Leadership Blog Series: Measuring and Improving Employee Engagement

Written by Sharri Margraves, HR Associate Director for Organization and Professional Development

Before the pandemic, Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace research pegged employee engagement at an abysmal 15%. While there is no perfect definition of employee engagement, it’s fair to say that if 85% of any given workforce is disengaged, regardless of the criteria, an organization is not providing its best effort and could be headed for trouble.

In 2017, 81% of employees surveyed indicated they would consider leaving their jobs if the right offer came along, and the “right offer” criteria did not equate to simply receiving a higher rate of pay. It’s no secret that there are now additional challenges to filling positions and retaining talent across the entire spectrum of occupations due to the pandemic. Plus, humans are curious creatures — if one of our colleagues leaves their position, others are more likely to follow suit.

We have approximately 12,000 benefits-eligible employees at MSU. Using Gallup’s findings, does that mean 10,200 of us are not engaged? And if so, what can we do about it

What is Engagement?

To begin, it’s imperative to know what employee engagement entails. Engagement is sometimes used synonymously with employee satisfaction or even happiness. However, these three measures are quite different.

Happy employees are individuals who generally respond to work situations with a decided choice. Even when faced with difficult situations, how the employee deals with the circumstances is what determines happiness.

Satisfied employees are content, but it doesn’t mean they are engaged. Organizations are filled with employees who like their jobs enough — the conditions, benefits, pay — and continue to come to work but do not help drive toward goals or improvements. Plenty of people are satisfied just going through the motions, but the competitive edge will go to organizations with more significant numbers of engaged employees.

An organization heavily influences engaged employees. Engagement is more about how employees feel about their organizations. They bring their whole selves to the job and are committed to achieving the goals of the organization. They do everything in their power to help their organization be successful. They go above and beyond. They have a growth mindset, can tackle the challenges, and seek continuous improvement — and their leaders support these behaviors.

Consider the V-5 Model

To better gauge your unit’s employee engagement level, try the V-5 model. V-5 describes five major elements of employee engagement in the pandemic/post-pandemic organization: value, voice, variety, virtue, and vision.

Value — Employees are the most vital asset and are valued for their work and commitment. They are recognized and respected.

Voice — Employees can provide feedback without fear of negative impact and have input on work rules and policies.

Variety — Jobs leverage skills and strengths and offer creativity, autonomy, and challenge.

Virtue — Employees connect to the organization’s values, have trust and belief in its mission across the organization, and see that it creates value for all stakeholders.

Vision — There is a clear and comprehensive stated goal of an organization that it strives to achieve in the future. Key features of a vision include brevity, goal clarity, an abstract yet challenging approach, and desirable goals.

Interested in learning more? The V-5 model table breaks down the variables of each V-5 element and can be helpful in customizing this approach for your unit.

Advice on Engagement Surveys

Some units use surveys to gain insight into employee engagement. If you plan to take this approach, be sure to review and follow the steps below.

  • As a reminder, any survey going to support staff will need to be reviewed by the Office of Employee Relations before issuance.
  • Until there is an organization-wide effort on employee engagement, units must think carefully about their survey design.
  • If you don’t attend to essential items that make a difference, such as those outlined in the V-5 model, don’t bother. You’ll likely only make things worse. One resource to utilize is the Sample Employee Engagement Questions, which provides effective survey questions and explains some of the challenges you might encounter during this process.

It bears mentioning that there are several valid proprietary survey instruments available for purchase as well. Ensure you do not plagiarize these as the legal ramifications could put your unit at risk.

Additional OPD resources

There are a number of resources available to further advance your knowledge and practical application of employee engagement methods.

Live, Online Course

elevateU Online Resources


Kumar, P. (2021) V-5 Model of employee engagement during COVID-19 and post lockdown. Vision: The Journal of Business Perspective. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0972262920980878

Gallup. (2019) State of the Global Workplace. 35 Employee engagement survey questions you need to ask. https://lattice.com/library/28-employee-engagement-survey-questions-you-need-to-ask May 2021

Employee engagement: 8 statistics you need to know https://blog.smarp.com/employee-engagement-8-statistics-you-need-to-know blog post. January 4, 2021

Clapon, P. The difference between employee happiness and employee engagement. https://gethppy.com/employee-engagement/the-difference-between-employee-happiness-and-employee-engagement. Blog post. September 4, 2020.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *