And the Survey Says …Study Examines Impact of Engagement on Business Results

Employee engagement is, without a doubt, one of the top buzz phrases in the world of HR. Has anyone stopped to look at the actual research to see if this singular focus on engagement is warranted though? We set out to determine, through a comprehensive examination, which employee attitudes and experiences, as measured on employee surveys, are connected to business metrics that matter to our clients. The goal of this research was to assess how often each of the most commonly measured employee attitudes was found to be a statistically significant driver of business outcomes. In a two-part post, we’ll outline the research and the reaction of others to it. Check out what John Sumser of HR Examiner has to say about it.


When considering the lack of consistent results connecting engagement to business outcomes, organizational leaders would be remiss to blindly trust that engagement will certainly lead to better business outcomes. Further investigation is critical in determining whether engagement is a driver of business outcomes across various organizations.


We compiled the results of our structural equation models for each client and determined which survey categories were found to be key drivers of their business outcomes.


The clients included in this study represent a variety of industries including healthcare, non-profit, retail, manufacturing, and professional services. The organizations also range in size from less than 100 employees to several hundred thousand employees. We examined data across nearly 30 organizations and over a half a million employees.


Across a large subset of our clients who have administered employee surveys in the past 18 months, engagement was a key driver of their business outcomes only 28% of the time (less than a third!). That means if these organizations had solely focused on improving engagement, they would have put forth time, effort, and resources to something that would not provide any bottom-line improvement 72% of the time.

study table updated


One of the most important findings is that none of these categories matter all of the time for every outcome across all organizations – there is no silver bullet that works for every organization. Each organization should use analytics to determine which aspects of their employee experiences are most critical to their business outcomes.


In general, we do not disagree with the measurement of engagement in an employee survey, or its use as a gauge of overall employee morale. Its position, based on objective, advanced analysis, is simply that focusing so narrowly on one metric as the end-all-be-all of employee experiences could be a huge misstep for organizations.

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