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January 31, 2024
8 min read

Create A Culture of Highly Engaged Employees With These Resources


This post on employee engagement models was originally published in December 2016. It was updated with new facts and statistics in January 2024.

Do your HR team’s 2024 priorities include employee engagement? According to a recent Gallup report, engagement has recovered —but its recovery is stagnating. Just 33% of U.S. employees are engaged, stress is increasing, and crucial engagement indicators have declined. Fewer workers agree that they have clear expectations at work, job satisfaction is down, and they feel disconnected from their companies’ mission or purpose.

That lack of engagement has a significant effect on business outcomes. It’s responsible for $1.9 trillion in lost productivity and contributes to higher employee turnover. So, if your CHRO is among the 70% who say they want to improve employee engagement at all levels of the business this year, it’s with good reason. It’s never been more necessary to show your employees you care about their lives both in and outside of the workplace.

🚀 Ready to boost workplace engagement? Brush up on three popular employee engagement models and uncover insights on measuring satisfaction, fostering commitment, and enhancing motivation:

An employee engagement model can help you develop a strategy that actually motivates your people and shows them you care. Apply an engagement model so you can better understand what engages your workers, measure engagement levels, and monitor trends.

Keep reading to dig deeper into three of the best-known employee engagement models. We’re also sharing some advice on how to determine which one is right for your business.

What is an Employee Engagement Model?

An employee engagement model is a framework for understanding what your people need to be successful and happy at work and methods for how to engage employees. That understanding helps inform your employee engagement strategies and determine the criteria for your employee surveys, which enable your team to more accurately measure and monitor engagement trends.

A new generation of workers is entering the workforce, the hiring landscape is evolving once again, and what people need from their employers is different than in years past. As a result, the demand for effective employee engagement is only growing.

Engagement models help you foster a positive company culture where employees feel valued and supported and retention is high. They enable your organization to stay agile in its ability to give your people what they need to thrive.

Kickstart your new engagement strategy with ClearCompany’s Employee Engagement resources.
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  • Infographic on employee unhappiness and how to beat it
  • How to get executive buy-in for employee surveys
  • 30 ways you can show employees they’re appreciated now

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3 Pillars of an Engagement Model

There are many different engagement models, but the most effective include a few fundamental components. These are critical to drive strategies that have a positive impact on engagement.

1. Employee Satisfaction Metrics

Overall satisfaction is a key indicator of whether or not your employees are thriving. Any effective engagement model will have methods for assessing satisfaction. Satisfaction metrics tell you whether employees are happy with their jobs by measuring different aspects of the work environment. These metrics include role fulfillment, work-life balance, compensation, recognition, and the general work atmosphere.

Companies typically gather feedback on employee satisfaction via employee surveys. This direct feedback provides actionable data that can guide your enhancements to employee engagement strategies.

2. Commitment to the Organization

Organizational commitment illustrates the level of emotional attachment and loyalty your employees feel toward the company. It’s integral to building a workforce that cares about the success of the business. Engagement models need a framework for recognizing and fostering commitment among employees. That contributes to a positive work culture, which boosts productivity.

3. Employee Motivational Factors

Knowing what motivates your people is critical for engaging them. Are they driven by a sense of purpose? Professional development opportunities? Regular thanks and appreciation from their managers?

When you understand what motivates your people, your engagement initiatives can better reflect that. You’ll be able to target your efforts and tailor strategies to departments or individuals to encourage retention.

Now, let’s look at a few examples of proven engagement models.

3 Leading Employee Engagement Models

There are many employee engagement theories, but these are three of the most well-known and widely used. Any of these are an excellent framework for organizations building their engagement strategies.

🌟 Discover the Gallup Q12, Aon Hewitt, and William Kahn employee engagement models and start your journey to a more engaged workforce:

1. Gallup's Q12 Engagement Survey

We reference Gallup research often — they’re one of the most prominent firms researching engagement in the world, and their data stretches back decades. Gallup looks at how engagement impacts employee performance and how that, in turn, affects business outcomes. The firm also emphasizes that leaders outside of HR need to be involved in engagement due to their findings that managers are responsible for 70% of the variance in engagement outcomes.

How It Works

Gallup has found that there are five key drivers of engagement:

  1. Purpose
  2. Development
  3. A caring manager
  4. Ongoing conversations
  5. A focus on strengths

With Gallup’s Q12 survey, you’ll be able to see where your company needs to improve to achieve results with your engagement strategies. This engagement survey asks employees to rate their overall satisfaction with their workplace. Then, it asks for their level of agreement with 12 statements to determine engagement.

