You might already know that creating a happier and more engaged workplace is essential to increasing growth and profit. If you read our recent blog post, 10 Steps to a Healthy Company Culture, you know that there is a deep well of research to prove the point.
In this blog post, we'll discuss why engagement is so important, as well as the factors that make up engagement based on years of social scientific research in the field. With this knowledge, you'll be better able to measure engagement in the future.
According to Gallup, engaged employees are 21% more profitable and,
“Measurement is the first step companies must take before they can implement meaningful actions to improve engagement.”
What does engagement bring with it? The well renowned Robinson study explored the factors that make up engagement, and summed up the positive traits that engaged employees share. According to the study, engaged employees believe in the organisation, they work to make things better, they understand the context of their business and the ‘bigger picture’, they are respectful and helpful to colleagues, they are willing to ‘go the extra mile’, and they keep up to date with developments in the field.
That said, engaged employees are definitely the best thing for your organization. But the practical question is, “Exactly how do we measure engagement?”
It’s time to collect the data
If you want to measure engagement, then you need to embrace data collection and start surveying your employees. This is how you can learn more about them and ultimately make development decisions that improve their engagement. But you can’t just ask people “Are you engaged with this company?”.
That won’t bring you reliable results, because engagement is made up of many factors. In order to get a full picture, you need to understand what the factors are and ask questions about all of them.
The Factors of employee engagement
Fortunately, employee engagement is something that has been extensively studied by social scientists for years. So the basic criteria is already laid out for us.
Factors that influence employee engagement generally range from basic needs (pay, working hours, conditions) up to higher needs like finding meaning in the work. As a matter of fact, what employees need from your organization looks a lot like Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs.
Think about it, If you can’t get your basic needs met at work, like decent pay and healthy working conditions, then you’ll struggle to find real engagement even if the job is very meaningful. It also goes to say that if you only have factors like decent pay and a safe working environment, yet the job has no real meaning for you, then you won’t fully engage either.
Below is what we call Penna’s hierarchy of needs, which is based off of a study of 1,765 British workers.
You can see that essential survival is the basis of engagement and includes things like pay and stability. At the top of the pyramid people are looking for trust, leadership and meaning from their work.
A true story
I have a personal tale to share, as I learned about “the many factors of engagement” the hard way when I worked at one of my first summer jobs as a teenager. I thought that I had landed my dream job “helping the environment” with a local organization. This cause was very meaningful to me, and I enthusiastically believed that I would be highly satisfied and engaged.
Boy, was I wrong. This organization sent awkward and untrained teenagers out completely alone to collect money door to door for 10 hours a day in strange neighborhoods. We were dropped off by a car at the beginning of the day and picked up at the end. Other than that, we were totally isolated and alone with no one to contact in an emergency and no one watching out for our safety. For this fact, the organization was highly unpopular amongst the locals who found it to be annoying and exploitative. It was very hard to collect any money, and we were usually met with hostility.
I made it through about three weeks of a discouraging €38 pay check before I essentially collapsed from exhaustion.
It didn’t matter how meaningful I found the mission of “saving the environment” to be. My basic needs for a safe workplace and a reasonable pay check weren’t met, and so it was impossible for me to really engage with this company. I soon had to leave penniless and search for more realistic options.
It just goes to show that engagement isn’t only about one or two factors. It’s about all of the factors in the pyramid working together to create a holistic picture where people feel secure, satisfied and valued.
The Robinson Model
Below is another classic model referred to as “The Robinson Drivers of Employee Engagement.” Once again, you can see that engagement doesn’t only come down to one thing, but is made up of many factors that determine how valued and involved we are.
Below is Herzberg’s classic theoretical model for job satisfaction. The Herzberg model identifies basic "hygiene" factors like pay which only remove dissatisfaction from work, but don’t actively make people satisfied. If basic hygiene factors aren’t met, then employees can’t find true satisfaction even if they love the nature of the work (think of my teenage failure). The "satisfiers" are factors that actively motivate people and give them real job satisfaction. They tend to be related to achievement, recognition, responsibility, and the nature of the work itself.
Engagement is multifaceted
You’ll notice that factors from the different studies aren't identical, but they do show us a general trend and a range in similar factors that contribute to engagement.
If you want to collect data from your employees that will help to increase their engagement, then you you need to ask questions about their basic needs ranging up to their higher ones.
To sum up the research
Here’s a specific list of areas you may want to ask questions about on your next employe engagement survey:
- Job security
- Health and safety
- Pay conditions and benefits
- Working conditions
- Professional training and development opportunities
- Company management
- Immediate management
- Effective communication
- Performance and appraisal
- Personal development opportunities
If you need inspiration in the future, you can always re-visit this blog post, checkout out our quiz, Are You Engaged at Work? or even save the graphic research results presented here in a folder.
If you can survey your employees about the whole spectrum of basic to higher needs you can come up with a more accurate measurement of engagement at your company. Better yet, you can best target your actions to improve it, and gain the rewards of a more engaged and productive workplace.