Recognise This! – Engagement doesn’t belong to a department, role or function. It’s the equal responsibility of all of us.

I’ve been with Globoforce well over a decade now. In that time, I’ve seen first-hand the transition from “employee satisfaction” to “employee engagement.” In early days, we would often need to define employee engagement and explain the value of increasing engagement (and thereby employee personal investment in contributing to company success).

Nowadays, “employee engagement” seems to be on the tip of everyone’s tongues, which is good in most ways. However, I also see a lot of blame-shifting going on, too. Any parents of multiple children reading this blog will understand. My two kids have chores and responsibilities around the house, yet the refrain “My sister was supposed to do it” is an all-too-common excuse for why something didn’t get done.

The same can be true with employee engagement. From the employee perspective it’s often, “My boss doesn’t give me engaging work.” Or from the manager perspective, “HR doesn’t give me the tools I need to increase my own engagement or that of my team.” HR isn’t innocent of the blame-shift, either: “Employees need to find their own internal motivation for true engagement.”

So whose responsibility is it? All of ours! We all have responsibility for our own engagement and those around us. During the last several years, the UK has done remarkable work on employee engagement through its “Engage for Success” initiative. Recently, Nita Clarke, director of the UK’s Involvement and Participation Association (and co-author of the original “Engage for Success” report presented to the UK government), had this to say on employee engagement responsibility:

“I don’t think engagement belongs to HR,” Clarke recently said at an event for the London HR Connection, which was held at London School of Economics. “I think HR and Comms are very helpful in raising this stuff — there’s lots of different bits of evidence — but at the end of the day there is an element of common sense about this which is people who are fulfilled at work perform better and there comes a point that you just have to accept that there is a reality here.”

Employee engagement needs to happen at the manager to employee level, and it needs to take the form of simple, common-sense activities that can help employees feel more valued. It can cross many departments, functions and even business applications. Clarke notes that having greater focus on employees with the right leadership behaviors, and coaching and training and developing people to adopt the behaviors and carry forward the mantra, is the most effective method for encouraging employee engagement.

There is a good bit of wisdom packaged up in this statement. To summarise:

  1. Engagement is all about helping employees feel valued for the work they do.
  2. Engagement is not a department or title or role, it’s a responsibility of every employee.
  3. Engaging each other and ourselves revolves around helping each other behave in ways that make us all more successful, valued and engaged.

So how do we do that? When I’m trying to help my children engage more in getting their chores done, I’ve found recognition and praise for a job well done (individually or, better yet, together) to be particularly effective. While employees certainly are not children, we all appreciate a little appreciation and praise when we do something well or collaboratively. That’s what makes social recognition such a powerful contributor to employee engagement (and, according to several studies, it’s the top contributor to increased engagement). Simple, heartfelt, specific and timely expressions of praise, appreciation and congratulations from those we work with every day – that’s a powerful means to engagement we are all responsible for.

Are you engaged at work? What helps you engage? How do you help others engage, too?