Grace Smith
March 4, 2024

Gallup found that 21% of employees in organizations were engaged, and 19% actively disengaged in 2022. This suggests that around 85% of employees are either uninvolved or disengaged.

How do we shake things up and boost employee engagement? By following a framework to achieve that. And that's where employee engagement models come into the picture.

What is an Employee Engagement Model?

Employee engagement models are frameworks that organizations use to identify and assess engagement at the workplace.

These models explain employee engagement variables and provide ways to boost them. Companies can tailor models to their goals, culture, and business.

8 Different Employee Engagement Models for You to Choose from

1. Gallup's Q12 Model

One of the most popular models among the mix. The Q12 survey by Gallup is a meticulously designed questionnaire that aims to gauge employee engagement through twelve critical workplace elements.

These elements are proven to have direct correlations with performance outcomes.

Developed after extensive research and interviews across various industries and countries, the Q12 has been applied to over 25 million employees globally.

Its comprehensive reach and research-backed approach make it an invaluable tool for understanding and improving employee engagement.

Each question in the Gallup Q12 survey is aimed at uncovering key aspects of employee engagement, from understanding roles and having the necessary tools to feeling recognized and having opportunities for growth.

This model is best for:

Best for organizations looking for a research-backed, comprehensive tool to gauge and improve employee engagement across various levels and departments. Its global applicability and industry-wide recognition make it ideal for multinational corporations aiming to standardize engagement metrics.

2. William Kahn's Model of Employee Engagement

Organizational psychologist William Kahn's Model of Employee Engagement is also popular.

Here, the workplace and others are labeled "physical engagement," whereas interior relationships and purpose are called "psychological engagement."

Kahn's idea is that businesses encourage both types of engagement for the best results.

Kahn's Dimensions of Employee Engagement

Kahn's model emphasizes the physical, cognitive, and emotional dimensions of engagement, and still remains a cornerstone for understanding and fostering workplace motivation and enthusiasm, despite being over three decades old.

Kahn's Triad of Engagement

Kahn identified three core dimensions that encapsulate the essence of employee engagement:

  • Physical Engagement: Concerns the vigor and energy employees invest in their tasks. It’s about being actively involved and exerting mental and physical effort while at work.
  • Cognitive Engagement: Focuses on employees' understanding of their roles within the broader vision and strategies of their employer. It highlights the importance of knowledge in fostering creativity and confident decision-making.
  • Emotional Engagement: Relates to the affective connection employees have with their workplace. It necessitates creating a sense of belonging, fostering trust, and aligning with the company's values and mission.

Kahn argued that satisfying these three dimensions would make employees feel secure, see their efforts as meaningful, and be supported in their endeavors, thereby enhancing their engagement and performance.

Kahn's model of engagement continues to resonate within contemporary HR practices, and challenges the traditional views of employee performance, which relied heavily on recruitment fit and incentives.

Modern organizational practices, such as wellbeing strategies, inclusion workshops, and coaching-focused management programs, can all be traced back to Kahn's dimensions of engagement.

These strategies aim to fulfill employees' physical, cognitive, and emotional needs, thereby fostering a more engaged and productive workforce.

This model is best for:

Most effective in environments that prioritize holistic employee well-being, including startups and companies with a strong focus on culture and values. It's particularly useful for HR initiatives aimed at enhancing physical, cognitive, and emotional engagement.

3. Aon Hewitt's Engagement Model

A depiction of Aon-Hewitt's Employee Engagement Model

The Aon Hewitt Employee Engagement Model is a comprehensive framework designed to measure and improve employee engagement within organizations.

This model is distinctive for its focus on linking engagement directly to business outcomes, recognizing that an engaged workforce can significantly impact key organizational metrics such as customer satisfaction, profitability, and productivity.

The Aon Hewitt model is structured around core engagement drivers categorized into two groups: foundational and differentiating.

Foundational Drivers

These are seen as the basic needs that must be met to foster employee engagement.

  1. Basics: These include fundamental aspects like job security, competitive compensation, safe working conditions, and work-life balance. Ensuring employees' basic needs are met is essential for them to focus on their roles and engage with their work.
  2. Company Practices: This driver encompasses effective communication, staffing, the provision of necessary tools and resources, and inclusive practices. Company practices lay the groundwork for a productive and engaging work environment.
  3. The Work Itself: The nature of the work, including opportunities for collaboration, empowerment, and mental stimulation. Engaging work is characterized by tasks that are challenging yet achievable and align with the employee's skills and interests.

Differentiating Drivers

Differentiating drivers are basically elements that set an organization apart, making it a place where people are proud to work.

