Topic: Employee Engagement

Author(s), Title and Publication

Robinson, D., Perryman, S., & Hayday, S. (2004, April). The Drivers of Employee Engagement. Report 408. Institute for Employment Studies.


This study defined engagement, devised its measurement, and established its drivers with data from an Institute for Employment Studies’ (IES) 2003 attitude survey of over 10,000 employees in 14 organizations in the National Health Service (NHS). Engagement was defined as “a positive attitude held by the employee towards the organization and its values”. Its essence included: 1) a positive attitude towards, and pride in the organization, 2) belief in the organization’s products/services, 3) a perception that the organization enables the employee to perform well, 4) a willingness to behave altruistically and be a good team-player, and 5) an understanding of the bigger picture and a willingness to go beyond job requirements.

Results showed that engagement levels were related to a variety of personal and job characteristics and work experiences. Engagement levels declined as employees became older, but rose when employees were older than 60; the oldest group in the study was the most engaged group. Other employee groups having higher engagement levels were minorities, managers and professionals, and those who had a personal development plan, or who had received a formal performance appraisal within the past year. Having an accident or an injury at work or experiencing harassment had a negative impact on engagement.

A sense of feeling valued and involved was the strongest driver of engagement. Employees felt more involved when they 1) were engaged in decision-making, 2) able to voice ideas, and were listened to by managers, 3) had opportunities to develop jobs, and 4) when the organization was concerned for their health and well-being.

Implications for Practice

To improve employee engagement, organizations may need to: 1) help line managers improve their listening and communication skills; 2) stimulate greater two-way communication between employee and employer; 3) assist effective internal co-operation; and 4) foster a development focus, commitment to employee well-being, and clear and accessible HR policies and practices.

Location of Article

The article is available online at:


Heidy Modarelli handles Growth & Marketing for IPR. She has previously written for Entrepreneur, TechCrunch, The Next Web, and VentureBeat.
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2 thoughts on “The Drivers of Employee Engagement

  1. The Organizational Communication Research Center is really a great resource for researchers and practitioners who are interested in internal communication and employee related topics! I am currently working on a study on strategic internal communication and employee engagement, and was very delighted to find this comprehensive research report by IES.

    In this report, the authors addressed several key issues on employee engagement, including the controversial conceptualization issues, measurement, key drivers of engagement, and possible outcomes. As employee engagement has some overlaps with related concepts of commitment and organizational citizenship behavior (OCB), defining engagement once had the “old wine in new bottle” problem. But the authors in this article made very clear conceptual distinctions between engagement, and related concepts of commitment and OCB. I agree with the authors that engagement involves a positive attitude about the organization, such as being proud of, having enthusiasms for, and being excited about the organization. But more than that, I feel engagement also involves behavioral aspects such as employees actively participating in organizational activities, getting involved, and being willing to take initiatives and walk extra miles, which the article indicated to some extent. I was also thinking about the difference between engagement and our relationship concept, and how they are related. When a good relationship is developed between the organization and its employees (i.e., employee trust, satisfaction, commitment, and satisfaction), will employees necessarily feel engaged and work beyond requirements? How much influence does relationship have on engagement?

    The article also concluded with a list of key drivers of employee engagement based on the large-scale empirical data, which include immediate management, communication, performance and appraisal, and equal opportunity and fair treatment. The key idea is that all these factors nurture employee feeling of being valued and involved, which is the fundamental precursor of engagement. From the internal public relations perspective, it made me think about several questions: 1) How does communication contribute to employee engagement (e.g., two-way, symmetrical, transparent, authentic communication)? Which communication channels are most effective in engaging employees, especially considering the development of social media tools? 2) How is communication related to other drivers? For example, can leadership styles (e.g., transformational VS transactional) influence leaders’ communication behaviors, and then employee engagement? How does corporate communication foster a culture of equal opportunity and fair treatment? 3) How is the organization’s internal reputation related to employee engagement? What about factors of organizational culture and structure?

    Cultivating a good organization-employee relationship and building a favorable internal reputation are key goals of internal communication, because relationships and reputation have been demonstrated to be intangible assets for the organization, and can save money and make money for the organization. But, to go one step further, it is even more important to truly engage employees, because when employees are engaged, they are not only holding positive attitudes for the organization (saying the job and company are good), staying with the company and developing within it, but also striving to go the extra mile for the company and contributing without expectations of return, which directly leads to excellent business results.

    The concept of employee engagement also has some implications for public relations evaluation and measurement in general. Reputation and relationship are two dominant approaches in the current literature to evaluate the value of public relations. Public engagement, brought up by Richard Edelman in the first Grunig Lecture in 2008, might be considered as an alternative behavior-oriented approach to demonstrate the outcome of public relations. I am working on a couple of studies on public engagement, and I am eager to see the results and share my findings with you!

  2. This IFPR employee communication research forum provides a most welcome new focus for internal communication research.

    I found the Perryman et al. (2004) research project particularly interesting from an internal communication perspective, as it encourages communicators to consider engagement effects of employee communication strategies and tactics.

    The strongest employee engagement driver found in the study was the sense of feeling valued and involved. That’s significant for communication practice as it flags up emotional communication needs.

    Alongside line management communication, internal corporate communication can help organizations meet those needs. Communication content designed to address employee needs will make contributions to building the sense of belonging that underpins employee engagement.

    As highlighted elsewhere in this IFPR research forum, the importance of effective employee communication is becoming increasingly recognized, as it can help spur employee engagement.

    Dr Mary Welch, University of Central Lancashire, UK

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