Who Builds and Drives Employee Engagement?

It is a question that gets thrown around quite often. And, answers too! Most commonly, I have heard people say that it’s the direct manager who drives engagement. And inevitably, we hear “People join companies, but they leave managers.”

I say – Maybe or Maybe Not!

Managers are without a doubt important in building engagement, but there are situations where they may be impotent. Consider and organization with symptoms such as:

  • Limited visibility of the leadership team among employees
  • Low trust levels
  • Systemic issues with key people processes
  • Excessive focus on short-term targets
  • People as “resource” mentality
  • Widespread issues on communication / collaboration etc.

It will be an uphill task for a manager to engage his / her people if the broader system does not facilitate people focus and engagement. What good will be a discussion on individual role clarity, where the leadership has not been articulating and aligning people with the broader goals? How effective can recognition be if the focus is only on quick-wins and managers have to overlook people with far-reaching long-term ideas? How can you ensure role-talent fit if your recruitment processes is targeting the wrong people?

In situations such as these, I believe, it is the Leadership team which builds and drives engagement. The Leadership sets the tone. It begins with leaders taking a long-term view on people performance and using a systems thinking approach to people processes. And it continues till every small gesture and what is speaks to the employees. Such leaders develop an understanding of intricate relationships between the various variables of the organizational ecosystem, using every action to build a culture that stresses on people, trust and purpose. And, in effect, they  work towards creating a platform which can be leveraged by individual managers to drive engagement in their teams.

So, my conclusion tends to be that “Engagement is a continuous journey, which tends to begin with the Leadership and tends to end with individual managers.” Remember, it tends to – there are no definitive end-points of the journey.

What do you think? Feedback, comments?

7 thoughts on “Who Builds and Drives Employee Engagement?

  1. In most of these definitions of Engagement what is missing is what the employee would do ! It is one world view to look at the employee as a passive recepient of ‘engagement’.

    It is another view to see the employee as a concurrent co-creator of ‘engagement’ !

    Whatsay ?


  2. I’m with Kavi on this one. To view the employee as a passive recipient of engagement is all wrong and leadership teams that lock themselves behind closed doors with engagement consultants to design engagement programmes are doomed to failure.

    Engagement is a state, climate, condition, whatever – that reflects the reality of the employee experience and this is affected by hundreds of daily triggers that vary from person to person, team to team and company to company.

    I have experienced teams with incredible engagement levels where leadership visibility has been zero. Of course it is an important factor, but I believe it is far more powerful for every individual employee to be a ‘concurrent co-creator’ of engagement as kavi puts it, and actually the line mangagers role is the critical element in achieving this as a manager, a leader, a conduit for two-way dialogue and as the local interpreter of what makes his or her team members tick.


  3. I totally agree with you guys. The workplace is changing quickly and if one thing is being learned, it’s that passionate communities are the ones who will make things happen. That’s why I’m all about putting employees in charge of recognition. Give them the tools and let them engage each other. Don’t get me wrong, management has a great influence as well, but if you truly want to foster a culture of recognition you need give the control to the people!

    Ben Butler – Rewards Nation


  4. Pingback: Manager Newz » Blog Archive » How to Use Employee Engagement to Boost Your Business

  5. Pingback: E L S U A ~ A KM Blog Thinking Outside The Inbox by Luis Suarez » How to Use Employee Engagement to Boost Your Business

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