Your Challenges

How do we get the business to buy in to that strategy?

Getting buy in

Engagement is far more about culture than strategy. It's about creating and sustaining a working environment which motivates people to offer discretionary effort. So the real question is not how do we get the business to buy into an engagement strategy, but how do we get it to buy into culture change: changing the way "we do things around here"? And the real question then is how do we get senior managers, line managers and employees throughout the business to back that process?

Senior managers

The senior team holds the key. Culture change will only happen with their full support. In many companies (usually the most successful) senior managers understand the links between employee engagement, customer satisfaction and business performance, and the engagement argument has long since been won. In other companies the senior team still needs to be convinced. Therefore the challenge is to make the business case and sell them engagement on their terms (See How does engagement impact other business performance metrics?).

The next step is to get them to understand that their attitudes and behaviours will set the tone for the rest of the company and provide an example which people will follow. They will need to understand that a top-down style of leadership is not consistent with a culture that engages people. They will need to communicate a clear direction, be visible, connect with people, "walk the talk" in terms of the company's values, and win people's trust.

Line managers

Line managers have more direct contact with employees than senior managers. They're responsible for translating company policy into practice and the way they do it has a huge impact on engagement. In many cases they don't owe their position to their people management credentials and they're seldom recognised or rewarded for how well they engage their teams. Very often their management style reflects what they see in their senior managers.

Line managers need to understand how their attitudes, behaviours and people management style affect engagement. They need training and coaching to reinforce the behaviours which drive engagement and eliminate those which lead to disaffection. They need to be recognised and rewarded for their successes in engaging their people. And they need to take their cue from the senior team.


As the attitudes and behaviour of the senior team and line managers change employees will see decision making responsibility moving slowly down the line and they'll feel they've got a bit more space. No doubt it won't be a straight forward process and it's likely to be met with a degree of suspicion and apprehension on all sides. However, people want to be trusted, respected and involved and in time they'll start to respond to this greater freedom by stepping up and grasping the opportunity. The sense of ownership that follows will start to have a huge impact on both engagement and performance. When that happens an engaging culture will begin to take hold.

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