What Drives Employee Engagement?

I came across a blog post titled “Employee Engagement: What Exactly is it?” The post points to a study by The Conference Board which studied different research reports published by various consulting firms. Interesting thing is that they look at the top drivers of engagement and I have always maintained that there is a lot of value in attempting to identify the key drivers of engagement. The post concludes that these research studies generally agreed on the following drivers:

Trust and integrity – how well managers communicate and ‘walk the talk’.

Nature of the job –Is it mentally stimulating day-to-day?

Line of sight between employee performance and company performance – Does the employee understand how their work contributes to the company’s performance?

Career Growth opportunities –Are there future opportunities for growth?

Pride about the company – How much self-esteem does the employee feel by being associated with their company?

Coworkers/team members – significantly influence one’s level of engagement

Employee development – Is the company making an effort to develop the employee’s skills?

Relationship with one’s manager – Does the employee value his or her relationship with his or her manager?

The post acknowledges that there are lots of variances in the data, but concludes that across all variables “the relationship with one’s manager” is the strongest driver. I completely agree with the fact that the quality of direct supervisors plays a crucial role in shaping engagement. However, there are times when organizations need to focus differently. What happens when broad workplace systems / processes / policies are not in place? A manager can still soothe his people, but not for long. Discontent will brew fast with the organizational functioning. And, managers may be helpless.

Whether organizational functioning or workgroup experiences shape engagement really depends on the unique situation of the organization in question. I would rather not be so quick in putting all the onus on managers.

On another note, the Towers Perrin’s Global Workforce Study of over 90000 employees identified the following key drivers of talent attraction, retention and engagement. Interestingly, the drivers are different, indicating different solutions for different issues.

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8 thoughts on “What Drives Employee Engagement?

  1. I would completely agree with you that engagement begins with mangagement. What good does an incentives program do if the employee doesn’t feel their boss doesn’t care much about them in the first place. Makes for a hollow program. Enjoyed the read!

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  2. Great post, but I would argue that manager style is critical to a stable foundation. Gallup research released earlier this month found one simple factor – direct manager style – can profoundly impact employee engagement. To summarize:

    • Managers who focus on employee strengths have 61% engaged employees and 1% actively disengaged

    • Managers who focus on employee weaknesses have 45% engaged employees and 22% actively disengaged

    • Managers who ignore their employees have 2% engaged employees and 40% actively disengaged

    http://globoforce.blogspot.com/2009/11/strengths-weaknesses-ignored-how-are.html

    I do agree with your statement that systems are important as well. Research and suggestions out of Hay Group also encouraged “developing systems to encourage employee success.” Strategic employee recognition is just such a powerful system that, when deployed properly, gives employees that necessary “line of sight.” By following strategic recognition best practice of linking every recognition to a company value or strategic objective, you are strongly and positively reinforcing precisely those behaviors or actions that demonstrate the company values in achievement of those objectives.

    More on the Hay Group article here: http://globoforce.blogspot.com/2009/11/systems-of-engagement.html

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    • Thanks a lot for your comments. Appreciate it.
      Gallup’s research focuses primarily on workgroup managers. The Q12 itself is a workgroup tool. It has limited focus on the more macro workplace issues.

      I am not undermining the importance of direct managers, but am just saying that there might be situations when managers can’t do much. A workplace is optimized when both these issues are improved in tandem.

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  3. Pingback: List of the Top Blog Posts of 2009 « Mumblr

  4. It will be good to divide the drivers into positive and negative, say those that have strong positive impact when handled positively (eg nature of the job) or negative (relationship with Manager). It is true that all drivers can have positive and negative implications, but some have more “pull in” effect, while some have more “push out” effect!

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  5. Abhishek:

    Thanks for the summary from the Conference board and Towers.

    I am now thinking about the word “drivers.” I will be writing a short rant post on this in a few weeks.

    I don’t care for the word in relationship to employees, work, and organizations.

    Don’t empower me and don’t drive me. I already have power and I drive myself thank you.

    David

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