You might find that a surprising statement but let me explain why I make it. For many years we’ve talked about corporate culture as though engagement is caused by organisations. In fact engagement is caused much more by things that are close to the employee such as their job, their leader and their team.

Please see the diagram below showing the results of a project that we undertook with Deakin University to measure levels of engagement in 2600 people across Australia. We found that by measuring characteristics associated with the employee’s job, their leader, their team and their organisation, we were able to predict their levels of engagement with 64% accuracy.

Job, Team, Leader and Organisation factors predicting Engagement

Without going too much into the mathematics of all this the question we were asking was whether by measuring the components on the left-hand side we could predict levels of engagement in individuals. The answer was emphatically yes, to the tune of 64% as mentioned above. The elements in the bottom right-hand corner with the best predictors of an individual’s levels of engagement. The initials in front of each of these tells you whether they are a job, a team, a leader, or an organisational characteristic.

As you will see by looking this diagram the only ones listed are job, leadership, and team characteristics. Organisational characteristics do not get even a mention. The reason that they do not get a mention is because they have very minimal effect on a person’s levels of engagement. So, if you are in a good team in a bad Organisation you are in heaven and if you are in a bad team in a good organisation you are in hell.

In psychology we call this the “proximal/distal” effect. Something that is proximal to me is something that is close – such as my leader, my team or my job. The organisation is psychologically distal from me – far away. That is why you can ask three people who work for the same organisation whether they like their job or not and get totally different answers. In the same study we discovered that leaders have a massive impact on people’s attitudes to their jobs and their teams. If you would like to learn more about how to measure leadership effectiveness and its impact on levels of engagement click here.

Andrew Marty
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