Employee Engagement Isn't Just An HR Issue

Where does employee engagement fit into the priorities of leadership? And who’s responsible for making it happen?


For years, senior leaders used the balanced scorecard approach to set goals and measure progress, such as financial performance, quality, and process. But a fourth metric — perhaps most revealing — often overlooked is employees.

When employees are disengaged, disenfranchised, or undermotivated, even the best business strategy will fall short. We suggest all employers ask these questions:

  • What is your turnover rate?
  • Do your employees have the necessary skills?
  • What is your organization’s engagement rate?
  • What is the level of trust within your organization?

Many organizations assume employee engagement is a human resources issue. It gets dumped on the desk of the HR leader, and there it stays. In practice, it’s impossible for HR alone to impact employee engagement. Not without significant executive support.

Accountability is necessary to create a plan, commit to improvements, and lead the organization forward. Top executives, line managers — and every individual — must share the responsibility. HR has a crucial role to play, but organizations need team leaders on the field making plays. HR’s role is to ensure managers are equipped to expand their role as coaches because great coaches create great teams. And great teams win.

Perhaps the most critical role for HR is working with senior leadership to build a business case for employee engagement. More than likely, this means converting skeptical leaders or those stuck in survival mode. They may even need to warn against the peril of ignoring engagement, which can endanger the organization’s ability to grow.

A fully engaged workforce has considerable impact, as employees who find their work interesting and relevant often expend discretionary effort to improve business. That’s certainly a return worth investing in — and an opportunity organization should pursue.

Laura Brinton is content marketing director at Energage, a Philadelphia-based research and consulting firm that surveyed more than 2 million employees at more than 7,000 organizations in 2019. Energage is The Washington Post’s research partner for Top Workplaces.

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