Who's Responsible for Employee Engagement?

Diane Duguay

While we can all agree that a constant responsibility for employers is to ensure that they have a productive and engaged workforce, we cannot all agree on how to get there. Who is responsible to ensure that employers have maximum productivity, morale and customer satisfaction? What steps would you take to improve an organization in this area? How do we get there?

Some people are of the opinion that the sole responsibility rests with the employee. If she doesn’t want to get the work done, fire her. There are a hundred people who want to fill that position so why keep her? Others feel that it is the responsibility of management to engage the employee and to literally entertain that person so that he shows up for work every day. Others view the responsibility as shared between the employee and the employer.

One cannot overemphasize the importance of employee engagement. Mark Herbert, a principal with New Paradigms, LLC in Arizona, maintains that data suggests that less than 30 percent of employees internationally would describe themselves as highly engaged and over the last few months that number is going down. According to Herbert, data also suggests that the more engaged the employee is the more productive they become.

According to Rebecca Lacy, a principal with Pinnacle Management Group in St. Louis, studies show that in highly productive work environments, there is only 65 percent productivity. That is a frightening statistic. Imagine how poor it is in the vast majority of organizations?

We should all be able to agree that these figures are unsatisfactory. So the central issue is what can be done to motivate employees? We are of the opinion that it is a shared responsibility between employee and employer. To that end, we firmly believe that it is necessary for a business to change its approach and to embrace new ways to govern the behavior of employees in all levels of the organization.

Shared Responsibility

Ideally, supervisors are responsible to help the employees become more productive through a variety of techniques. This comes down to having properly trained managers and strategies that hold both managers and their reports accountable for their actions. This can be done by having human resources team up with department heads and, where necessary, consultants, to create an effective performance management program. In essence, a team will be formed that will put together a state of the art management program.

A solid program with properly trained managers and supervisors can greatly enhance engagement and productivity. The desired outcome would be to ensure that the program results in clearly defined messages, realistic goals, methods of teaming with employees to generate strategies for identifying goals, techniques for coaching employees during the year, strategies for effective documentation, discipline, employee management and proper use of incentive programs. At the same time, proper lines of communication, effective utilization of human resources and complaint processes are essential.

Finally, it is critical to recognize steps that can be taken to empower employees where appropriate. Employees need to understand that they have to set aggressive and realistic goals for themselves, properly and objectively view themselves so that they can reach their full potential and not become stagnant, bored or ineffective which translates into unproductive. They need to understand that they are an integral part of the process. Finally, there must be open dialog both ways, between managers and employees throughout the year along with coaching, feedback, encouragement and direction.

Laura Ryan, the Director of Knowhow HR in the UK, believes that in order to enable employees to be productive employees need to have a say in the business, share in the success of the organization, be given the tools to get their job done, work in an environment conducive to success and have the freedom to be effective.

Andrew Avery, an experienced inventory and demand manager from Portland Maine, is of the opinion that once the employer has met their obligation to train the employee and to provide the employee with the tools they need to be successful, the responsibility transfers to the employee.

Kim Huff, an experienced human resources executive from Dallas, Texas, finds that many employers fail to do an adequate job in training their employees, identifying what employees’ talents are or where they can be best used in the organization. Ms. Huff agrees with Ms. Ryan that by giving employees a say in the business (listen to and implement suggestions that make sense) and sharing in the success of the organization, we are more likely to have loyalty. Ensuring that employees have the right tools and skills and the empowerment to work with them will create a more productive workforce.

Avoiding Turnover

It should be the goal of your organization to have a workforce composed of longstanding employees. The longer productive employees remain with your organization the more likely you are to be productive. Turnover costs money. Turnover created by the failure to work towards successful engagement is avoidable. Weigh the cost benefit and decide how to proceed with managing your organization.

We can all agree that it is critical for the success of our companies and economy to have an engaged and productive workforce. The key comes in accountability. It is not enough to simply blame others when things don’t go so well. Instead, we need to examine what we are doing, what we can do better and, where necessary, who can help us to get there. To that end, we can go a long way towards satisfaction by taking the following steps including the following:

1. Define the responsibilities for each position
2. Review reporting structures
3. Team up to create effective performance management plans
4. Partner with HR in preparing the plan and strategies for implementation
5. Ensure that the plans in each department do not create conflicts
6. Engage in the proper training of all employees and management in furtherance of the plan
7. Ensure that you have effective communication from management to employees, from employees to management, between HR and management and between departments
8. Implement the plan and hold all (management and employees) accountable
9. Create realistic goals
10. Remember that positive feedback, soliciting input from employees and strategies to demonstrate respect are important
11. Have consistent and clear follow-up meetings to ensure employees are on track to meet goals.