Should HR be in Charge of Employee Engagement?
The short answer is no.
Employee engagement training has become a huge topic of focus in training industry trade journals, business school research studies, HR gatherings and, finally, in the board room. A highly engaged workforce is generally acknowledged to offer a significant competitive advantage and to be a critical factor in a company’s long-term business success. So, given its importance to the organization, who should be in charge of seeing that employees are happily engaged in their work?
In most companies, HR professionals were initially charged with increasing employee engagement as part of their people scorecard. Many HR Leaders used the promise of increased employee performance to get a better seat at the executive table. The successful ones helped business leaders recognize just what a difference engaged workers could make in terms of performance, discretionary effort, and employee retention. Recent studies indicate that engaged employees are over 40% more effective and productive than their unengaged colleagues. That is an impact that makes executives sit up and take notice…the more productive the employees, the better the business results. In other words, one way to boost financial performance is to improve employee engagement.
But is improving employee engagement a challenge that an HR department can or should handle on their own? Our experience shows that leaders—their initiative, example and their support—must be leading the charge if any employee engagement effort is to succeed. In fact we believe that any change initiative needs to be both strategic and systemic with a focus not on employee engagement surveys but on the implementation of the findings.
While HR can certainly play a pivotal role, engaging employees should be spearheaded by leaders and involve the entire workforce from top to bottom. A positive organizational culture is everyone’s responsibility. It should not be the sole responsibility of HR to create a high performance work environment. If HR really wants to make a difference in employee participation in and dedication to the overall goals of the organization, they should ensure the leaders of the business consistently infuse the company with a sense of:
This may sound as if we are “soft” on what it takes to succeed in business. But think about how much more willing you are to commit to a goal if you know that your leaders are invested in your success, care about your learning and development, and support you when times are tough. A corporate culture that considers compassion an integral part of how they treat their workers is one in which employees are motivated to give their best effort and overcome difficulties.
When employees are encouraged to think “out of the box” and stretch their minds to come up with innovative solutions, there is an atmosphere of excitement about sharing ideas and learning. A culture that stimulates thinking, collaboration and learning is one where top talent is motivated to stay and perform.
Good leaders know the value of treating top talent differently. And leading companies ensure that their highest performing employees who embody the company’s desired culture get the majority of the rewards being offered. Employees appreciate being noticed and recognized for effort above and beyond. Even a simple private or public thank you from a manager can mean a lot.
Employee engagement can certainly make the difference between a workplace where workers are lackadaisical or one where they are motivated to stay and perform at their peak. Leaders and employees alike need to do their part to raise the level of engagement and reflect a culture of high performance.