What Drives Global Engagement?

May 13, 2019

by Marcus Buckingham
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There is a tendency to place a lot of value on talent acquisition within organizations, but in doing so we bypass a more important question: how can we get the most out of the people that already work for us? With unemployment rates at a historical low, now is the time companies need to be creating workplace environments and situations where their people feel the most engaged – but until recently, we’ve had very few clues as to what actually drives engagement.

Enter ADP Research Institute. In a 19-country study, we devised a simple and reliable measure of engagement as a way to compare levels around the world. It’s not surprising that engagement around the world is very low: Only around 15% of employees reported being fully engaged, which means 85% of us are just coming to work. But why?

We were able to drill down from there into what actually drives engagement around the world – and it has nothing to do with your education, industry, gender, race, or age. The full research report is available here, but the two biggest factors we found were:

  1. Whether or not you’re on a team.

It’s not about how long you’ve been with the company, high how up you are, what your education level is or what industry you’re in — it’s about whether or not you say you’re on a team. You are 2.3 times as likely to be fully engaged if you’re on a team than if you aren’t. This finding is so important because we know companies don’t view engagement this way, but rather through static boxes on their org chart. 66% of people reported being on more than one team at work, and three-quarters of those people say those teams are not reflected on the company org chart. When we can’t see the teams, we can’t see the work – so we can’t make improvements to either. No wonder engagement is so low.

  1. The biggest driver of engagement on teams is whether you trust your team leader.

Upon examining the most engaged teams, we were able to determine that the biggest driver of engagement was whether or not teams trusted their team leader. Members of teams that have extreme trust for their team leader are 12 times more likely to be fully engaged. Across countries, industries, and positions, a trusted team leader is the foundation for building highly engaged teams.

There’s a lot more you can learn from this study, and you can start by reading the mainbar article in the May/June 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review’s The Big Idea: The Power of Hidden Teams. Global engagement is tragically low; but now we have the data to start making change.


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