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The most highly engaged organisations – how do they differ? The results may surprise you!

9 Dec 2015 - Blog

The most highly engaged organisations – how do they differ? The results may surprise you!


To understand better the engagement profile of our upper quartile clients (those that score in top 25% for employee engagement,) we carried out a study to discover the differences between the upper quartile and the benchmark scores of the most frequently asked questions in our engagement surveys. The findings were quite remarkable!


Range of engagement scores in clients surveyed by People Insight


They have leaders who trust and listen

Employees want to be listened to. They want their opinion to count and they want to feel they can talk to leaders about their needs and aspirations – both for their role and for the organisation. Upper quartile employers are 18-percentage points more likely to make the effort to listen to their employees than benchmark norm employers.

“I feel confident about pushing forward ideas and improvements within my department, knowing that they will be taken seriously, I feel like the work I do makes a difference.”

Top quartile employers work hard to inspire confidence and trust from their employees – achieving a 14-percentage point increase in trust on benchmark norm employers. They do this by:

  • Being transparent about future plans
  • Including people in decision-making
  • Holding their hands up when they make mistakes
  • Trusting them to work autonomously and from any location

They are also skilled at showing employees how their efforts contribute to the overall goals of the organisation – an 11-percentage point increase.

“The CEO dares to do things that make you proud working for a company striving to become a global player! The atmosphere between senior leaders and the floor is remarkably good and gives room to mention issues you wouldn’t say working for another company…”

“I am trusted to do my job using the competencies I demonstrated when I was employed, and consequently I have made my job my own. I love the freedom I have to develop myself and my skills… for the first time in my career I feel truly valued.”

This Visible Leadership is very much present in the two highlighted case studies from our PIPER (People Insight Peak Engagement Research) project.


They have leaders who take action to make positive changes

Whilst everyone says continuous improvement is important – not everyone is skilled in actually making change happen. Upper quartile employers not only take the time to find out the how employees feel through engagement surveys, they make significant effort to implement, and embed solutions. It must work – their employees show an increase of 16-percentage points in their belief that change will happen as a result of the employee engagement survey.

“Directors and heads are taking note of what is said in these surveys and are changing according to the results.”

When top quartile employers implement changes, they tread sensitively through the change curve by bringing people with them on a supported journey. They:

  1. Communicate frequently and authentically
  2. Are visible and approachable
  3. Involve employees in the decisions that impact them
  4. Use techniques like visioning and storytelling to create excitement about the changes
  5. Support and coach employees when the going gets tough

Upper quartile employees feel that their employer manages change 12-percentage points more effectively than our benchmark norm employees.

“(Since the survey) a lot of effort has been put into communicating from the top down e.g. director’s regular updates are short, informal and informative enough for my needs. Stand-ups with the director are always very interesting and motivating and he seems to be very open to staff questions, which is great.”


They manage the career and personal development expectations of their people

Top quartile employers satisfy the career development expectations of their employees – there is a 14-percentage point increase in development need aspirations being met. Upper quartiles ensure that employees have clear career paths and access to multiple opportunities to develop their skills, e.g. training courses and development centres to overseas secondments.

“It is great to work for an organisation that is happy to invest in staff both financially and through time provided for necessary learning & development….this is the first company I have worked at where I feel valued and can see a future.”

Top quartile performers also have a positive attitude towards personal development. Their line managers take the time to coach and develop employees – there is a 7-percentage point increase in the prevalence of coaching employees in top quartile performing employers. However, top quartiles don’t do this in isolation. Their frameworks, expectations, and objectives are the foundations of their improvement approach and make their robust development cultures reality.

“My line manager provides professional and personal support… (she) enables me to demonstrate my skills and these are showcased to senior managers – hence shows that personal development is paramount.”


Top employers nail ensuring staff get a sense of achievement from their work

Getting a sense of achievement from and feeling proud of the work you do are statistically the most important drivers of engagement in the majority of our surveys. So it’s not surprising the best are really nailing this.

There is a 13-percentage point increase in employees at top quartile organisations feeling a sense of achievement from their work. Why? Because their roles allow them to use the skills they feel confident in and they enjoy working to a common purpose. Process, procedures & lack of resource aren’t holding them back. When they do a good job they are recognised, and thanked:

“It is an extremely rewarding environment to work in, with staff working hard to ensure they achieve their own goals for the benefit of the team. I have never worked somewhere where people have this much enthusiasm for their job, it makes me want to do well and progress!”


Now for the curve ball…

The finding that surprised us most in our study was that according to their employees, top quartile employers are 13 percentage points better at linking pay with contribution than the benchmark norm employers.

“In my opinion it is is a very good company to work for …and I feel we are very well looked after in terms of pay and benefits.”

Engagement professionals always get a bit uncomfortable with a finding around pay in case it challenges our assumptions that just paying someone more doesn’t increase engagement.

Digging deeper into the findings here, what we discovered was that:

Employees’ perceived value of their pay increases when non-monetary rewards are plentiful

So all of the factors discussed above – employees being able to trust their leaders, be listened to, develop and grow – indirectly increase the employee’s evaluation of their pay. When pay comes out as an issue in surveys, providing it’s not way off industry standard, we often say look at all the engagement and reward mechanisms – get those right, and see how that affects pay perception. So our finding here is a useful one to reiterate the point!

“Working here has changed my life, I started at the bottom and over the years have progressed to management level. The training and opportunities the company offer are fantastic and I certainly would recommend the company as a great place to work.”


Percentage point difference in question score between upper quartile employers and the norm


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