Arniston Spa Hotel


In the month of August we looked at the value and contribution of women in business. For this article we are returning our attention to defining employee engagement as it is a crucial step in the process, i.e. laying the foundation for forward progress. But the real value comes in determining what creates engagement. Employee engagement can be defined as the extent to which employees both cognitively and emotionally connect with the brand they are employed with.

The Towers Perrin study assisted in identifying a set of workplace attributes that, in combination, are critical to building high employee engagement. They are, in order of importance:

  • Senior management’s interest in employees’ well-being.
  • Challenging work.
  • Decision-making authority.
  •  Evidence that the company is focused on customers.
  • Career advancement opportunities.
  • The company’s reputation as a good employer.
  • A collaborative work environment where people work well in teams.
  • Resources to get the job done.
  • Input on decision-making.
  • A clear vision from senior management about future success.

The exhibit shows how the respondents felt their companies are doing across these all-important drivers of engagement. Several points are worth noting:

  • A majority of these attributes relate to the cultural components of the workplace and the total rewards mix. These are elements that generally can’t be quantified from a monetary perspective – or delivered through a clearly defined program. That’s why, despite their importance to employees, they remain elusive goals for so many companies.
  • The traditional monetary rewards in the total mix, i.e. pay and benefits, don’t appear here at all. This doesn’t mean they’re not important to employees. As we’ll explore in detail later, they play a very significant role in attracting people to a company and some role in retaining people. But they have a relatively minor role, at best, in driving engagement itself.
  • Two of the elements in the “engagement top 10” – the first and last, respectively – have to do with management. Simply put, it’s impossible to underestimate the role leadership plays in building an engaged workforce.
  • The nature of people’s work matters a lot. The desire for challenges on the job is the second most influential factor in driving engagement – a finding consistent with the data from this study of the emotional climate of the workplace. Being able to do something interesting and meaningful helps feed that important need for a sense of personal inspiration and accomplishment, leading to pride in one’s work and one’s company.
  • Control over one’s environment is a clear theme, seen in items like decision-making authority, input into relevant decisions and resources to get the job done. Employees need to believe that some authority and autonomy come along with the increased responsibility and risk they are being asked to bear in various ways in the workplace.
  • Ultimately, all of these elements come down to the kind of culture and work environment a company creates and nourishes over time. As noted earlier, it isn’t possible to build such an environment overnight. It takes commitment, consistency, trust in employees’ judgment, strong leadership, even stronger day-to-day management, and practices and programs that align with and support the desired culture.

Over the next number of months, at least 5 of these attributes will be unpacked in terms of their role, relevance and impact.
Source: Towers Perrin Study Report (2003)