Who’s Responsible for Your Engagement?

Who is responsible for employee engagement? Knee-jerk reaction – HR. But what happens when the HR person responsible for engagement is no longer engaged? In this sad post, Venting HR Guy says:

I’m mentally done. I’m burned out. I’m crispy. Stick a monster-sized fork in me and call it a day. What do you do to cure burn out? And who’s failing who here? But whose job is it to engage the guy who’s in charge of engagement. … I don’t care anymore, because I feel like no one cares about me. The Boss doesn’t make speeches or explain what the company is doing (even an email); it’s just loose talk where the problem is hinted at, no solutions, no plan, no leadership (though it is desperately needed). … So who’s failing who? Am I not failing the company because I’ve put a massive postage stamp on Summer 2009, and mailed it in? Is the company not failing me because they’ve done nothing to inspire engagement or interest or even… hope?

I also like how Bret Simmons expresses this:

Here is my concern: if we send our employees the message that their engagement is our responsibility, we create the conditions for dependent relationship. Employees assume the posture of waiting to be engaged because our rhetoric and systems teach them this is what we expect. I think we should send the message that self-engagement is everyone’s responsibility. Employees and managers share the responsibility to partner with each other to continuously improve processes and conditions necessary for peak performance to flourish.

This is an important question to understand if you intend to influence employee engagement in your company at any level. I believe the company (management, leadership, HR, everyone) is responsible for creating an environment in which employees want to engage – one in which employees know what is expected of them, understand how those expectations help the company succeed, and are encouraged to recognize and appreciate achievement of their peers and subordinates in delivering those expectations.

That’s certainly an environment in which I’m engaged to give of my best. How about you?

Derek Irvine

About Derek Irvine

The VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their organizations. As a renowned speaker and co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and "Winning with a Culture of Recognition," he teaches companies how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. Derek holds a B.Comm and Masters of Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.

3 Responses

  1. Folarin says:


    This is a timely post. The global recession appears to be rapidly eroding the self-confidence, positive belief in the future, and simple trust in organizational leadership that should underpin employee engagement.

    However, while I do appreciate the need to see employee engagement as the result of several factors working together, I personally believe leadership plays a very critical role. Over the years, I have encountered numerous situations in which superior leadership at the sub-organizational level is able to produce pockets of highly motivated and deeply engaged employees, despite the near absence of any institutional efforts to build or encourage employee engagement.

    Individual managers and organizational leaders can do a great deal to create temporary "islands" of employee engagement until an effective company-wide engagement process can be established.

    At the same time, the organization itself must do a better job of identifying such stand-out examples and using them as a foundation for the type of integrated employee engagement strategy you advocate.

    Nice one.

  2. awiefoong says:

    Hi Derek,

    Thks for your comment on our article here

    I agree with your concern too. If the engager, be it the HR or line managers or senior leaders are not themselve engage, then it is a fat hope that they can engage other people. We often talk to 'representatives' of companies (usually HR managers) about engaging other employees. Such us versus them division may not be the most appropriate starting point.

  3. […] in the workplace” is a good working definition of your company culture in action. And yes, every employee is responsible. But how that relates to engagement requires […]

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