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.”