Who is responsible for employee engagement?

It’s a question Gary Cattermole, Director and Founder of The Survey Initiative has been asked countless times, and it is an intriguing one. Here he discusses where the responsibility should lie and why it’s vital to lead from the top.

One of the easiest ways to think about this question is to consider the following: Are your employees responsible for their own engagement?

Employees cannot be solely responsible for their own engagement at work. To consider they are misses the point entirely. Do you go to work each day and think ‘Hmm, I think I’ll be engaged today, I’ll give that little extra, I’ll go that extra mile…?’ Probably not!
Whether a person is engaged or not is not a conscious decision, this happens almost unwittingly and certainly subconsciously. This is why employee engagement cannot be down to employees.

So, the answer is: the organisation takes responsibility.

As an organisation what you can do is create an environment where engagement can thrive – where employees naturally, without coercion, are more productive, more innovate, better advocates and -in our view more importantly – become healthier individuals as a result.
An organisation must ensure that their people feel genuinely valued, it is clear what they do contributes to a bigger picture and that things are fair and equitable. Where the work is challenging and stimulating and where the rewards for hard work are shared amongst everyone.

You cannot mandate or force employee engagement – you cannot dictate that some or all of your workforce must be engaged – it quite simply doesn’t work that way.

How does an organisation go about creating that environment?

Here, the person at the top of the organisation (CEO or MD) needs to take an active role and not just pay lip service.


If the CEO or MD sets the correct tone, behaviours and approach then those will permeate through the organisation. You don’t need employee engagement initiatives; you don’t need to invest millions in expensive engagement programmes; you simply need to take responsibility and show others how it should be done.

As Eisenhower once said ‘You don’t lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.’


Consider setting up a ‘What on earth?’ group, whenever anyone working within your organisation comes across a policy or process that is duplicated, convoluted or just plain silly! This group has the authority and skill to modify or remove that policy or process.

Give your customers and suppliers a voice – setup an exercise whereby groups of your customers and suppliers come into your business to talk with your employees. This exercise is ideal to engage your back office and support staff who rarely benefit from external perspectives.

Take a front line role, why not spend time answering the phone, working the production line or digging holes! Leaders and managers can gain true insight into working life and openly and spontaneously gain ideas and suggestions from those employees on the front line.

To find out more about employee engagement, staff surveys and 360 degree feedback surveys, visit www.surveyinitiative.co.uk