  1. Brand: This involves the company's reputation and its stance on corporate social responsibility. Employees are more engaged when they are proud of their company's brand and its impact on society.
  2. Leadership: The quality of leadership across the organization, including how leaders communicate, support, and develop their teams. Effective leadership is crucial for fostering trust and engagement among employees.
  3. Performance: This driver focuses on the creation of career opportunities, recognition, and learning and development programs. A performance-oriented culture that recognizes and rewards contributions is key to driving higher engagement levels.

These six elements of the Aon Hewitt model are interrelated and collectively contribute to an environment that supports and enhances employee engagement. By addressing these drivers, organizations can improve employee satisfaction, retention, and overall performance, leading to better business outcomes.

The model identifies three pivotal engagement outcomes — say, stay, and strive — encouraging organizations to:

  • Say: Ensure employees speak positively about the organization to peers, potential hires, and clients.
  • Stay: Cultivate a strong desire among employees to remain part of the organization.
  • Strive: Motivate employees to exceed expectations in their contributions towards the organization's success.

By monitoring these outcomes and correlating them with business performance indicators through engagement survey data, organizations can devise targeted strategies that simultaneously bolster employee engagement and drive business excellence.

This model is best for:

Suitable for companies seeking to link employee engagement directly to business outcomes like customer satisfaction and profitability. It excels in settings that value detailed analytics and strategic alignment of employee goals with organizational objectives.

4. Blessing White's X Model

Blessing White's X Model investigates individual and collective success.

Here, four employee types exist: active, disengaged, not engaged, and honeymooners. The model requires companies to personalize engagement to employee needs.

The X Model of Employee Engagement by BlessingWhite emphasizes a unique intersection where an employee's maximum contribution to the organization meets their highest personal satisfaction.

This model clarifies why highly productive employees may still leave and why some satisfied employees may contribute little. The ultimate aim is to elevate employees to the top section of the X Model, where they are both highly satisfied and highly contributive, thus fully engaged.

However, it also acknowledges the existence of other employee states within every workplace, including a critical group termed "almost engaged." These employees are positioned at the center of the X, displaying reasonable satisfaction and productivity, yet are at risk of declining engagement without strategic intervention.

To cultivate an enduring culture of engagement, BlessingWhite suggests a comprehensive approach involving all levels of an organization. Executives are tasked with leading by example, demonstrating authenticity and commitment to organizational goals.

Managers play a crucial coaching role, guiding their teams towards aligning individual efforts with broader company objectives and recognizing achievements. Individuals, including managers and executives, are encouraged to reflect on and align their personal goals with the company's direction.

Implementing these engagement strategies requires leveraging HR technology effectively. This includes reiterating performance assessments to make them more frequent and reflective of company values, enhancing onboarding processes to quickly integrate new employees into the engaged category, and utilizing social tools within HR platforms to foster open communication.

Ultimately, the X Model of employee engagement underscores the importance of daily commitment from company leadership to nurture a genuine culture of engagement, supported by strategic use of HR technologies.

This model is best for:

Ideal for organizations committed to moving employees from various levels of engagement to the ideal state of high satisfaction and contribution. It's particularly beneficial for companies with diverse workforces looking to personalize engagement strategies.

5. Great Place to Work Model

The Great Place to Work Model is a transformative framework that dives deep into the essence of what makes a workplace not just functional, but genuinely exceptional. At the heart of this model lie three core measures: faith, pride, and camaraderie.

Faith in this context refers to the trust employees have in their leaders - the belief that decisions are made with their best interests in mind. It's about transparency, integrity, and consistent communication from the top down.

Pride is what employees feel about their contributions to the organization.

It’s not just about the work they do, but also how that work contributes to the broader community and society at large. This sense of pride is a powerful motivator and drives employees to excel in their roles.

Camaraderie speaks to the relationships between colleagues. It’s the sense of belonging and community that turns coworkers into a close-knit team. This element is crucial for fostering an inclusive and supportive workplace culture.

By focusing on nurturing faith, encouraging pride, and building camaraderie, organizations unlock the potential to transform their work environment into a thriving community where every employee feels valued and engaged.

This model is best for:

Works best in companies aiming to build a strong employer brand and improve their workplace culture through trust, pride, and camaraderie. It's especially useful for organizations looking to achieve or maintain a status as a "great place to work."

6. Zinger's Pyramid Model

David Zinger's Pyramid Model presents a compelling, structured journey towards achieving deep employee engagement within an organization. This model beautifully layers the progression from meeting the most fundamental needs of employees to reaching the pinnacle of strategic achievements and organizational outcomes.

1. At its base, Zinger emphasizes the critical importance of foundational well-being — understanding that before employees can excel, their essential needs must first be satisfied.

