Employee Engagement isn't HR's job. It's everyone's.

It's time to forget about the idea that HR needs to engage employees. Employee engagement should be a job for us all ...
Daan van Rossum
Daan van Rossum
Founder & CEO, FlexOS
I founded FlexOS because I believe in a happier future of work. I write and host "Future Work," I'm a 2024 LinkedIn Top Voice, and was featured in the NYT, HBR, Economist, CNBC, Insider, and FastCo.
November 9, 2022
min read

When I wrote the hybrid work model best practices eBook, it became clear that engagement, connection, and culture can suffer because of hybrid work. These challenges, which were always there, have been amplified now that people work in more fragmented ways.

Traditionally, in most companies, the responsibility of cultivating Employee Experience and Engagement lies solely with the Human Resources department. But let's ask ourselves a fundamental question: why is it always HR?

Despite our best intentions, HR pushing employee engagement strategies and programs, events, and activities leads to a (perceived) lack of authenticity and organic energy. That results in lukewarm interest and enthusiasm from our employees. I've heard countless times from People Teams that their "emails about events never get opened." No wonder employees are not engaged!

Today, I pose that Employee Engagement is a job for everyone. A shared mission across the organization. A challenge we ALL embrace.

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(A recent workshop our team organized.)

Can work be more than just work?

But before we fully get into that collective challenge, let's take a quick detour to motivation, another hot topic.

To most employees and culture at large, work is not something to be emotionally "engaged" in. We all know the cliche of the worker who detests Mondays and drags themselves into their (home) office every morning.

As Paul Graham said in his famous essay "How to do what you love," for most people, "work and fun are opposites by definition." In short, you go to work to make money, to be able to do the things you actually want to do.

Between us: I've been there too.

Still, we know that work is, or at least can be, incredibly important to our happiness. From time to time, we may all dream of dropping our 9-to-5. But what would do –really– once we win the lottery (that most likely we didn't buy a ticket for)?

Would we actually spend weeks, months, years, sitting on that beach drinking a pina colada?


As one of the most extensive studies into work and happiness says: "unemployment is destructive to people's well-being."

Per Harvard Business Review: "A large stream of research has shown that the non-monetary aspects of employment are also key drivers of people's well-being. Social status, social relations, daily structure, and goals all exert a strong influence on people's happiness.

In other words, we need work to learn, grow, and connect.

No matter how dreadful those Monday mornings sometimes may be.

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(At WeWork, Mondays were even celebrated 😂)

Build on motivation to get everyone involved.

I took this detour into work and happiness to build the foundation for this week's thesis that everyone in the company should get involved in employee experience and engagement.

Look at the key benefits we gain from work beyond salary: social connections, structure, and goals (achievement). Who wouldn't want that?

If people can be happy at work, then it stands to reason that they would take an active part in it. There is an intrinsic motivation here for everyone in the company, but we may have to spend time explaining and underscoring it.

Doing this has an outsized positive effect on employee retention. As benefits like achievement and social connections compound over time. They are not something job-hoppers will get to enjoy. Tapping into loss aversion from time to time may do wonders.

This motivation means employee experience and engagement can and must become a team effort in which all managers and employees participate.

A new role for managers and employees

This participation can kickstart with managers. As you may recall from the previous newsletters, managers are more critical than ever for the Employee Experience. So much so that they can "make or break" it.

Getting managers involved in crafting Employee Experience and Engagement will increase authenticity and uptake.

The good news is that managers already have their intrinsic reason to drive engagement rather than leaving it to HR. As the saying goes, management is the "art of getting things done through other people."

The work gets done far more efficiently and effectively when team members feel like they're in it together. This means a manager's focus on team bonding, community, and connection is time well spent.

Employees can help improve engagement by being a community of support for their fellow employees. An internal survey from Microsoft showed that most employees only enjoy being in the office because of its social functions.

They value relationships with their co-workers and team members more than "company expectations," especially as they, for example, combat the mental toll that hybrid work brings.

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Employees who spark or drive participation in community-specific around similar interests are more authentic and rewarding than company-wide ones.

This can go a long way in getting others to engage and in cultivating a sense of belonging in the company between those community members.

As trends in social media show, we engage and connect much more easily in small groups than in large ones. Think about how much more likely you are to read and react in an intimate Whatsapp group than on your Facebook newsfeed.

Let's Get Started: Five Small Steps

Going from a culture where HR is on the hook for all Employee Experience and Engagement efforts to everyone sharing the load will take some effort. But as always, every journey starts with a single step. Here's how.

1. Find Your Ambassadors

Like how small ripples can make great waves, it is in your best interest to begin the change with the few people who have already bought into the company culture and are enthusiastic about employee engagement.

Those who are already great focal points of human relationships in the office. These can be managers, individual employees, employee resource group leaders, or "social butterflies." Who is most likely to get people to show up to an event?

As Priya Parker writes in "The Art of Gathering," explain to them the intention of employee engagement: why do you want people to get together?

2. Explain the Need

Showcase how strong cultures driven by employee engagement benefit everyone. Get your ambassadors on board in a change of perspective and action. In this, link as much as possible to your company's core values, culture, and key objectives. After all, that's why people joined in the first place.

3. Fuel them with Ideas

Even though these ambassadors bought into the idea of joining the company's employee engagement efforts, they may need to learn how to get started. Provide them with timely nudges that help them get people together and engaged.

Our weekly newsletter is a great starting point, and our team can help build weekly personalized notifications for even more engagement opportunities.

4. Expand

Once you have the support of the vocal and enthusiastic few, you can now start implementing team-wide, department-wide, and then company-wide change management programs. Set clear objectives and outline specific courses of action.

5. Data, data, data!

Per the last newsletter, you already know how much I value people data; thus, I'll reiterate it here: the key to successful data analysis and application is to keep measuring, learning, and optimizing!

Explore our best all-in-one HRIS software to keep all employee data in one place, improve efficiency and compliance.

Let's shift Employee Experience and Engagement from an HR job to one for everyone in the company. We're happy to partner on this journey. In fact, we've been doing it. In our company, everyone plays their role to build a vibrant culture.

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Have a company-wide-engagement-centric week!


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Future Work

A weekly column and podcast on the remote, hybrid, and AI-driven future of work. By FlexOS founder Daan van Rossum.