Engagement – It’s everyone’s responsibility

By Robert Walker, Smith & Henderson, Engagement Consultant

Employee Engagement can mean many things to the diverse groups represented within an organisation. Engagement is not just about employee satisfaction, although this is a contributory factor; it is about what employees are prepared to do for the organisation that employs them; the willingness to respond to changes through improved behaviours which lead to business results.

Any intervention designed to take the pulse of an organisation, which then seeking to improve, needs to be set up in a way which befits the culture, systems and roles of the organisation. For example, you have to understand the current culture in order to break it, if that is a desired outcome. Ownership of the information and sustained success of actions includes participation by all roles and levels within the organisation: CEO/Board/Executive Team level; to Line/Senior management; and all other employees.

The role of leader is not static, in that older “command and control” styles are part of a dying culture, and employees are expected to lead more from within and to manage their own performance and behaviour. We expect with this fact, comes an absence of a single “right way” to engage employees. HR Leaders as change agents have to work with this complexity, by playing a pivotal, flexible role in in educating, design, communication and implementation of initiatives, whilst driving several essential components including awareness that:

  • The purpose and benefits of the engagement survey should encompass employee views of what needs to change at all levels;
  • Those running the survey need to be aware of their own need to accept and action feedback, and to develop and grow themselves. There will be elements of leaders ‘not knowing what they don’t know’, but this should be seen as an opportunity, not a weakness;
  • A drive for short-term results, quick-win efficiencies and cost reductions may hinder engagement activity. Most organisations should see the survey as an opening activity, with longer-term actions to drive sustainability, innovation, growth and should position employees to succeed.

Finally, prior employment experiences shape perspectives and expectations, as does an understanding, of at least, how surveys and resultant actions, will actually develop the organisation, its people, and its processes. HR and other business leaders need to drive shared understanding in all activity to reap the benefits. If their personal actions focus purely on viability and survival, then they will fail to realise the opportunities to emotionally attune to their employees.