Employee engagement is one of the most abstract concepts in workplace. Unfortunately if you ask a lot of leaders to explain what it means, you will find that they are not able to.

So, what really is employee engagement? How do you engage your employees? What does it mean to engage employees?

From a 2015 HBR article, let us consider the following classification of employees (borrowed from Maslow's pyramid of needs). The authors (of the article) argue that unless you have a baseline of a satisfied employees, engagement is not possible. This in turn means, unless leadership/management teams create an environment where employee satisfaction is guaranteed, engagement is not possible.



The article goes further in saying that if satisfied employees are 100% productive, then engaged employees are 144% and inspired employees are 225% more productive. It is not hard to see why. My experience partly aligns with the hypothesis that the biggest challenges around employee engagement and productivity are around satisfaction.

But there is a fundamental flaw in this article. It lies with how the pyramid is structured. The only way this pyramid would work is if the net score in every tier is a weighted sum of all the components. But the weights are not evenly distributed but in fact, subjectively varies among different employees.

To validate this, I ran a quick experiment reaching out to 100 people in my network, working in different companies and did a poll on every single dimension listed in the pyramid. Think of it as de-normalizing the data and stripping the dimensions from their parent categories. But, what I did in addition to this was to include three self-assessment questions -

  1. How satisfied are you in your job?
  2. Do you feel you are engaged and want to do more than what your job asks of you?
  3. Have you consistently redefined your role and pushed your boundaries?

The answers to these questions are critical to correlate what the employee feels personally around their productivity and how it correlates to the above dimensions. The survey results are below. I only plot the percentage of 'yes' responses to the different questions in addition to the three self-assessment questions above.



The results by themselves are interesting but double clicking into each bucket reveals more interesting patterns. I mined this data to select participants who rated said 'yes' to their self-assessment questions and correlated what dimensions are above 90%. This is an attempt to identify if there is a correlation between the dimensions across different buckets irrespective of the categories they belong.



Some observations -

  1. Employees who are satisfied show a high score on S1, S4, E1, E4 and I1. S1 is safe place to work, S4 is perception of fair reward and value, E1 is being part of an extraordinary team and E4 is making an impact. I1 also makes the cut, which is deriving meaning and inspiration from the company's mission.
  2. Employees who claim to be fully engaged rated high on more dimensions. Surprisingly, S4 does not make the threshold of 90%, which I expected as a baseline. I1, which is deriving meaning and inspiration in the company's mission. For a high engagement believing in missions and values is also important.
  3. People who are inspired rated highly in all dimensions. The highest rated dimensions (98% cutoff) are S1, E4, I1 and I2. The faith in company's mission and leadership seems to standout as does safe work environment and perception of making an impact.

My experiment was with a small sample and I am curious to see how this scales across a bigger sample and different variants like within a company, within an industry, a geographical area, etc.

I created a Google Form for this purpose, which is just an extension of the survey form I used plus demographic info. You can find it here. I would love for you to try it with yourself, share it among your colleagues and friends, spread the word around. It will be interesting to see what the results will be. I am sure we can all learn from this and build a better engaged workplace.

If you have other ideas, please comment and/or reach out to me.