for­mance with engaged people.”

Download eBook here

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