If engagement is left as a purely HR initiative, it will remain on the sidelines


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Speaking last year at the official launch event of the Engage for Success taskforce, ITV chairman Archie Norman said employee engagement should not be an HR activity, it should be company-wide.

We asked two experts: With engagement still a key issue in all companies, where does it sit? Is HR solely responsible for it, or does everyone in the organisation have to take ownership of engagement? And how can HR encourage both senior leadership and the line to take the issue seriously?

Today, Kate Jennings (pictured), managing director, BlessingWhite Europe Consulting, said: "Engagement is a compelling proposition: it represents the best possible win-win, in which the employee is achieving high satisfaction at work while the organisation is benefiting from high levels of contribution to its goals and success.

But engagement is fundamentally an individualised equation. It reflects each employee's relationship with work based on personal drivers of satisfaction: values, work conditions, personal career ambitions and so on.

To improve engagement and sustain it, you must approach it at three different layers of the organisation - the individual, the manager and the executive.

Individuals must own their engagement. They cannot expect HR or the organisation to provide a blanket formula that will fit their unique needs. Employees need to be clear on their own core values and apply these to the business's goals.

Managers cannot make employees engaged, but they can act as coaches to facilitate their team members' engagement journeys. Managers need to understand the unique interests, talents and aspirations of their employees, and then align these with specific organisational priorities and projects.

Executives also have a specific and important role to play. Their focus must be on creating a culture that fuels engagement and business results. Senior teams must 'walk the talk' by demonstrating their own engagement, sharing their passion in candid, consistent communications.

To be successful in gaining commitment, HR needs to help connect the dots between employee engagement scores and the performance indicators of the business. Only by involving and equipping all three levels of the organisation - individuals, managers and executives - can this be achieved.

If left purely as an HR initiative, engagement will remain on the sidelines, a nice-to-have and not a business imperative."

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