Employee Engagement Summary: Key Drivers

Employee Engagement Summary: Key Drivers

This is part 2 of our Employee Engagement Research Summary. To read part 1 Go Here.

White Key Drivers Summary: More than 100 studies, surveys and research efforts have been done that look at the “key drivers of employee engagement” (the specific factors that lead to having engaged employees).

Most will agree that there is no “one true list” of engagement factors, since different factors matter more in certain companies than others, and mean more to certain individuals than others. The factors that drive engagement largely depend on how each research effort has defined an “engaged employee.” Although the research varies on this point, most researchers have found similar repeating patterns.

For instance, most researchers agree that the single most important variable driving engagement (or disengagement) is the link between employees and their immediate managers, since managers directly control so many of the elements within employees’ lives (including remuneration, scheduling, the type of work assignments, performance feedback, recognition and career advancement, just to name a few). This is why Gallup refer to the Q12 as "The 12 Elements of Great Managing."

The list below represents 20 frequently cited drivers in employee engagement research.

Not (necessarily) in order of importance.

Appreciation: Being Trusted. (Given Autonomy/Ownership.) Appreciation: Being Praised. (Given Feedback/Recognition.) Appreciation: Being Respected & Cared For. Relationship: With Manager. Relationship: With Co-Workers. Work: Career Opportunities. (Learning/Growth/Advancement.) Work: Interesting/Varied/Challenging Tasks. Work: Meaningful Work. Purpose. (Values-fit.) Work: Opportunity to Utilise Strengths. (Skills-fit.) Work: A sense of progress. Company: Leadership. (Trust in senior leadership.) Company: Culture. (Established Norms/Policies.) Company: Communication. Company: Brand Reputation. Company: Work Conditions. (Tools/Equipment.) Company: Flexibility. (Work-Life Balance.) Company: Location. Company: Job Title. Company: Salary & Compensation. Individual: Diligence/Motivation as a Basic Tendency.


6 of the Most Important Drivers: White

1. Relationship with Manager.

"People join companies, but they leave managers . . . in the end, turnover is mostly a manager issue."

— M. Buckingham, C. Coffman, First Break All The Rules


Gallup Business Journal research: “At least 75% of the reasons for voluntary turnover can be influenced by managers.” Gallup Q12 research: #1 “I know what is expected of me at work.” ASTD research: #1 factor driving engagement was “Good relationship with immediate supervisors.” AIM research: #3 engagement factor was “A good relationship with my manager.” Google’s Project Oxygen: #1 out of 8 Habits Of Highly Effective Google Managers was “Be a good coach.” MSW/Dale Carnegie research: #1 of 3 key factors impacting employee engagement was “Relationship with immediate supervisor.” AHRI HRpulse research: #3 reason people leave was “Poor relationship with supervisor/manager.” Conference Board research: a review of 12 major companies’ research agreed that the direct relationship with one’s manager was the #1 strongest of all drivers. White


2. Appreciation (“Type 1”): Being Respected & Cared For.

“Being concerned about employee feelings, I’m absolutely certain, is what distinguishes a great boss from a merely good one.”

— Mark C. Crowley


Gallup Q12 research: #5 “My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.” Zenger/Folkman research: Manager likability is correlated to performance. Stanford research: compassionate organisations have higher employee engagement and loyalty. Towers Watson: engagement is linked to perception of management having sincere interest in their well-being. CEB research: #3 reason people leave their jobs was “respect.” White


3. Appreciation (“Type 2”): Being Praised. (Given Feedback/Recognition.)

“Recognition is the number one driver of engagement. Employees will say to us: ‘You know if we mess something up, management are here in a minute. I can't begin to tell you when was the last time someone said thank you. I don't feel appreciated.’ ”

— Kevin Sheridan


McKinsey research: #1 motivator for employees was “recognition.” HR Solutions Inc. research: #1 driver for predicting engagement was “recognition.” Aon Hewitt research: #3 engagement driver was "recognition." Gallup Q12 research: #4 “I have received recognition in the past 7 days.” White


4. Appreciation (“Type 3”) Being Trusted. (Given Autonomy/Ownership.)

“…[from the research] we’ve learned that one of the least satisfying things we can do is accomplish someone else’s goals. We might feel a sense of relief, but not joy. Satisfaction — self-motivation — comes from self-selected goals. This doesn’t mean that you can turn everyone lose to do whatever they want, but it does mean that when you're on a team or when you have a strategy to implement that you have some vote in what you're going to work on — that you have some kind of say in when you’re going to accomplish it and how you're going to go about it.”

— Will Marre


Gallup Q12 research: #7 “At work, my opinions seem to count.” ASTD research: #2 factor driving engagement was “A sense that employee opinions count.” Daniel Pink research: #1 of 3 key motivational factors: autonomy. (Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.) White


5. Meaningful Work. Purpose. (Values-fit.)

“A depressed manager once visited a coach. Upon meeting the coach, she explained that she had everything she needed and wanted from her workplace: Good pay, good working conditions, a good team. She was a very well respected manager, working in her role for many years and the company really needed her there. But there was just one thing wrong. She simply couldn't get passionate about what the company produced: biros. She exclaimed to the coach: 'I mean, I've tried to get excited about my work, I really have, but I think to myself . . . they're just pens for goodness sake!' "

— Robert Holden, Success Intelligence


AIM research: #1 engagement factor was “A sense of purpose and meaning in my job.” Gallup Q12 research: #8 “The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.” Daniel Pink research: #3 of 3 key motivational factors: purpose. (Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us.)


6. Career Opportunities. (Learning/Growth/Advancement.)

"For the fifth consecutive year, career opportunities remained the top driver to positively impact overall engagement levels.”

— Aon Hewitt, Trends in Global Employee Engagement (2013)


Gallup Business Journal research: #1 reason for people leaving their job was “Lack of Career/Advancement/Promotional Opportunities.” AHRI HRpulse research: #1 reason for people leaving their job was “Lack of promotion opportunities.” McCrindle research: #1 reason people consider leaving their jobs is, “Not being able to grow professionally.” Blessing White research: #1 people consider leaving is “Lack of Career Opportunities.” Blessing White research: the top #2 drivers of job satisfaction were career development and training. Gallup Q12 research: #6 “There is someone at work who encourages my development.” Gallup Q12 research: #12 “This last year, I have had opportunities to learn and grow.” White

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