The Employee Engagement Problem

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Employee Engagement is a major determinant of the positive performance of an organization. It rests upon several concepts, including overall job satisfaction, employee commitment to the success of the company, as well as the practice of organizational citizenship (Markos and Sridevi 89). Employee Engagement is regarded as the key factor for the company’s high score across the various performance indicators: “Many have claimed that employee engagement predicts employee outcomes, organizational success, and financial performance (e.g. total shareholder return)” (Saks 600). This report aims to show how to choose and implement an appropriate Employee Engagement strategy in a specific organizational context, using a medium-sized insurance business as an example of boosting Employee Engagement on a corporate level.

Principle Drivers for Employee Engagement

Despite some variations in the implementation strategies depending on the line of business, the size of an organization, and other specific features, the main drivers for Employee Engagement are similar for most organizational contexts. Saks explains that the original theoretical basis for Employee Engagement, developed in 1990 by Kahn, highlights factors such as meaningfulness, safety, and availability (602). The meaningfulness of the job is driven by job enrichment and role fit, whereas relationships with co-workers and supervisors affect the job’s psychological safety (Saks 602).

Availability, on the other hand, is based on the abundance of internal resources, which lower the need to participate in outside activities (Saks 602). Markos and Sridevi propose more recent definitions of the drivers for Employee Engagement, stating that the overall most important factor for an employee to be engaged is “feeling valued and involved” (91). This definition includes a variety of factors, such as employee empowerment, great interpersonal climate, support of growth and development, recognition of achievements, and connecting employee efforts with the company’s vision and targets (Markos and Sridevi 91). Combining the two viewpoints, it is possible to outline five primary drivers for Employee Engagement: the value of employee’s work and its contribution to the company’s strategic goals, pleasant corporate climate, opportunities for professional and personal growth, proper use of organization’s resources, and appreciation of achievements and development.

Measuring Employee Attitudes

There are many ways of measuring employee attitudes, most of which are extensive surveys to be filled by the employees. The main practical disadvantages to this method of measurement are its lack of focus and longevity, which may cause employees to skip questions or answer without thinking them through. Based on the work of Dr. Donald O. Clifton and Dr. George Gallup, an evaluation tool called Gallup’s Q12 was formed in the 1990s (Harter et al. 7). Based on more than 30 years of research and experience, the contemporary Gallop’s Q12 model is simple yet effective as it analyses twelve main areas of employee engagement and links them directly to employees’ performance. Each of the twelve statements of the survey is evaluated using six answer options: score of one to five where one is “strongly disagree” and five is “strongly agree”, as well as an option “don’t know/does not apply”. Such structure allows getting personal opinions of employees without tiring them with long surveys or complex answers. All twelve statements focus on distinct factors related to Employee Engagement.

For instance, statements such as “The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important” and “At work, my opinions seem to count” (Harter et al. 11) relate to the first driver of Employee Engagement, which is the value of employee’s work and its contribution to the company’s strategic goals. There are also statements to evaluate the corporate climate: “My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work” and “I have a best friend at work”, as well as opportunities for growth and development: “This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow” (Harter et al. 11). Other drivers of Employee Engagement are also addressed: Q04, “In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work”, marks the recognition of achievements, whereas Q02 evaluates the sufficiency of resources: “I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right” (Harter et al. 10). Overall, the tight focus, as well as the simplicity of completion and interpretation makes Gallup’s Q12 a useful tool for measuring Employee Engagement and indicating areas for improvement.

Strategies to raise Employee Engagement

Once the evaluation process is complete, it is necessary to point out certain sectors that require improvement in order to boost Employee Engagement. It is also crucial to prioritize areas that are of more interest to certain workers. For instance, in the case with a medium-sized insurance company, improving access to corporate resources would be less beneficial for agents than enhancing recognition of achievements and maintaining a pleasant corporate climate. In general, the principal strategy for improving Employee Engagement would be to ensure that the factors in the questionnaire are all equally high rated by the employees. For instance, if the employees of the given insurance company are generally satisfied with their job but gave a low score to the factors related to interaction with other workers and supervisors, the central goal would be to improve the interpersonal communication within the organization.

