HR Management & Compliance

The 6 Universal Drivers of Employee Engagement

“Six factors need to be present for true employee engagement,” says consultant Keith Branham. Highly engaged workplaces score high on all six drivers and tend to have “signature” drivers—that is, drivers for which they are particularly known.
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

Engagement is important—and getting wage and hour right is an important part of both employee satisfaction and protecting your company against lawsuits. Learn more.

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:

Traditional Partnering
Manager-driven Employee has input
Parent-to-child Adult-to-adult
HR exercise Manager’s tool
Personality Results
Vague goals Specific objectives
Yearly event Ongoing
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!”
Boomers “Train ‘em too much, and they’ll leave.”
X’ers “The more they learn, the more they stay.”
Millennials “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 or 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.

Everything you need to know about wage and hour in California. Learn more.

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

There’s a mixed message being delivered to employees, says Branham. 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 or weight-loss programs
  • Nutrition consultations

It’s Complicated …

Employee wages, overtime, and a host of picky other issues. Wage and hour is just never as simple as we wish it were—particularly here in California, where there’s a complex overlay of state laws and rules on top of the federal FLSA (nearly all of them even more employee-friendly).

We think the best weapon out there for California employers is our newly updated 2014 edition of our HR Management & Compliance Report How To Comply with California Wage & Hour Law.

This information-packed guide, written by an experienced California employment lawyer, features in-depth coverage of all the topics you need to know about in an easy-read, quick-reference style:

  • The California Labor Code vs. the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA)
  • Who the California wage/hour laws apply to
  • The Wage Orders that cover your organization
  • Hours of work—including travel time, make-up time, meal and rest periods, and the definition of “hours worked”
  • The rules for hourly, salary, and piece-rate pay
  • Bonuses, profit-sharing plans, and tips
  • Overtime and double-time wages
  • Alternative workweeks
  • Tools and equipment, uniforms, and work-related expenses and losses
  • Paid time off—vacation, PTO, holidays, and sick leave
  • Unpaid time off
  • When and how employees must be paid
  • Payment of final wages upon termination
  • Deductions from pay
  • Recordkeeping requirements
  • Pay-related discrimination
  • A new appendix of key cases you need to know about
  • And much more!

New for the 2014 Edition:

  • State appellate court decision affecting timekeeping and the practice of rounding employees’ time up or down
  • Information on calculating overtime when a nonexempt employee has a fixed salary
  • Information on providing accurate wage statements to avoid penalties
  • Changes in state minimum wage rates (which take effect starting in July 2014)

Order your copy now, and try it out risk-free for 30 days. If you’re dissatisfied in any way, just return it within 30 days for a full refund.

Now’s the perfect time to get yourself prepared for 2014. Order your copy of the newly updated edition of How To Comply with California Wage & Hour Law.

Download your copy of Paying Overtime: 10 Key Exemption Concepts  today!

1 thought on “The 6 Universal Drivers of Employee Engagement”

  1. The very first factor, regarding the senior leadership, is essential and very difficult to change if it’s not there. Sometimes you have to wait for non-engagement-minded leaders to leave because they’re so set in their ways.

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