The Science of Engagement: Understand the Key Drivers of Engagement

You can’t manage employee engagement unless you understand what drives engagement — it’s that simple. Recently I talked with David Youssefnia, Ph.D., about the definition of engagement. He’s president and founder of Critical Metrics, and one of Talmetrix’s advisers. He had some tips on how to understand the drivers of engagement to build a better employee engagement strategy.

The Big 5

Depending on what you’ve read or who you’ve talked to, it can seem like engagement drivers vary widely. There are a lot of definitions floating around out there, but when you look at the science, Youssefnia has found several key drivers that tend to come up across all companies and departments.

Believing in the company. This driver may be measured with statements such as “I feel like this company has a strong future” or “This company is headed in the right direction.” The degree to which people agree with those statements is an indication of their engagement.

Enjoying what you do. Sure, everyone has bad days, and there are certainly some aspects of our work that we’d rather not have to do. But if you generally enjoy the tasks you’re required to complete as part of your job, you’re more likely to be engaged.

Feeling like you have a future at the company. Do you have a clear career path? Do you have support to develop the skills you need to move up in the company? Seeing a future for yourself at your employers can help you feel more engaged.

Trusting senior leaders. It’s possible to trust leaders in an organization even if you don’t agree with their decisions. The trust employees feel (or don’t feel) in their leaders plays a strong role in engagement levels.

Feeling that managers are doing a good job. Managers are important when it comes to engagement, since they’re the ones who put engagement plans into action and report back about what they’re seeing. If your manager believes in you and gives you the tools to succeed, you’re going to report higher levels of engagement.

Variations and Insights

It’s important to understand that your company’s industry, size, product or service, mission and culture all combine to create your unique engagement profile. You know that engagement levels can vary by department within organizations, so it stands to reason that what employees find engaging will vary as well. And a small, nimble startup with remote workers is going to deal with engagement differently than a large, national company or a manufacturing enterprise. When measuring and trying to affect engagement, you can only compare your company to itself, and to keep surveying to see how things are changing.

The most interesting insights lie in overlaying engagement survey responses with different employee populations, Youssefnia says. A company-wide engagement initiative may find that overall, people feel strongly that the company has a good future ahead of it, but that high performers don’t feel like they have a future at the company. An engagement action plan could then look at succession plans or development and training.

Understanding the drivers of engagement will help you build better employee surveys that produce the insights you’re looking for. Find ways to incorporate your key drivers into surveys, and keep them in mind as you build your engagement action plan.


Talmetrix is an employee feedback and insights solution that helps organizations better attract and retain talent to achieve business goals. Our solution makes it easy for organizations to capture employee feedback (feelings) and organizational data (facts) to discover actionable insights. With a unique combination of software, content, data, and advisory support we can help you measure and improve your employee experience. Contact us today to learn how your company can start achieving better business results.

Comments are closed.