By Melissa J. Anderson

A new study released by Dale Carnegie & Associates – the 100 year old leadership training company – has identified three key factors that determine employee engagement: their relationship with their immediate supervisor, their belief in senior management, and their pride in working for the company.

The firm set out to identify how and why employees might be engaged because it believes people are main determinant in a company’s competitive edge. The report explains:

“The one thing that creates sustainable competitive advantage – and therefore ROI, company value and long-term strength – is the workforce, the people who are the company. And when it comes to people, research has shown, time and again, that employees who are engaged significantly outperform work groups that are not engaged. In the fight for competitive advantage where employees are the differentiator, engaged employees are the ultimate goal.”

By focusing on the three factors that drive employee engagement, companies can gain the advantage over their industry competitors.

Relationships Create Engagement

The study, which polled 1,500 employed adults in the US, revealed that the relationship between the employee and his or her direct manager is the most important factor in driving engagement.

Dale Carnegie explains, “the attitude and actions of the immediate supervisor can enhance employee engagement or can create an atmosphere where an employee becomes disengaged.”

The study continues, “That is, employees want their managers to care about their personal lives, to take an interest in them as people, to care about how they feel and support their health and well-being.”

One important area in building good employee–manager relationships is ensuring that managers are equipped with leadership skills once they are promoted to a supervisor position, that employees feel their manager is qualified to lead. This encourages employees to operate at the best of their abilities. “A manager’s ability to build strong relationships with employees, build strong team interaction and lead in a ‘person-centered’ way creates an engaging environment in which employees can perform at the highest possible level,” the study says.

Managers need to be able to show employees they have a path forward at the company, Dale Carnegie continues.

“By working with employees to create a clear career path and set goals with a potential for growth, a manager can create positive esteem within each team member. By showing them that they are valued and have responsibility, and then to recognize and reward them for a job well done, a manager can create an ‘involved employee.”’

Employees want to feel that their managers are invested in their success.

Other Factors

Besides the employee-manager relationship, the two other key factors in employee engagement according to Dale Carnegie are the belief the abilities of senior management and pride in working for the company. The report explains:

“In addition, employees said that believing in the ability of senior leadership to take their input, lead the company in the right direction and openly communicate the state of the organization is key in driving engagement. Other factors that drive engagement are that employees are treated with respect, that their personal values are reflected and that the organization cares about how they feel.”

Interestingly, the report shows, factors like gender, ethnicity, and working full time or part time did not have a statistically significant effect on engagement. Of the respondents in the survey, just over a quarter (29 percent) were fully engaged and almost the same amount (26 percent) were disengaged. That left the majority of individuals polled (45 percent) somewhere in between.

That means that companies are risking a higher chance for turnover or stagnation for 71 percent of their employees. In fact, Dale Carnegie suggests that research shows turnover in the US may rise to 65 percent in the coming years. That could mean big costs for employers, the report continues, considering that recruiting a replacement costs about 150 percent of an employee’s salary.

By identifying where they can create engagement wins – manager relationships, leadership competence, and employer pride, companies can better engage and retain qualified high performers moving forward. This will save on recruitment costs and provide the advantage to employers in a competitive marketplace.