Who Owns Employee Engagement: Managers or HR?

3 min read
May 11, 2016

Who Owns Employee Engagement: Managers or HR? by TINYpulseAny way you slice it, engaged employees are much more satisified with their jobs than their disengaged peers. When an employee is already dreading work before even showing up at the office, how can that person possibly put in a truly productive day?

Luckily, today’s organizations increasingly understand the importance of employee engagement. But there’s a problem: who exactly owns engagement — HR or managers themselves?


The Case for HR Ownership

At least on the surface, employee engagement seems to be an inherent HR function. After all, most HR departments are responsible for recruiting and placing new workers, as well as making sure those workers enjoy a smooth onboarding process. Once a new hire has settled in, it’s HR responsibility to make sure they’re comfortable at work and have the support they need to thrive in their roles.

When employees have a problem at work — when they’re becoming disengaged — they often speak with members of the HR department. When conflicts end up getting resolved and employees walk away in a good mood, HR undoubtedly does its job with respect to employee engagement, because happier employees are more productive.

But at the same time, HR professionals aren’t in the trenches with members of the sales, engineering, or marketing teams, for example. That being the case, it’s impossible for them to develop a deep understanding of the intricacies associated with each specific role.

So while HR can definitely help increase employee engagement, it’s hard to say whether the department is best suited to “own” It.


The Case for Managerial Ownership

Managers are responsible for increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of their teams. They need to juggle the talents of multiple people, utilizing each employee in a manner that helps them reach their full potential.

While many people think HR should be responsible for employee engagement, it may make more sense to allow progressive managers to lay claim to it instead.

Great managers are very familiar with their employees’ day-to-day responsibilities. They know firsthand about any terrible clients their workers may have to deal with. They can easily gauge which members of their team are productive and which members of their team leave something to be desired. Unlike HR, managers head into battle with their teams on a daily basis; the good ones are in the trenches.

That said, if managers own employee engagement, what happens when a worker doesn’t get along with their boss?

According to research cited by U.S. News & World Report, nearly half of employees who leave companies do so to get away from their bosses. If a manager controls employee engagement but their team doesn’t really like them, it follows that employees probably won’t be too engaged.

So who really owns employee engagement?

The case can be made that many different facets of an organization contribute to great employee engagement programs. Just because the HR department might “own” employee engagement, for example, doesn’t mean that managers can’t launch engagement initiatives of their own. On the other hand, just because a progressive manager may want to control the employee engagement program doesn’t mean that the HR department must be relegated to the sidelines.

Pool your company’s resources, and it should be easier to create a successful employee engagement program.



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