Benefits and Compensation, Most Read

The 6 Universal Drivers of Engagement

Branham, who is founder and principal of Keeping the People, Inc., offered his expertise at WorldatWork’s 2013 Total Rewards Conference and Exhibition held recently in Philadelphia.

Driver #1: Caring and Committed Senior Leaders

Branham points to the following differences between low-scoring and high-scoring employers on engagement:

Low-Scoring Employers:

High-Scoring Employers:

Isolated and self-interested management

Servant mindset management

Devalue employees

Value employees

“Give ‘em an inch and they’ll take a mile.”

“If we give, they will give back.”

Employee engagement is desirable.

Employee engagement is critical for our business success.

Result: Burned out employees giving
poor service

Result: Nurtured workers
giving great service

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Driver #2: Manager Effectiveness

Twenty-five percent of employees would fire their boss, says Branham. Consider this table of traditional coaching vs. a more contemporary approach:




Employee has input



HR exercise

Manager’s tool



Vague goals

Specific objectives

Yearly event


Gets compliance

Gets commitment

Branham points to Winchester Hospital, a Best Place to Work in Boston company that started to focus on good feedback and engagement. Nurse turnover went from            20 percent to 7 percent, and the nurse vacancy rate plummeted from 19 percent to 2 percent.

Make a simple grid to rate your managers, says Branham:


Makes the numbers

Doesn’t make numbers

Treats people

Keep these managers.

Coach these managers; if they don’t improve, take them out of management.

Doesn’t treat
people right

Coach these managers; if they don’t improve, take them out of management.

Eliminate these people.

Driver #3: Teamwork (Not “Us vs. Them”)

Teamwork is an important element of engagement, says Branham.

In one recent survey, he says, in which employees scored their reaction to the statement, “I feel loyal to my immediate team or work group,” employees from best place to work winners scored significantly higher than did those from nonwinners.

Driver #4: Job-Learning-Career

Today’s employees value job enrichment, learning, and the ability to see a future.
One company, faced with few promotional opportunities for high potential employees, has embraced horizontal transfers. Critically, the company has made it clear that managers cannot stand in the way of employees who want to change jobs.

Branham points to four differing generational views of learning:


I learned the hard way … you can, too!”


“Train ‘em too much and they’ll leave.”


“The more they learn, the more they stay.”


“Continuous learning is a way of life.”

At the beginning, Branham says, employees are overwhelmed. Then there’s a period where they are happily challenged, followed by a period of smooth sailing. But then boredom sets in, followed by indifference. New challenges are required. (Source: Rob Bennett, Passion Saving: The Path to Plentiful Free Time and Soul-Satisfying Work)

Driver #5: Feeling Valued and Respected

Branham notes 10 ways employees may feel devalued:

  • Lack of simple appreciation
  • Unfair recognition
  • Too-little, too-late recognition
  • Reward wasn’t meaningful
  • Insufficient/unfair pay
  • Being ignored (not listened to, kept informed, or taken seriously)
  • Being micro-managed, over-controlled, not trusted, not challenged
  • Unacceptable physical surroundings or conditions
  • Not provided with the right tools, resources, including staffing assistance (overworked)
  • Nonperformers tolerated and rewarded

And, again, says Branham, best places to work companies scored higher on recognition than did non-best -places companies.

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Driver #6: Personal Well-Being and Work-Life Balance

There’s a mixed message being delivered to employees, says Branham. First of all, studies say that half of employees are burned out (some studies say it’s more like three- quarters) yet the companies are offering wellness programs.

Here is Branham’s partial list of well-being practices at top-scoring companies:

  • 4 weeks’ paid vacation for all
  • Childcare subsidy
  • Elder-care services
  • Annual weeklong financial and health fairs
  • Free on-site breast cancer and blood pressure screenings
  • “College Coach” program for parents
  • Meeting-free days
  • Discounts on fitness club memberships, weight loss programs
  • Nutrition consultations

In tomorrow’s Advisor, more on engagement, plus an introduction to plus an introduction to the all-HR-in-one-place website,

2 thoughts on “The 6 Universal Drivers of Engagement”

  1. If 25% of employees would fire their managers, that doesn’t necessarily mean 25% of managers are bad managers–some employees are just disgruntled, etc. They might want to fire any manager, regardless of how effective. I’m actually surprised the percentage isn’t higher.

  2. Our landlord left us a note two days ago that he nedeed to check the plumbing and do a general suite check, which was fine with the proper notice. However when he showed up he brought his girlfriend inside with him my boyfriend was home at the time but generally we are both at work when the landlord is around. If he or a maintenance person need access to our apartment that is fine but do we have to tolerate his random guests inside our home? She wasn’t there for any purpose other than curiosity as to what it looked like and I’d be very uncomfortable if his guests were hanging out while we aren’t home.

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