Three Insights From The Research Side Of Engaging Employees

To create the model that drove the recent Engage by Stage research, we spent a lot of time thinking about all the variables that could change the way an employee engaged with their company. After many days of whiteboards and coffee, we narrowed our list to several attributes we thought companies could change that would impact employee engagement.

We then fielded a study with 1,500 employees of varying ages, positions/levels and industries. The cool thing about fielding the study was the enthusiasm respondents had in completing the study. Once we collected the data, we began to analyze the data. What we saw really excited us! Of all the insights we saw, three stood out to us most:

  1. There seems to be a “go/no go” decision for employees right around the three-year milestone, as they move past the newbie career stage. At three years, as employees enter the sophomore career stage, it seems the shine from the newness of the company is wearing off. They are beginning to fully understand if there is a future at the company and what role they will play. If they want that role, they stay with the company and grow their engagement. If they do not want the role, they may feel they have to stay with the company due to personal financial obligations or apathy towards looking for new employment. These are the employees that do not feel as engaged with their companies.
  2. When senior leadership is evaluating their company’s future leaders, they tend to gravitate to two leadership styles: collaborator and navigator. Most senior leaders are either looking for leaders that are willing to work with peers to continue down the path they started (the collaborator) or they are looking for that leader who will take the company in a new direction (the navigator). Each of these two styles are very different in how they approach employee engagement.
  3. The distinction between team and company is a very strong. In our research, we saw that while engagement to a company may be low for employees, engagement to their team – the group of people they work with closely – is high. Solidarity to the team was paramount to many of the respondents, especially those employees with longer track records at their companies (what we refer to as the tenure and sage stages).

Many of us have one thing in common — we are employees within a company. So much of our lives is spent thinking about our work and conducting that work that it makes perfect sense to want to feel a sense of belonging to something larger, something that impacts lives. It is my hope that not only do employers benefit from the Engage by Stage research, but that all of us, as employees, can find some insight into how companies engage with us.

Dan Reilly is senior vice president and lead of SMS Research Advisors, a division of Padilla.