This could be achieved through various teamwork tasks and team building activities, as well as by monitoring employees’ interactions with their supervisors and providing more training to the latter. On the other hand, if the survey indicated the lack of sufficient growth and development opportunities, the primary strategy would involve providing more training opportunities and improve empowerment strategies by delegating more challenging tasks to the employees. For instance, it might be worthwhile to support insurance agents’ and underwriters’ ambitions by assigning larger corporate clients to them, provided that these employees have completed all the necessary training and are aware of the special needs that corporate clients might have.

Barriers to Employee Engagement

Despite the seemingly simple strategy for the effective raising of Employee Engagement, there are still some pitfalls and barriers that could affect its implementation in a given company. Lockwood explains that the main obstacles to Employee Engagement are often embedded in the company’s structure and values: “Often in the form of rules, workplace culture, and behaviors, barriers to engagement can be damaging to employees, customers and stakeholders—and ultimately, to the organization’s financial success” (6). For example, a large hierarchal gap between regular employees and the Senior Management can make the employees feel unvalued and unimportant, which will result in a decreasing Employee Engagement. Other factors that can affect Employee Engagement in a negative way are specific to the modern world.

For example, as Lockwood notes, increased levels of unemployment promote unhealthy competition in the workplace, which undermines the interpersonal climate and teamwork (6). Strategies for overcoming the existing barriers to Employee Engagement vary depending on the nature of these barriers. For instance, when the difficulties are caused by the specifics of the business, it could be useful to think about ways to change certain processes in order to minimize the impact of individual factors on the work environment. In the case with high competition among the company’s insurance agents, one of the ways to lower the stress caused by it would be to assign small teams of agents to work with large clients instead of allowing just one agent to perform all the duties and get exclusive credit. Organizational obstacles, on the other hand, could be addressed by introducing intermediary workers, such as supervisors, mentors, or line managers, who would report on each worker’s progress and convey any concerns or issues arising in the workplace to the Senior Management.

Employee Value Proposition

Employee Value Proposition (EVP) is another critical stage in increasing Employee Engagement. However, it is often disregarded by HR professionals and managers (Browne 29). It can be roughly defined as “a set of associations and offerings provided by an organisation in return for the skills, capabilities and experiences an employee brings to the organisation” (Browne 30). A good EVP should address the central Engagement drivers in order to be effective as part of the strategy for improving Employee Engagement. For a medium-sized insurance company, it would be important to acknowledge the features such as approachable management, financial support of professional training, as well as the abundance of promotion opportunities. For a company working in a multicultural environment, it would also be useful to highlight its appreciation of the cultural diversity and recognition of different cultural norms and values.


Overall, raising Employee Engagement is a crucial step in increasing the overall performance and profitability of the company: as Markos and Sridevi note, “both operating margin and net profit margins reduced over a three year period in companies with low engagement, while these measures increased over the specified period in companies with high levels of engagement” (92). Therefore, the knowledge of factors contributing to Employee Engagement is essential for any HR specialist, as it can be applied to enhance the company’s productivity by evaluating the current situation and creating a plan for improving certain areas of employees’ work lives to increase their satisfaction, empowerment, and overall engagement with the company and its goals.

Works Cited

Browne, Ronald. “Employee Value Proposition.” Beacon Management Review, vol. 1, 2012, pp. 29-36.

Harter, James K., et al. Q12 Meta-Analysis. Gallup Consulting, 2006.

Lockwood, Nancy R. “Leveraging Employee Engagement for Competitive Advantage: HR’s Strategic Role.” SHRM Research Quarterly, vol. 1, 2007, pp. 1-12.

Markos, Solomon, and M. Sandhya Sridevi. “Employee Engagement: The Key to Improving Performance.” International Journal of Business and Management, vol. 5, no. 12, 2010, pp. 89-96.

Saks, Alan M. “Antecedents and Consequences of Employee Engagement.” Journal of Managerial Psychology, vol. 21, no. 7, 2006, pp. 600-619.

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