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What Drives Employee Engagement?

Rachel Reed
5/23/19 10:18 AM

Employee engagement is defined as the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. An engaged employee is one that is enthusiastic about their work and is invested in their organization's reputation and interests.

Gallup's most recent global research finds only 13% of employees worldwide are engaged at work, and according to its recent State of the American Workplace report, just 33% of US employees are engaged at work.

Half of US employees are currently looking for other employment opportunities, according to a 2018 workplace report.

Deloitte surveyed employees in the US Life Sciences sector and found that the top two reasons employees plan to leave their current employers is a lack of trust in leadership (33%) and a lack of challenge in the job (30%). According to James K. Harter, Ph.D., Gallup's chief scientist for workplace management, at least 75% of the reasons for costly voluntary turnover come down to things that managers can influence.

What Drives Employee Engagement?

The Gallup "Q12," which are 12 core elements that link strongly to key business outcomes. These elements relate to what the employee gets (e.g., clear expectations, resources), what the employee gives (e.g., the employee's individual contributions), whether the individual fits in the organization (e.g., based on the company mission and co-workers) and whether the employee has the opportunity to grow (e.g., by getting feedback about work and opportunities to learn).

  • Employees enjoy a good relationship with their supervisor.
  • Employees have the necessary equipment to do the job well.
  • Employees have authority necessary to accomplish their job well.
  • Employees have freedom to make work decisions.

Money isn’t the only motivator

Recognition provides a sense of accomplishment and makes employees feel valued for their work. Recognition not only boosts individual employee engagement, but it also has been found to increase productivity and loyalty to the company, leading to higher retention.

Surprisingly, employees that are planning to leave their current employers aren’t doing so for the money:

Employees who do not feel adequately recognized are twice as likely as those who do feel adequately recognized to say they'll quit in the next year.


Respondents of a Gallup survey cited six types of recognition that had the most impact on their engagement with their work, and money isn’t at the top of the list:

  • public recognition or acknowledgment via an award, certificate or commendation
  • private recognition from a boss, peer or customer
  • receiving or obtaining a high level of achievement through evaluations or reviews
  • promotion or increase in scope of work or responsibility to show trust
  • monetary award such as a trip, prize or pay increase
  • personal satisfaction or pride in work

Workplace recognition motivates individuals to perform their best and makes them feel valued for their work. Effective employee recognition boosts employee engagement and increases productivity and loyalty as a result.

Download: How Employee Recognition Influences Attitude & Behavior in the Workplace 

employee recognition attitudes and behavior download-1

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