Who’s Likely to be Engaged? Building Employee Engagement (Part 3)

Who's likely to be engaged? building employee engagementIn our last SupportEDGE article we noted that, barring active effort on your part to build an engagement culture, only a third of your entire workforce is likely to be engaged.  That raises the question of just who they are and why they might be engaged.  The same studies that affirm the 30% rule also suggest  there’s a strong correlation between high engagement levels and factors like age, role, level and tenure of the employee.

Let’s start with age.  Employees who predate the Generation Y population (a.k.a., Millennials) tend to be more highly engaged than employees that fall within that population.  Now this doesn’t at all suggest that the latter has a lower energy level when working, or can’t get things done in an efficient way.  It just means that generally they don’t tend to think like owners of their work world, nor do they tend to use discretionary time and effort to get the job done.

The second factor that plays into this is the role of the employee.  Employees that are involved in the creation of and/or the direct execution of strategy tend to be more highly engaged than other employees.  The same is true of employees who are at the front lines of customer-relationship management and deal with customers directly.

The third factor is the level of the employee.  Employees who are in positions of authority and have been given ownership of their world tend to be more highly engaged than employees who are not in these positions.

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And finally, the fourth factor that has a strong correlation to engagement is the tenure of the employee.  Employees who have been with the company seven or more years tend to have higher engagement levels than employees who have been with the company a shorter amount of time.

Now, there’s not a whole lot we can do about the age of the employee or the employee’s tenure. We can’t change either of those.  However, we may be able to make application for all employees based on the prinbuilding engagementciples of role and level.  What’s important about the level factor is probably not so much the official title, as it is what typically accompanies that title; namely, things like autonomy and ownership for their world.   And what’s important about the role is probably not so much that it’s tied to strategy or customer-relationship management as that those in those roles tend to have a clearer line-of-sight to the outcomes of their daily activities.

Now we’ll see how this is validated when we get into the drivers of engagement later in this series.  But that’s it for this edition of the Support EDGE. Until next time, be sure all your development initiatives are performance-driven and outcomes-based.


Eric Svendsen, Ph.D., is principal and lead consultant of SCInc., a learning and development consulting company. Eric has over 20 years experience in creating and executing results-oriented, outcomes-based learning and development initiatives aligned to corporate goals. He specializes in leadership development and coaching, and leading organizational culture-change initiatives around customer support and safety leadership. Eric was personally involved in the development of certification standards, performance standards, exam validation, competency models and training for the customer-support and technical-support industry, and was instrumental in the creation of the only performance-based certification in that industry.

3 Responses to “Who’s Likely to be Engaged? Building Employee Engagement (Part 3)”

  1. Alex Dail says:

    One of the key factors to giving employees more autonomy without promotions is to set the standard you expect – the measurable benchmark to be hit – and giving them autonomy in how to obtain it. An example of a frontline employee would be: I want you to be able to cite the value that the customer is wanting?

  2. Robert says:

    Interesting article, but it begs one question – Do role, level, and tenure create engagement, or are 30% of employees naturally engaged due to their own work ethics and values, and their engagement earns them or naturally leads them to more autonomous roles, levels of greater responsibility (and pay), and longer tenure? Which is the cause, and which is the effect?

    I don’t want to be the pessimist, but I think it is an important concept to understand, especially when we have spent mountains of energy empowering our people to take on more responsibility and autonomy, thinking that would increase engagement, and the results are still less than astounding. Just a thought.

  3. scinc says:

    Robert – That’s a great point. There is undeniably a core group of employees that match your description. What you’re describing, however, is more like the differences between A/B/C players than differences in engagement/unengagement/disengagement. The former has an overlaying element, but the statistics don’t exactly correspond (A players make up about 20% of the workforce while engaged players make up 30%). I have plans to address that model as well (and address the larger theme of workforce management using both models).

    The next article in this series points to the fact that someone who is disengaged on company time may very well be placing tons of discretionary effort into a side business. Hence, they may be highly engaged elsewhere without being engaged in their current position.

    A corollary observation (and one I’ll be addressing later in this series) is that when you place an A player (a natural owner) in a B or C position (one that lacks opportunities for greatness), that employee can become just as disengaged and just as dissatisfied as any other disengaged employee, and will be among the first to leave the organization.


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