5 Ways Engineering Chief Execs can get Managers Interested in Employee Engagement

By Heather Campbell

Are you a Chief Executive who’s struggling to get engineering managers excited about the business potential employee engagement brings? Does it feel like you’re facing a lonely struggle to get things moving, with maybe just your HR team for company?

If so, you’re in a position shared by many Chief Execs I work with. Too often managers – whether senior Directors or frontline managers – believe that employee engagement is HR’s responsibility, while the Chief Executive is expected to be the figurehead. And it’s business as usual for everyone else.

You’re frustrated because you know the business benefits that increased employee engagement brings (if you’re in doubt about this, check out our blog 5 Benefits Chief Execs Can Expect from Employee Engagement.

And you also know that achieving increased engagement means all leaders need to sign up to it (again, for more on this, take a look at this Who is Responsible for Employee Engagement in Engineering Organisations?

But what can you do to get other leaders involved too?

In my consulting work across organisations, these are the five things I find capture managers’ attention – and action – in engineering organisations.

(1) Reassure managers it won’t take up more of their time

Your managers already have more to do than they have time to do. They’re worried that working on employee engagement will add yet more. Of course they don’t want to engage with it if that’s the case. Who would?

So let them know that it doesn’t have to demand more of their time.

Ultimately, managers will increase employee engagement by interacting differently – not necessarily by interacting more. Quality over quantity every time.

Therefore, managers can use the same amount of time that they currently do but interact with their teams in a different way.

They need to listen more and talk less, they need to answer people’s questions directly and honestly rather than preparing a politically correct message, they need to say ‘well done’ rather than criticise.

These communication practices will increase employee engagement without adding to your managers’ workload.

(2) Demonstrate the business benefits

Whatever their priorities – be it safe working practices, innovation, lean working or any other performance-related improvement – your managers will find that employee engagement will make achieving their KPIs easier.

For example, research repeatedly shows that engaged employees have fewer safety incidents – one survey found that employee engagement resulted in 62% fewer incidents while another showed that the cost per incident was over $300 dollars lower.

But managers must recognise that, to achieve better results, they need to focus on employee engagement first in the knowledge that business benefits will follow. The business results are a subset of employee engagement, not the other way round.

(3) Be the change you want to see

Yes, it’s a cliche, but that doesn’t make it irrelevant. If you want your managers to engage with employee engagement, you need to lead by example.

For too often Chief Executives see themselves as exempt from the changes that they expect others to make. They ask others to implement new working practices while continuing down their own well-trodden path. They turn up to open workshops – and leave – believing they don’t need to learn what others need to learn.

You can’t do this if you want others to take your leadership of employee engagement seriously.

To remind yourself of your role in leading your managers, you could do worse than think of CEO as meaning Chief Engagement Officer as well as Chief Executive Officer!

(4) Make it clear that this is a business strategy

Far too often building employee engagement is treated as a sideline to the real business strategy rather than being a business strategy in its own right.

This means, for example, that someone form HR comes into a Board meeting to present progress with employee engagement rather than employee engagement being a Board agenda item in itself. It means that there is little or no budget set aside to invest in this strategy. It means that it gets de-prioritised time and time again.

Would you, as the Chief Executive, treat any other business change that can bring the following results in the same way?

Companies with high employee engagement:


Of course you wouldn’t. But when you don’t prioritise employee engagement as a business strategy in its own right, you send the clear message to your managers that they don’t need to take it seriously either.

(5) Show that there are consequences of not engaging

While building employee engagement doesn’t have to take more time, it will mean change in behaviour for every manager. Unfortunately human beings aren’t naturally disposed to changing unless they have to or want to.

This means that, if after making the benefits clear, there are still managers who are not engaging with your drive for employee engagement, there have to be clear consequences. It’s likely that some managers will be removed from their job role or even from the organisation.

There can be no exceptions to this. Consequences must apply to all managers, irrespective of their role or history with the business.


Even Chief Executives can struggle to get managers in their organisation engaged with employee engagement. This struggle can be even harder in engineering firms where focus on tasks and problem-solving can seem more attractive then leading people.

In this blog, I set out five ways that Chief Executives can get greater buy-in to employee engagement. Implementing one or two will bring clear progress in the right direction: implementing all five will catapult you to a new level:

  1. Reassure managers it won’t take up more of their time
  2. Demonstrate the business benefits
  3. Be the change you want to see
  4. Make it clear that this is business strategy
  5. Show that there are consequences of not engaging
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