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What drives employee engagement (and inhibits it)?

What drives engagement

An outwardly complex question with a reassuringly simple answer: research suggests there are three principal drivers of engagement - management style, leadership and opportunity.

Management style appears to be the single most important driver. A recent global study identified the qualities people most associate with an engaging manager:

  • Showing care, concern and interest in people
  • Setting clear and consistent expectations
  • Valuing people's unique qualities
  • Giving positive feedback and recognition for work well done
  • Encouraging and supporting people's growth and development

And those findings are fully corroborated by our own research into the differences between engaged and disaffected employees: the attitudes and behaviours of line managers and supervisors are the critical factor.

Leadership is another key to engagement. The qualities people most associate with engaging leaders are:

  • Being able to communicate a compelling sense of the Company's future?
  • Holding a steady course through difficult times?
  • High visibility and involvement in implementing strategy?
  • An ability to connect with people?
  • Honesty and authenticity - "walking the talk" in terms of the Company's values?
The question is: how many leaders really demonstrate these qualities?

Opportunity is the third factor. Employees who thoroughly enjoy their work, have confidence in the Company's leaders and have excellent working relationships with their line manager are not always engaged. For some people a vital ingredient is missing: a belief that the company provides them with opportunities and support for career development.


In our paper "Beyond the matrix - The four faces of work" we look at four generic employee types: the engaged, the disaffected, the frustrated and the uncommitted. Employees who lack this belief in opportunity but are otherwise positive fall into the fourth category - the uncommitted. And until this issue can be resolved they will never be engaged - they will remain unable to commit themselves to the Company. The great danger of course is that an otherwise valuable "asset" who makes a significant contribution may be lost, perhaps to a competitor.

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Read the latest articles, reports and research papers on employee engagement. At Digital Opinion we're committed to providing our readers with a rich source of engagement information to support their goals.

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