The first two statements establish whether employees have what they need to complete their jobs to the best of their ability:

  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.

The next several statements determine if employees feel appreciated and supported at work:

  1. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  2. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  3. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  4. There is someone at work who encourages my development.

Then, the survey asks if employees feel like they’re a valued member of a team and if they feel a sense of connection to their work and colleagues:

  1. At work, my opinions seem to count.
  2. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  3. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  4. I have a best friend at work.

Finally, Gallup rounds out the survey by uncovering if employees feel they have advancement or growth opportunities:

  1. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  2. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

Who Should Use It?

Gallup’s engagement model is best suited to remote or hybrid teams, regardless of industry or the size of the business. Its 12-question structure gives a quick view of employee engagement and what your company can do to improve.

2. The Kahn Model of Employee Engagement

Organizational psychologist William Kahn was among the first to use the term “employee engagement” in his 1990 paper, Psychological Conditions of Personal Engagement and Disengagement at Work. Kahn defined engagement as when people could “employ and express themselves physically, cognitively, and emotionally” at work. His research explored the work conditions that enable people to be engaged and bring their full selves to work.

How It Works

The goal of Kahn’s employee engagement model is to ensure that the right conditions are present for your people to be fully themselves in the workplace. He found that three psychological conditions are necessary for employee engagement:

  • Meaningfulness: Employees experience meaningfulness when they feel valued and appreciated for what they bring to the table. Feeling they’re doing meaningful work increases employees’ investment in their work and business outcomes.
  • Safety: Psychological safety means employees aren’t afraid there will be negative consequences for being engaged at work. They’re more willing to take risks because they won’t be punished for making a mistake or judged for their perspective.
  • Availability: This refers to whether employees have the physical, psychological, and emotional resources they need to be engaged. Employee well-being impacts whether their full selves are available for engagement at work.

You can apply Kahn’s model to your engagement strategy with an engagement survey or a series of surveys. Ask your employees to rate how meaningful they find their work and if they feel comfortable taking risks and making mistakes. You can also ask them about their well-being to determine if stress and burnout are affecting engagement.

Who Should Use It?

Many diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) strategies are reminiscent of Kahn’s engagement model, with the goal of creating psychologically safe work environments for all. Any company that wants to enhance its DEIB strategy can take cues from this engagement model.

3. The Aon Hewitt Engagement Model

The Aon Hewitt model for employee engagement identifies six elements of the work experience that drive engagement:

  • The work people do
  • The people they work with
  • The growth opportunities they can access
  • Total rewards received, including pay and recognition
  • Company practices, like DEIB, communication, support, etc.
  • Quality of life, including job security and work-life balance

This model says that companies can control these factors to maximize employee engagement.

How It Works

The Aon Hewitt model determines engagement outcomes according to employees’ desire to stay, stay, and strive:

  • Say —Say positive things about the company, their work, and their colleagues
  • Stay —Feel they belong and want to be part of the company
  • Strive —Are motivated to put in their best effort

If your employees agree that they have great things to say about their workplace, they don’t want to look for a new job, and they’re motivated to do their best, you can consider them to be engaged.

Who Should Use It?

The simplicity of “Say, Stay, and Strive” makes the Aon Hewitt model well-suited to enterprise organizations with thousands of employees. With a quick three-question survey, you can get a birds’-eye view of engagement and insight into where engagement is doing well —and where you can improve.

Apply any —or your own combination — of these employee engagement models to your strategies and reap the benefits of these time-tested theories.

Software Supports Engagement Models

The importance of employee engagement is undeniable; we know that from decades of research and countless success stories. But that doesn’t mean truly impactful strategies are easy to pull off —as Gallup’s report clearly shows.

Luckily, there’s no shortage of modern engagement software tools you can use to help your employees connect with their work, each other, and your company’s purpose. Upgrade your strategy with the right employee engagement model in place and powerful software tools to enhance it.

Look for technology that’s cutting-edge and built to last; easy to tailor to your needs now and grow with your team in the future. Here’s what to ask when you’re demoing employee engagement software:

  • Does the system offer survey tools that can support my company’s engagement model?
  • Does the system have options for quick-launch surveys, like an eNPS survey?
  • Can I create my own employee engagement surveys?
  • Are surveys accessible on mobile devices?
  • Can I gather survey feedback anonymously?
  • How do I analyze my survey results? What reports are available?

Bring these questions when you demo ClearCompany Employee Engagement software, where you’ll get a personalized preview of how to use our feature-rich software to implement your engagement model. Sign up for your demo today.

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