Almost any organization you go to and whoever you ask, people in general seem to be quite taken aback the concept of Employee Engagement. Ask them about the importance and benefits of employee engagement and you’ll hear “WE think it’s really important”, “WE understand that employees need to be engaged to their work to perform well” or “WE need to find ways to make our work more engaging for ourselves”. Such a beautiful, unanimous agreement!
However, ask them about who is actually responsible for making an employee engagement strategy work and that’s when the finger-pointing starts. The “We” disappears and is taken over by a very defensive “I” and the accusatory “They”.
We all realize that if an organization goes the distance to engage employees, it is a bonus for the whole organization (and that’s a really big bonus!). But whose onus is it anyway?
Senior Management/Employer: It’s really easy to put the onus of employee engagement on the employer or the senior management. They run the company. They are the ones who want employees to be engaged in the first place. They are the ones who will benefit the most if employees are engaged and perform really well. They are in charge of people management. Very valid arguments that any employee would state, right?
Yes, the policies that are made do have a strong bearing on the workers. Yes, the management has an effect on the environment and culture of the organization which in turn, affects employee engagement.
But is the company really run by the employers alone? So, they just make a policy and pass a law stating that all employees should be engaged and voila! Throw in some employee engagement activities and engagement levels sky-rocket?
HR department: Turns out that the senior management may not be that powerful to bear the onus of employee engagement alone! So, who’s next? The HR, of course! If the phrase contains the word “employee” in it, it is obviously the responsibility (read headache) of the HR department or the HR consultants. Moreover, the HR is responsible to hire the right people, carry out and implement policies of the management, monitor productivity and measure performance. They should make sure that employees are engaged too while they’re at it!
Sure, the HR does play a big role in shaping and controlling the environment by being in charge of the kind of employees they hire. They could also implement new rules that impact employee engagement such as flexi-timings, work-from-home options, meaningful benefits, implementation of employee recognition ideas and so on. Then again, they do need the consent of the management to actually go ahead with any of that. Besides, there’s no assurance that even if the HR and the management does go the whole nine yards, employees will engage with their work.
Every employee: So, now the finger is pointing towards the employee. They are in charge of their own attitudes, morals and work ethics, so they have to take charge of getting themselves engaged to their jobs! It seems that even if the employer and the HR go all out, the employees themselves form the last piece of the puzzle. Nobody can be forced to fall in love with his/her job or workplace.
Every employee needs to understand that employee engagement is not just a hoax working on the principle of making employees moderately happy to eventually squeeze out more work. Being engaged in what one does is intrinsically rewarding and brings about a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment that goes beyond pay-packages, appraisal programs and other people management initiatives. At the same time, employees cannot build their engagement levels out of thin air in a toxic environment. They need a positive and nourishing environment where they want to be engaged in their work.
The employer/senior management, the HR department and the employees thus seem to form the holy trinity of employee engagement strategy. So, if you thought that you were off the hook, the bad news (whether you’re the employer, the HR manager or the employee) is that employee engagement is your responsibility. The good news is that it’s not your responsibility alone!
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