Ownership and the key drivers of engagement

drivers of engagement




Finding genuine drivers of engagement is a common challenge for business leaders. In fact, Deloitte found 87% of them cite culture and engagement as one of their top concerns.


In response, many scramble around looking for quick fixes. They clamp down on micromanagement, offer better pay and benefits, or give more praise and recognition. Of course, these measures are positive, but leaders are often dismayed when they fail to resolve the issue.


This is because engagement isn’t a neat, stand-alone problem. You can’t make one or two isolated changes and expect to have a higher-performing workforce. Genuine employee engagement is woven into the very fabric of the organisation – the leadership, culture, communication, and talent development. If you neglect these areas, you’re unlikely to make much headway in driving more engagement.


In most instances, low engagement is not the problem: it’s a symptom. And the underlying issues are likely buried deeper than you can see. So, in the absence of quick fixes, what actually works to drive great engagement?  


The 3 key drivers of engagement


A 2012 report by Dale Carnegie Training found the three key drivers of engagement to be:


Relationship with immediate supervisor

If an employee is dissatisfied with their immediate supervisor, there is an 80% chance that they are disengaged. This statistic reinforces the significance of building positive relationships in the workplace. Similarly, having a “caring” manager is one of the key elements to a successful employee engagement strategy. Employees want to feel valued and have their manager take an interest in their personal lives, health and wellbeing.


Belief in senior leadership

Employees are inspired by having role models that encourage goal achievement, contributing to positive engagement and a better overall workplace environment.


Pride in working for the company

Engagement levels were found to be highest amongst those who take pride in working for their company.


Fortunately, all three of these factors are in control of the organisation. All efforts to improve engagement should centre around these areas. However, there are also two other realities that should be considered:


Frequent job changes have become the norm


Millennials now make up the majority of the workforce. And the way they view money and career has changed the game for a lot of businesses hoping to attract and keep their talent. These days, businesses should treat their employees like customers; continually working to win their loyalty.


Better benefits won’t fix everything


Perks, benefits, and competitive pay do work to a certain extent. They can help drive higher levels of performance. However it’s important to keep in mind that these are all external motivators. None of them directly address the more important intrinsic values that must exist in order to keep your best employees happy, engaged, and more productive.


So with these key drivers and considerations in mind, how do you create an organisational culture that fosters engagement and motivates staff to stick around? It comes down to one critical concept: Give employees ownership over the outcome of their work.


Building a sense of ownership


Instilling a sense of ownership in your team empowers them to use their own creativity, find innovative solutions to company problems, and gives them a stake in the success or failure of your organisation. Creating a sense of ownership is dependent on the following three factors:




Trust is key to forming healthy relationships, including the relationship between employee and leaders. If either side does not trust the other, performance suffers. Unfortunately, trust is often taken for granted by today’s leaders. A recent study from Interaction Associates found that while employees say trust is critical to their effectiveness, more than half of them don’t trust their boss or senior leadership teams. The same report found that only one third of workers say they feel safe communicating with leaders, indicating a lack of trust in employees as well. This stifles any chance of employee empowerment, creativity, and innovation.




Transparency goes hand-in-hand with trust, and may be used as a way to create an environment of trust in organisations. This is certainly true of gaming company Gamevy. Writing in  Venturi’s Voice blog, guest author Helen Walton, Gamevy’s Chief Commercial Officer, outlined why and how her team have built a culture of radical transparency:


Important decisions are often made behind closed doors (or in small email groups). Subsequently only the result is shared, not the thinking that went into the decision. This means some will not be persuaded by reasoning they have not seen, while others will be unable to challenge what might be faulty assumptions.

Furthermore hiring and firing, as well as performance reviews, often happen in secret. As well as sometimes being unjust (a ‘manager’s view does not always accord with the views of those who work on the front-line with an individual), this makes it hard for others to really learn about what is valued and what is censured.


While the reasoning is clear, most organisations won’t have to go to these extreme lengths. Employees don’t need to know absolutely everything. But they do want to stay informed of their company’s vision, values, and strategic objectives. And they don’t want to be micromanaged as they work to achieve them.




Many years of research has shown that instilling a task with purpose motivates high performance. It taps into the intrinsic motivators that keep employees happy and engaged in the work they do on a daily basis. To achieve this, organisations must keep their vision, mission and values at the forefront of everything they do.


These three key areas are fundamental drivers of engagement. They are what you need to address if you want to fix the problem. Suggestion boxes, engagement surveys and other easy fixes usually fail to get to the root of the problem. After all, if they actually worked, employee engagement wouldn’t be such a problem.