Let me start with a question: Who owns employee engagement? Is it an HR function, an operational function, or something else? This turns out to be a very important question because many of the companies that I work with don’t have a good answer. So it’s unclear who is responsible for stepping up to improving it.
If we can agree that employee engagement is an organizational competence, then I would argue that it is owned by the executive team, the same way they are responsible for managing all of the other critical assets of the company. This responsibility needs to be cascade throughout the organization.
Once that’s clear, we need to figure out who in the organization will help drive improvements. In the long-term, I think that HR organizations need to take on this role. Unfortunately, many HR organizations focus on transactional activities like hiring, training, compensation, and benefits administration, and they lack the skills to drive employee engagement. So it sometimes requires a change agent, like a chief customer officer, to take ownership of the effort.
Once we know who’s leading the employee engagement charge, we need to figure out what to do. In our study of more than 2,400 U.S. employees, we found three employee attitudes were highly correlated to employee productivity and retention (the important signs of employee engagement):
- I understand the overall mission of my company
- My company asks for my feedback and acts upon my input
- My company provides me with the training and the tools that I need to be successful
So if you need a place to start on employee engagement, put plans in place to affect these employee attitudes.