Employee Engagement: Why You Should Care

brain-ladderSince 1997 Gallup has been exploring the links between workforce engagement and organisational success. In its eighth iteration, the 2012 Gallup research clearly highlights this link and shows some consistent outcomes to its 2009 research findings.

The 2012 Gallup analysis ”examined 49,928 business or work units and included about 1.4 million employees in 192 organizations, across 49 industries, and in 34 countries. Employee engagement affects nine performance outcomes, including approximately 48% fewer safety incidents, 21% higher productivity and 22% higher profitability.”

According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics the most common causes of workplace deaths during 2009-2010 were incidents caused by vehicles; falls from heights; hit by moving objects; hit by falling objects. Released in March 2012, Safe Work Australiaestimates the cost of work related injuries to be more than $60 billion dollars for 2008-2009–this represents nearly 5% of GDP!

The following table breaks down the associated costs for work related injuries.



In the 2007 SHRM Research Quarterly, results of research in a manufacturing company showed that their engaged employees were five times less likely to have a safety incident and seven times less likely to have a safety incident involving lost-time.

An engaged person is naturally motivated toward their work – they find their work rewarding. They are the person who is intrinsically driven to perform well; they naturally bring ‘more’ of themselves to the work environment. They are the energised, focused, proactive and absorbed member of a team who provide high quality results. They ask quality questions and are able to problem solve in situations.

According to Dan Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, the factors that create employee engagement are:

  • Autonomy: the ability to control aspects of our time, tasks, techniques, and teams
  • The opportunity for mastery
  • Purpose: a connection to something larger than ourselves

Evian Gordon, 2008, proposes the brain is organised to minimise threat and maximise reward. The neural basis of engagement can be defined by activation levels of the brain’s reward circuitry. Disengagement, on the other hand, is defined by the activation levels of the brain’s threat circuitry. When we engage in work that drives our brain’s reward circuits, the neurotransmitter dopamine is released.  Dopamine also positively influences other neural networks. We experience a heightened sense of awareness and attentiveness: we ‘feel’ good, we easily retain focus, we think and rationalise more clearly, we have clarity of purpose, we ‘get lost’ in time, we make better connections for improved decisions, our energy remains high, and we successfully solve problems.  And all of this is surprisingly effortless for such a quality outcome.