Wednesday 26 October 2011

Who is Responsible for Employee Engagement Anyway?

This is a guest post from Ian Hutchinson, Chief Engagement Officer & founder of Life by Design® specialists in ‘Employee Activated Engagement’ (EAE).

Sorry, but for some time now I've, excuse the French, had the shits with the level of thinking around employee engagement research.
Recently I've been frustrated with some comments regarding staff retention on LinkedIn groups and Google Alerts.
Generally I'm concerned with the level of employee engagement thought leadership being bandied around the corporate world.
I reckon if I read the question: "What engages employees?" one more time …. I think I'll have to harm myself :)
Short answer to the question anyway, is: It depends on the individual
Longer answer to the question is: Traditionally we do our employee engagement research, and then develop an organisational engagement plan (OEP) to improve engagement based on the findings.

But this shot gun approach to engagement initiatives is only OK as a starting point and unfortunately only one piece of the effective engagement solutions puzzle. Relying solely on this umbrella approach, based on 'an average employee' (who don't exist anyway) is why so many retention strategies have been flawed over recent years and haven’t led to any real meaningful improvements in engagement in most organisations.

P.S - If you have ‘an average employee’, please introduce me to them, I'd love to meet them.
Everyone Is different
The missing link to effective engagement is understanding that everyone is different and therefore motivated and engaged by different drivers. The good news is that there are fundamentally only 7 key engagement drivers that you need to focus on.

The key is Employee Activated Engagement (EAE) - the self-responsibility approach to engagement. This ‘inside out’ approach is the opposite to the current showering them with gifts and benefits ‘outside in’ approach which can creates the ‘whinge entitlement culture’.

The more you give, the more employees expect. Take the benefits away from staff and they will whinge (even if they aren't using the benefits). For example, one large financial client of ours was spending over $100K per year on weekly fruit bowls for staff. Were they being used… no! But take the fruit bowls away and look out!

The Engagement Missing Link
So the missing link to effective engagement is Employee Activated Engagement (EAE). So, Step 1: Get individual employees responsible and clear on what motivates them.
The challenge is that most employees know what doesn't engage them; fewer know what really does engage them. If employees don't know, the default driver simply becomes “give me more money”. Also if employees don't know what engages them, their people leader and organisation is stuffed! If employees don't know what they want how can we effectively engage them?

Anyway who is responsible for engagement?

Firstly, who does your culture believe is responsible for employee engagement?

A.CEO/Senior Management Team*
B.Human resources
C.People leaders & managers*

Hopefully you answered E) Everyone …Yes ‘E’ is for everyone… but…

Caution: There is some danger in having everyone responsible for engagement in that if everyone is responsible, nobody is really accountable. 

The key is everyone needs to be responsible for employee engagement; it’s just that different people (e.g HR, Leaders & Employees) need to be accountable for different sets of tasks.

Human resources - need to deliver on engagement measurement, umbrella strategies or Organisational Engagement Plans (OEP) and ensure that engagement plans are being implemented for people leaders and employees.
People Leaders* – need to be the catalyst for understanding and therefore optimising the seven engagement drivers throughout their Team Engagement Plans (TEP) and Personal Engagement Plans (PEP)
Employees – need to be responsible for getting clarity around self-leadership, doing their Personal Engagement Plans (PEP) and on-going self-awareness with systems such as

The good news is that each set of accountability tasks for each group should be less than a 2% time investment.

Ian Hutchinson (B.Bus, Grad.Dip.Psy, CSP) is Chief Engagement Officer & founder of Life by Design® specialists in ‘Employee Activated Engagement’ (EAE). His self-responsibility approach to employee engagement is the missing link to simply and effectively implementing employee engagement at all levels of the organisation.

Ian has built a reputation as a talent maximiser and innovative strategic implementer. He is a thought leader, speaker and author of a number of books including his latest ‘People Glue: Engagement & Retention Solutions That Stick!’ Please contact Ian at

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