“Engagement and culture are not HR issues.”

The CEO of an award-winning New Zealand workplace says the burden shouldn’t lie solely on HR’s shoulders.

“Engagement and culture are not HR issues.”
The group CEO of an award-winning New Zealand workplace has spoken out about employee engagement and company culture, saying the important issues shouldn’t be left solely to HR.

“Employee engagement and culture are not HR issues, they’re leadership issues,” says Leading Edge’s Struan Abernethy. “HR is there to facilitate, enable and support leaders to do the right things and create the right environment,” he added.

Abernethy stepped into the role of group CEO in October of last year, overseeing operations across New Zealand, Australia and the United Kingdom. He says the company, which has been identified as one of New Zealand’s best workplaces, is passionately focussed on employee engagement.

“One of the things we recognize, and I think a lot of organizations get this wrong, is that engagement is not a one-way street,” he told HRM. “It’s not just about the organization and it’s not just about the leadership culture – it’s about enablement; enabling people to make the choice to be engaged.”

So, it’s a joint responsibility between HR and team leaders, right? Wrong. Abernethy says it’s important for employees to realize they’re responsible for their own engagement too.

The sales organization, which has 32 locations across New Zealand, runs workshops around one important question – being engaged is a personal choice: true or false?

“Obviously the answer is it’s both on the individual and it’s on the organization to create the right environment,” says Abernethy.

“I think there have been some lightbulb moments with a number of our team where they actually choose the attitude that they bring the work on a daily basis, they choose to get involved and take ownership,” he told HRM.

“We don’t just subscribe to this being our problem or our issue – we talk about a culture of ‘we’ and we talk about how we don’t want to have a management vs. workers environment. ‘We’ run the business and ‘we’ make decisions.”

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