What Drives Global Engagement

There is a tendency to place a lot of value on talent acquisition within organizations, but in doing so we bypass a more important question: how can we get the most out of the people that already work for us? With unemployment rates at a historical low, now is the time companies need to be creating workplace environments and situations where their people feel the most engaged – but until recently, we’ve had very few clues as to what actually drives engagement.

Enter ADP Research Institute. In a 19-country study, we devised a simple and reliable measure of engagement as a way to compare levels around the world. It’s not surprising that engagement around the world is very low: Only around 15% of employees reported being fully engaged, which means 85% of us are just coming to work. But why? Only 15% of employees are fully engaged, which means 85% of us are just coming to work. We can change that. Click To Tweet

We were able to drill down from there into what actually drives engagement around the world – and it has nothing to do with your education, industry, gender, race, or age. The full report is available here, but the two biggest factors we found were:

  1. Whether or not you’re on a team.

It’s not about how long you’ve been with the company, high how up you are, what your education level is or what industry you’re in — it’s about whether or not you say you’re on a team. You are 2.3 times as likely to be fully engaged if you’re on a team than if you aren’t. This finding is so important because we know companies don’t view engagement this way, but rather through static boxes on their org chart. 66% of people reported being on more than one team at work, and three-quarters of those people say those teams are not reflected on the company org chart. When we can’t see the teams, we can’t see the work – so we can’t make improvements to either. No wonder engagement is so low.

  1. The biggest driver of engagement on teams is whether you trust your team leader.

Upon examining the most engaged teams, we were able to determine that the biggest driver of engagement was whether or not teams trusted their team leader. Members of teams that have extreme trust for their team leader are 12 times more likely to be fully engaged. Across countries, industries, and positions, a trusted team leader is the foundation for building highly engaged teams. If you want to engage your people, dive into teams. And if you want to build highly engaged teams, build trust in the team leader. Click To Tweet

There’s a lot more you can learn from this study, and you can start by reading the mainbar article in the May/June issue of Harvard Business Review’s The Big Idea: The Power of Hidden Teams. Global engagement is tragically low; but now we have the data to start making change.



  1. Steve Norris May 14, 2019 at 9:03 AM - Reply

    I agree about being on a team is vital, but how do you describe a healthy team? I have been on unhealthy and healthy teams. Also, what do you mean by a high trust towards your leader? Like? Respect? Other?

  2. Allen Ollendorf May 14, 2019 at 10:05 AM - Reply

    This does not appear to be a new discovery but rather a validation of what is already known about teams. Team-based Agile practices combined with Servant Leadership and a healthy dose of trust between team members and leadership enhances engagement. Of course there are several barriers that may prevent or impede engagement. Perhaps it could be a subject for another Episode.

  3. Nathalie Jaumin May 15, 2019 at 9:25 AM - Reply

    I just saw your study in Harvard Business Review, really impressive!
    Just one question : You don’t say a word about Saboteurs, the ones that actively are against the company and have the power gain follower in the “just coming to work” group. How caould we address this negative force?

  4. Walid June 10, 2019 at 11:00 AM - Reply

    I positively agree on the vital conclusion. To empower everyone through teamwork and build up leadership trust.

  5. Troy December 9, 2019 at 4:42 AM - Reply

    Markus, considering the focus on teams and lack of org chart visibility, what are your thoughts on the Holacracy model to provide clarity on these dynamic and cross functional teams?

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