Which Employees are Most Engaged and Why?
Surprising Findings from Our National Survey.

You might think that employee engagement is pretty straightforward. When employees find meaning and purpose in the work they’re doing, they tend to be more engaged right? But, it’s not always that cut and dry. In our national employee engagement survey we uncovered a number of surprises.

The Survey

Ironwood interviewed 500 full-time, employed adults ages 21 to 65 via an online survey with the design, programming and hosting all done in house. The ultimate goal was to identify those measures that either increase or decrease engagement. Focusing on the general concept of engagement, we started by crafting three core questions to give us an overarching composite:

  • My heart is in the work.

  • I’m happy when intensely working.

  • I feel energized at work.

This became our Dependent Composite Measure. Next, we crafted 38 measurement questions to drill down the drivers of engagement and categorized them into 10 composite measures (our Independent Composites). We analyzed the study using these tools: Attributable Effects and Graphical Modeling.

The Results

We found that 69% of employees nationally agree (score of 7 or higher on a scale of 0-10) with the three statements that make up the overarching composite.

The largest impact on employee engagement comes from the “Meaning” that employees derive from their jobs. The Meaning composite is made up from the following statements:

  • I am proud of the work we do at this company.

  • My job provides me with a sense of meaning and purpose.

  • For me, this is more than ‘just a job.’

  • My work is an integral part of who I am as a person.

What’s more, “Meaning” is strongly influenced by the “Connection” that employees feel with coworkers, the “Impact” that employees feel that they have on the company’s success and the “Autonomy” they have in their job. It’s also helpful for engagement if the employer’s vision and goals match up with those of the employee.

Surprising Demographics

While the results overall support the general notion that employees are more engaged when they find meaning and purpose in their work, the demographics of ‘who’ was most engaged did give us pause in some cases. For example:

  • Those in the job less than 5 years tend to be more engaged, which can be a little concerning when it’s your longer-term employees who have the institutional knowledge and your strongest client relationships.

  • Those under 40 years of age tend to be more engaged. The assumption going into this is that the baby boomers, not Millennials or Gen Z, would rate higher.

  • Technicians, Managers, and Project Managers tend to be more engaged than those in clerical, accounting, skilled labor and trained professional roles.

Thus, as you’re planning your employee engagement strategies, make sure you not only consider what you need to do to drive engagement but also who you may need to tailor and target specific programs toward.

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