Employee Engagement Isn't About The Perks

So, it’s all about the perks at great organizations, right?

I get this question all the time.  Espresso machines, massage chairs, and free yoga classes. Surely this makes the difference between a top workplace and just an average workplace, right? Not so fast.


Back in 2006, we set out to determine what truly matters most to employees in the workplace, what engages them, and what sets healthy organizations apart from the rest. Since then, we’ve surveyed more than 60,000 organizations representing well over 20 million employees across the United States. We’ll survey at least another 2 million-plus this year alone.

What we discovered —and what has our research proven time and time again — is that it’s not about bring-your-dog-to-work day. It’s not about great benefits.  Or not even as much about your manager, the training you’ve received, or even your work/life balance. These are what we call the “Me” factors. And while the WIIFM bucket — the what’s-in-it-for-me — is important and necessary, it’s simply not enough to create a top workplace.

Healthy organizations know it’s the “We” that matters most. We’re talking about:

  • Alignment: People working alongside each other toward common goals and with a common purpose.
  • Effectiveness: Getting things done the right way.
  • Connection: People feel appreciated, their work is meaningful, and they are well informed.

In other words, the We is about cultivating an environment where employees know where the organization is headed, how it will get there, and a strong belief that everyone is in it together. These We factors are at the heart of organizational health.

So how do you know what matters most to your organization’s employees?

Ask them. A reliable, anonymous employee engagement survey will pinpoint where your organization excels, where it falls short, and where you can make an immediate, positive impact on employee engagement. There isn’t a more accurate way to gauge what’s really happening in your organization — and what truly matters most to your employees.

The good news is that unleashing potential does not require a dramatic increase to pay, perks, or benefits.  And I can guarantee… it’s not all about the perks.

Doug Claffey is founder of Energage, a Philadelphia-based research and consulting firm that surveyed more than 2 million employees at more than 7,000 organizations in 2019. Energage is The Washington Post’s research partner for Top Workplaces.

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