2. As we ascend the pyramid, the model articulates a step-by-step guide designed to cultivate a workforce that is not just present, but fully engaged and connected to their work. This begins with ensuring that every team member has access to the resources and supports they need to thrive, from the right tools and equipment to opportunities for personal and professional growth.

3. The middle layers of the pyramid focus on fostering a sense of purpose and belonging among employees. It’s about aligning individual roles with the organization's broader goals and nurturing a culture where every contribution is recognized and valued. Zinger’s model asserts that when employees understand how their work fits into the larger picture and feel genuinely appreciated for their efforts, engagement naturally follows.

4. At the apex of the pyramid, Zinger points to the ultimate goal: a workplace where high levels of satisfaction and contribution intersect, resulting in peak performance and outstanding results. This is where strategic objectives are met with enthusiasm and a collective drive towards success.

David Zinger's pyramid model not only highlights the layers of engagement but also serves as a roadmap for organizations aiming to build an environment where employees are motivated, valued, and deeply engaged. It underscores the notion that true engagement starts with basic well-being and builds up to strategic excellence, creating a thriving workplace for all.

This model is best for:

Suited for organizations looking for a structured path to engagement, from meeting basic employee needs to achieving strategic outcomes. It's highly applicable in companies focusing on building a step-by-step guide to enhancing workforce engagement.

7. Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs

Applying Maslow's theory to the workplace, this model suggests that addressing the full spectrum of employees' needs, from basic to self-actualization, is essential for deep engagement. It encourages leaders to look beyond the surface and consider the holistic well-being of their team members.

It invites leaders to recognize and address the entire spectrum of employee needs, starting from the basic necessities of security and safety, all the way to the pinnacle of self-actualization.

This model illuminates the path to cultivating a deeply engaged workforce by emphasizing the importance of not just meeting the fundamental requirements for physical and security needs but also nurturing psychological and self-fulfillment needs.

By applying this model, leaders are encouraged to delve deeper into understanding what truly motivates and drives their team members. It's about creating an environment where individuals are not only satisfied with their basic conditions but are also given the opportunities to grow, innovate, and reach their full potential. This approach fosters a culture where employees feel genuinely valued and seen, leading to a more motivated, loyal, and productive workforce.

In essence, Maslow's hierarchy of needs model in the workplace serves as a reminder that the key to unlocking the highest levels of employee engagement lies in the holistic consideration of their well-being, aspirations, and the human desire to achieve and contribute to something greater than oneself.

This model is best for:

Best applied in organizations that are keen on addressing employees' comprehensive needs, from basic to self-actualization, to deepen engagement. It's particularly effective in environments that value employee development and personal growth.

8. JD-R Model

The JD-R (Job Demands-Resources) Model offers a nuanced perspective on employee engagement by emphasizing the balance between the demands of a job and the resources available to fulfill those demands.

It underscores the importance of identifying and managing work-related stressors to prevent employee burnout and promote a healthy, engaging work environment.

At its core, the JD-R Model recognizes that every job has its own set of demands — these can be physical, cognitive, or emotional.

However, for employees to thrive and stay engaged, they must have access to adequate resources. These resources can range from tangible tools and equipment to intangible elements like support from colleagues, recognition, and opportunities for professional development.

Implementing the JD-R Model involves a proactive approach to reduce job demands that contribute to stress and fatigue, while simultaneously enhancing job resources that facilitate achievement, growth, and well-being. This strategic balance not only helps in preventing burnout but also plays a vital role in building a work culture that supports resilience, satisfaction, and engagement.

The JD-R Model thus serves as a powerful framework for fostering a sustainable and engaging workplace where employees and the organization alike can flourish.

This model is best for:

Ideal for companies focused on managing the balance between job demands and resources to prevent burnout and foster a supportive work environment. It suits workplaces invested in promoting employee well-being and resilience.

Each of these models brings a unique perspective to the table, offering valuable insights into the multifaceted nature of employee engagement.

By exploring and integrating these frameworks, organizations can embark on a transformative journey, crafting a work culture that not only drives productivity but also nurtures the heart and soul of its workforce.

In the end, the path to a truly engaged and thriving team lies in understanding and addressing the diverse needs and aspirations of every individual.

How To Improve Productivity With Employee Engagement Models?

A systematic approach to employee engagement models can improve productivity by analyzing, executing, and enhancing engagement activities. Key actions to boost productivity using employee engagement models:

1. Evaluation and Baseline assessment

Surveys, interviews, and feedback meetings measure employee engagement.

This stage is vital to understanding employees' emotions and experiences. Baseline assessments help businesses quantify engagement. Firms can improve engagement by assessing work satisfaction, communication, and employee alignment with business goals.

