Corporate leaders are becoming aware of the impact that employee engagement can have on productivity and the bottom line. Yet many people believe it is HR's responsibility to ensure engagement. New studies suggests that building and sustaining employee engagement is a shared responsibility. From the corporate suite to frontline managers, everyone needs to be accountable. 

Who "owns" employee engagement?

Corporate leaders are becoming aware of the impact that employee engagement can have on productivity and the bottom line. Yet many people believe it is HR's responsibility to ensure engagement. New studies suggests that building and sustaining employee engagement is a shared responsibility. From the corporate suite to frontline managers, everyone needs to be accountable.

"Employee engagement translates directly to organizational value," says Diane Cothran, Employee Engagement leader at Ceridian. "The last few years have been tough because of the economy. Some leaders find themselves faced with low employee engagement and poor workplace morale. This can further slow the recovery process."

 

Engaged employees create business value

A recent survey found that an individual's supervisor and the amount of employee communication in an organization are the top two influencers of employee engagement. Cothran explains, however, that the supervisors are not solely responsible.

"Trust in executives can have a stronger correlation to employee engagement than trust in immediate managers," Cothran she says. "Employee Engagement Report 2011 revealed that 50 percent of employees who trust their senior leadership say they are engaged in their job compared to 40 percent of the employees who trust their direct boss. Employee engagement is everyone's job. This is not simply an HR initiative."


Get your entire organization involved

"Measurement of engagement levels is important to success," Cothran says. "You may believe, for instance, that what matters to your employees is their direct manager. But when you use the right survey tool, you may discover that the manager is not the key driver of engagement -- which is good, actionable information. Your employees are driving your success as a business, so seek out a tool to measure engagement that is employee-driven.


"Companies see improvements in customer alignment and bottom line performance when they take this approach. There is a huge link between performance and engagement, so use a survey and an action process to set benchmarks and to spur meaningful improvements."

Cothran adds, "True engagement is not a report you stick in a drawer. It's a living process. Well-considered tools and processes help Ceridian to identify critical drivers of employee engagement, and we focus on those areas. Where we have focused actions, we tend to see gains -- even in a tough economy."

 

Use tools to measure and understand

Cothran reports that 90 percent of Ceridian employees participate in the company's employee survey. This is best-practices performance. "Every 18 months at Ceridian," she says, "employees receive a confidential survey. It includes core questions and the opportunity for open-ended comments so employees can voice their thoughts around things such as customer alignment, leadership, and strategy and execution. This encourages open, honest and candid answers."

Ceridian encourages employee engagement in several ways. "Employees have ownership," Cothran says. "For instance, we share survey results with all our employees. We set up listening sessions to understand what's behind the numbers and to identify key themes and messages. The voice of the employee is heard in every phase -- from survey to action plan to solution."

 

Employee engagement: Not an HR event

"HR may facilitate employee surveys," Cothran says, "but engagement is not an HR event. There are many internal and external factors chipping away at your chances for business success: the economy, competitors and companies luring away your best talent. So if you aren't focused on best practices in this area, you may find you are not as successful in meeting these very real challenges."

For employers who do not measure employee engagement -- or who find that participation in current surveys is low -- Cothran suggests that it is time to reassess. "Employee engagement is about trust," she says. "Employees trust their managers. Their managers trust company leaders. If you aren't getting the kinds of response rates you desire, take a look at these trust issues. Consider whether the tools you are using to measure employee engagement are the right ones.