Appreciation and Challenge: Boosting Employee Engagement


With shrinking local budgets and a job market that is becoming increasingly globalized, it is becoming more imperative that employers determine what allows them to attract good talent and to retain that human capital for the success and longevity of the organization. When considering what factor keeps employees content with their employers, one might assume the answer points to the bottom line. Though salary is an important factor in attracting employees, the truth is that employees are increasingly becoming more engaged in their workplace when they feel that their work is appreciated and when they are given challenging tasks and positions.

A study conducted in 2014 by the Boston Consulting Group and The Network that surveyed 220,000 people from 189 different countries produced an intriguing report on the global workforce and what drives people professionally around the world. In one phase of the research, the study ranked 26 factors that led to “Happiness on the Job.” Out of the hundreds of thousands of people surveyed worldwide, the study concluded that the number one factor that leads to happiness was appreciation for their work. See exhibit 8 from Chapter 5 of the study. The next ranking factors were #2). good relationships with colleagues, #3). striking a good work-life balance, and finally #4). having good relationships with superiors. Notably, these factors are all relative to social factors that have no direct correlation with budget or finances. The factor of salary or compensation does not appear on the list of ranked factors until #8.

In a more recent study conducted by Korn-Ferry cited by an article, 2,000 employees were asked what would drive them to look for new employment in 2017. 73% of respondents said that they felt they needed a more challenging position and that this would lead them to search for new employment. The next most prevalent responses were tied for second place at 9% each: employees feel their efforts are not recognized and they do not like their companies. Similarly to the larger study conducted in 2014, salary or compensation did not factor into the most popular responses.

For interest and good measure, we here at addie, LLC also conducted our own very informal Facebook poll which yielded very similar results. We asked our friends the following question, “Besides salary, what is the single-most important factor that motivates you to be engaged professionally?” 50% of our respondents felt that one of the most motivating factors for themselves personally was being given challenging enough tasks. Another factor that ranked highly among respondents was being given autonomy to complete tasks.

As we examine the results across all of this research, it is clear that there is a trend that favors the development of relationships, emotional intelligence and general awareness and appreciation of others in the workplace. If executives and managers continue to ignore these factors, turnover will surely continue. The good news is that there is hope for those of us in industries experiencing shrinking budgets. In the end, it comes down to the basic human need of feeling appreciated - and providing that folks - doesn't cost a dime.