2. Identify Engagement Drivers

To establish the most prominent factors affecting employee engagement in the organization, the engagement survey results must be evaluated. Leadership, workplace culture, growth opportunities, and recognition are all examples of employee engagement drivers.

Finding these variables is the first step to creating engagement programs that address the most essential features. The organization's position and operations must be carefully reviewed to ensure that the tactics are helpful and connected with its goals.

3. Customize Engagement Strategies

Adapt your engagement strategies and techniques to the company's culture, values, and goals. Customized engagement techniques may include training, mentorship, or leadership changes to meet assessment needs. Corporate and personnel long-term goals must be included in your strategic plans.

4. Clear and transparent communication

Essential for fostering engagement, clear communication involves sharing straightforward results from engagement surveys, explaining the rationale behind chosen methods, and demonstrating their impact on productivity.

Continuous updates ensure employees are informed about the progress and effectiveness of engagement initiatives. Such transparency at the workplace cultivates trust, which in turn, boosts employee engagement.

5. Allow Skill Development

Fostering professional growth through targeted training and development is key, as engaged employees excel in their roles. These initiatives equip staff with necessary skills for both corporate success and personal achievement.

Emphasizing continuous learning not only enhances productivity but also cultivates a versatile, problem-solving workforce, contributing to the organization's overall prosperity.

6. Recognize Contributions

You must acknowledge accomplishment at all levels to build a robust system for recognizing and applauding employee efforts. Official accolades like employee of the month awards and informal gratitude are included.

Further reading: 10 employee recognition awards that inspire and motivate your people.

To create a positive work atmosphere, make employees feel valued. Recognition should be timely, thorough, and aligned with the company's values. This reinforces favored habits and efforts that boost productivity.

Use a peer-to-peer recognition system like ThriveSparrow, where even the tiniest contribution can be celebrated and acknowledged. Others can join in on the celebrations and make that performer feel valued and appreciated. Such a system uplifts employee spirits and motivates others to perform to their fullest as well.

Kudos - ThriveSparrow's Recognition Module overview.
ThriveSparrow's Recognition Module helping organizations facilitate peer-to-peer recognition and boost morale and motivation.

Try ThriveSparrow for free and promote a culture of appreciation and recognition at the workplace.

7. Promote a Positive Workplace

Achieving a joyful work environment demands addressing key elements influencing company morale. It's essential to engage in open discussions about workplace culture, diversity, equality, and collaboration.

Proactively identifying and addressing any issues is crucial for maintaining a positive atmosphere. Such environments reduce stress and enhance job satisfaction, leading to increased cooperation, motivation, and energy efficiency among employees.

8. Promote Employee Feedback and Involvement

Participating in decision-making fosters employee ownership and loyalty. This requires more than merely consulting with employees; you must actively seek their input on issues that directly impact them.

This strategy empowers people and values their thoughts by encouraging involvement.

Regular feedback channels like surveys and town hall meetings simplify communication and help groups evaluate their involvement efforts. Companies may make employees feel heard by fostering continuous development based on their feedback. Employees become more engaged and productive.

Utilize an employee success platform like ThriveSparrow to drive your employee engagement initiatives. The platform lets you conduct employee feedback surveys effortlessly and makes analysis of feedback that much easier.

ThriveSparrow's Heatmaps
ThriveSparrow's Heatmaps gives you a color-coded view of engagement levels across departments and competencies.

Try ThriveSparrow to guide your engagement efforts and leverage its analytics to help you make decisions that matter. Heatmaps are just one way of analyzing feedback. Take a quick look into other ways to interpret survey results here.

9. Coordinate Leadership

For successful integration of leadership with employee engagement, it’s crucial that executives embody attributes that reflect the company's core values.

This involves fostering a leadership style that prioritizes open communication, supports employee development, and encourages teamwork.

Achieving alignment between leadership actions and organizational goals necessitates ongoing effort. To cultivate effective leadership qualities and behaviors, organizations should invest in continuous training, mentorship programs, and regular performance evaluations. This approach ensures leaders are equipped to actively promote an engaging and productive workplace culture.

10. Measure and Adjust

Organizations seeking long-term change must measure participation programs. This requires feedback, performance measurements, and periodic assessments to quantify quantitative and qualitative progress.

Regular measurements let companies assess program performance. Methods must also adapt to changing organizational needs and workforces. This flexible approach ensures engagement initiatives match business needs and increase productivity.

Empower Your Workforce with these Models

Engagement and satisfaction mean a company doesn't have to spend a lot on short-term productivity boosts.

Happy, engaged employees perform effectively and provide greater outcomes. ThriveSparrow specializes in producing effective surveys to assist managers in enhancing employee engagement, so call us when you're ready.