Study: Contact with Boss Can Raise Engagement

By Kathy Gurchiek Sep 23, 2008

Daily satisfaction is the top engagement driver among U.S. workers, and engagement “soars” when their daily experience includes positive relationships with direct supervisors or managers, according to the latest National Workforce Engagement Benchmark Study.

Nearly six out of 10 workers are not fully engaged, according to findings based on interviews conducted in April and May 2008 with 2,368 part- and full-time employees working in public, private and not-for-profit organizations. That statistic hasn’t changed much in studies conducted by various organizations in recent years.

The new study points to “the vital need to focus on the employer-employee relationship” and the four Rs of recruitment, retraining, rewarding and retaining, said Marc Drizin, founder and CEO of Employee Hold’em, which conducted the study.

Fair treatment of employees encompasses an organization’s policies and procedures, job evaluations, pay and benefits, providing adequate training to do a good job, and treating employees with respect, according to the study.

It breaks employees into three groups: the fully engaged (43 percent, up from 4 percent in 2006-2007, when the study was last conducted); the reluctant, who stay because they have to (25 percent, barely unchanged from 24 percent); and the unengaged (32 percent, down from 36 percent).

The report on the findings suggests the following factors influence engagement:

  • Employees enjoy a good relationship with their supervisor, 77 percent.
  • Employees have equipment to do the job, 73 percent.
  • Employees have authority to accomplish their job, 73 percent.
  • Employees have freedom to make work decisions, 73 percent.
  • Employer’s products or services are highly regarded.
  • Employee’s skills and/or interests are a good fit with the organization.

Personal accomplishment and being provided tools that are easy to use scored the highest (69 percent) among employees as factors affecting their engagement.

Other factors included viewing their employer as a good corporate citizen (64 percent); viewing it as an industry leader (63 percent); viewing it as highly ethical (63 percent), feeling valued as an employee (61 percent); enjoying coming to work (61 percent); and working for an organization that treats them well (60 percent).

Among steps the study suggests that organizations can take to improve employee engagement:

  • Using biannual early intervention surveys targeted to individual employees as a way to understand causes behind turnover and to stop it before it can occur.
  • Coaching front-line supervisors and managers on the important role they play in employee retention and improved performance.
  • Reviewing the organization’s selection process and making changes to the recruiting procedure if necessary.
  • Conducting exit interviews.

“By enhancing understanding of organizational practices and employee priorities, attitudes, behaviors and intentions,” Drizin said, “organizations can recruit, retrain, reward and retain productive and effective employees.”

Kathy Gurchiek is associate editor for HR News. She can be reached at


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