Interview: A New Way to Measure Employee Engagement

Last week I was interviewed by IDG Research Managing Director, Janet King, on the topic of employee engagement.  Janet and I have worked together for many years but recently  she reached out to me to help design an expanded employee engagement offering that her team was devising. I was so excited by her idea – to take employee engagement measurement to a new level by incorporating the latest research in intrinsic motivation – that I was more than happy to share everything I knew on the subject.

I thought I’d share some excerpts of our talk for you here.  If you’re interested in learning more, consider joining me this Thursday, April 26th in Framingham, MA for a continental breakfast, an engaging workshop on this topic and great networking.  Hope to see you there if you’re local!


Janet: …You were able to help us understand the full picture of engagement in organizations – that we were missing a crucial piece.

Julie: Right. Of course, traditional engagement surveys have been measuring the impact of organizational and management aspects of the company environment – the external motivators – that contribute to employee engagement.  This has led to great improvements in organizational health as it gives companies insight into organizational and management practices it can develop and improve.  For instance, if performance management or employee development comes up low on a survey, a company can take action to improve those scores through management training or better processes.

Julie: But we’ve not had a good way of measuring and managing the individual aspect – the intrinsic motivation of the individuals and their own personal capability around getting and staying engaged in their work.

Janet: The concept of intrinsic motivation isn’t new though is it?

Julie: No, it’s not.  We’ve known the importance of intrinsic motivation since the early 1900s from Herzberg’s work, Flow theory and more recently in the work by Daniel Pink.  It was the research I saw from your organization that truly put a fine point on its importance though.

Janet: Yes, we were really excited to get those results.

Julie: I’ll tell you, with 20 years of experience in HR and leading employee engagement initiatives, I knew instinctively that it was important.  But to see the hard numbers? That intrinsic motivation level and capability contributes to nearly half of the employee engagement question?  This really speaks to the frustration many executives experience when they feel they’ve done all they can from an organizational and management standpoint and still find people disengaged.

Julie: My work at Uncommon Consulting is about building purposeful engagement in meaningful work.  That means that the organization, the management and the individual are all accountable for their part of the equation.

The interview in full was designed to share the foundation behind IDGR’s new engagement survey solution.  What I’m most excited about is the opportunity we now have to begin a different and more meaningful conversation about engagement.


We’re participating in a new economy – the information, services and imagination economy.  Most of the jobs my kids (11, 9, and 7) and their peers will hold, we can’t even imagine yet, never mind hear of.  This requires a drastic change in our relationship with work: preparing for it, securing it and performing at it.  And – since we’ve lost the umbrella (pensions), the net (job security) and the balance bar (stable environments and technology) – it requires a drastic change in our relationship with ourselves.  Standing out there on the tight wire, relieved of centuries-old work paradigms, we need to ask: What do I have to offer?  How can I articulate it? Where can I do my best work?  When should I leave for something else?  Who might benefit from my unique sort of contribution?  Without all the traditional trappings, we’re more on our own, more responsible, more accountable for what happens to us.

Environments can support our best selves by putting in place those extrinsic motivators we’ve grown to love.  But every single human being has a unique set of intrinsic motivators that only he or she can identify, articulate and leverage.  We’ve trained the companies in motivation.  We’ve trained the managers.  Now it’s time to train ourselves.  And build our foundation for the wild ride ahead.









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