Employee Engagement – 2011

April 22, 2011 § 7 Comments

The war for talent has returned.  According to the Adecco HR Group, in 2010, 14% of Americans started a new job.

Here’s what Adecco’s 2011 Workplace Survey says about the American workforce today:

  • 28% will be starting a new job
  • 50% of 18-34 year olds will be looking
  • 26% of 35-50 year olds will be looking


Of those who will be starting or looking for work in 2011, here’s what they say is important in a job:

  • 21% – Job security
  • 20% – Health benefits
  • 14% – Salary or compensation
  • 11% – Financial or retirement benefit
  •   5% – Vacation or days off
  •   4% – Company culture
  •   1% – Company perks

If you are concerned about ATTRACTING talented employees, this data is worth paying attention to.  But if you are also concerned about RETAINING your high performers, especially as our economy turns, there’s more you need to know.  The Corporate Leadership Council’s (CLC) research on EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT tells us what keeps employees engaged – and it is not necessarily what brought them to the job.  And by engagement they mean that the employee:

  1. Is PROUD to work for the company
  2. SPEAKS HIGHLY of the company
  3. Experiences their WORK as MEANINGFUL & INTERESTING
  4. Believes that the best way to GROW is to stay
  5. Willingly provides DISCRETIONARY EFFORT to help others

As a manager there are elements in the above lists that you have less personal control over (job security, benefits, perks, corporate actions and policies, etc.), but what the CLC’s research has shown, as well as findings from Towers-Watson studies, is that the manager has a much larger impact on employee engagement than company or environmental (marketplace) factors.  Those of you who study this stuff may recall that the U.S. Navy did some research decades ago and quantified the effect of submarine Commanding Officers (on morale, motivation, performance)  to be 50-70%.

According to the CLC, here’s how engaged employees describe their managers:

  1. Demonstrates that he/she cares about me
  2. Encourages my development and growth
  3. Sets realistic & relevant performance goals
  4. Helps me find solutions
  5. Accurately evaluates my potential
  6. Provides rich, frequent, informal and specific feedback
  7. Trusts me to do my job
  8. Recognizes my achievements
  9. Is friendly and approachable

Three things about the above list:

  • There are ways to do each of them better or worse, and I will address best and worse practices in upcoming posts.
  • Care (#1) and Growth (#2) of the “smaller by the bigger” are the most important (South African leadership researcher, Etsko Schuitema does a fine job speaking about this)
  • Trust (#7):  According to Towers-Watson, 42% of employees do not trust their manager.   If you want to assess yourself on this, see my previous post on TRUSTWORTHINESS to understand what it takes to earn or gain trust.

Take-Away:   Don’t assume your high performers have high potential.  They may be great team players, but may not be engaged.  Often, we leave our “A” players in the dark while we try and fix the problems with the “B’s” and “C’s,” and are surprised when the top talent leaves.  Connect with your talented people and find out how they feel about their work.  Listen to them.

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§ 7 Responses to Employee Engagement – 2011

  • Gretchen Cherington says:

    Great post, Allen, simple, quick to review,and meaningful. I was surprised to see the low number for company “culture” but you give a lot of good ideas on the engagement piece and in 25 yrs of consulting I’ve seen way too little attention paid to the well engaged vs. the problem employees. I enjoy your posts!

    • Bob Faw says:

      Like Gretchen, I find that culture is a major factor in engagement. I think the relationship with the boss is highly influenced by the culture.
      There are of course companies that are outliers on the statistics quoted above. The statistics describe most employees, but not all of course.
      Companies like Zappos, Google, Northeast Delta Dental attract people because of their culture as much as anything else.

      Good insights, Allen

      • Hi Bob. Appreciate the comment. I agree that there are outliers. 4% of job seekers do decide on what they believe is a company’s culture. As for culture causing boss behavior vs. the other way around. I recall the Navy submarine research that found that within the same Navy culture, CO’s had a 50-70% effect on the culture within the sub. Different subs had different cultures, mostly attributable to the CO.

  • Thanks Gretchen. From the literature, and from my experience, the culture variable isn’t on the screen for job seekers (culture=norms of behavior). It’s not till after we work at a place do we feel the emotional connection – or disconnection to the culture. You can read about a company’s culture, but hard to describe it until you live in it. A bad culture would cause someone to look elsewhere once they’re in.

  • Amy Wilson says:

    The five points on employee engagement is spot on. It is certainly why I have stayed put for 8 years. The list of nine things to do to engage your employees is also what I need to be doing in my classroom everyday. I’m lucky that in my situation my top talent doesn’t leave, but I can tell you even in the classroom model teachers can get lured into fixing the problems of a few kids and take for granted that the top will stay engaged on their own. Classrooms and businesses are so similar.

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