Examining Employee Engagement’s Foundation

Posted on February 4, 2015 by Don MacPherson.

The number is shocking. When someone says their organizational values are known and understood, that person is 51 times more likely to be “Fully Engaged” than someone who works at an organization without values that are known. When people hear this, they often ask for it to be repeated.

Why do organizational values mean so much to employee engagement? The fact is that values don’t drive engagement. However, the absence of values makes full engagement almost impossible.

On Modern Survey’s twice annual study of the U.S. Workforce, we ask a very simple question:

Does your organization have a clear set of Values that most employees know about and understand?

Respondents are given three choices – Yes, No, Maybe. If you say “Yes” to that question, there is nearly a 20% chance you will be “Fully Engaged.” That’s a significant improvement compared to the 16% of “Fully Engaged” employees across the entire U.S. workforce.

On the other hand, if you say “No” to the values question, it is next to impossible to be “Fully Engaged.” In fact, just 1 in 260 people who responded “No” are “Fully Engaged.” That is less than one-half of one percent!

This isn’t an anomaly. Twice a year for the last five years, Modern Survey has been asking this same question about values in our study of U.S. Workforce Employee Engagement. We have received thousands of responses during that time. Among all these responses, there is still less than a .5% chance you are “Fully Engaged” if you say “No” to the values question.

The bottom line is having values in your organization and having employees who live those values is a foundational part of making high levels of employee engagement possible. Without values that are lived and breathed every day, your organization can expect to have average levels of engagement at best. As you look around at the average employee across the U.S. workforce, you will realize that achieving goals of significance will be impossible with that level of talent and effort.

Having values matters, but it isn’t the only thing that matters in creating a culture of engagement. Like the foundation of a well-built home, it is simply a starting point. Many other things have to happen after the foundation is poured. To learn what has to happen after you have established your foundation, this blog is your “go to” resource:


Modern Survey measures employee engagement levels of the U.S. Workforce twice a year. To learn more about our U.S. Workforce Employee Engagement Fall 2014 research, please go to


4 responses to “Examining Employee Engagement’s Foundation”

  1. Inculcating the values of the organisation in its members is very important. Because this is part of the culture building exercise and as we know culture eats strategy for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A very good post and reinforcing some of the held views on engagement.

  2. Ben Simonton says:

    Interesting, but the real question is “Does your company’s culture align with your personal values?” If the answer is yes, we feel liberated and our performance soars. Unfortunately, the leadership industry tells CEOs to align employees to the company’s values/culture. That is the opposite to what creates superior performance and a fully engaged workforce. Been there and done that.

  3. Kathy Gorzelsky says:

    I totally agree with your assessment. I work in a healthcare organization. In order to create an ideal patient experience, employees must know/understand the organizational values. It also means managers must clearly define those values and set expectations. They can’t make excuses for an employee who has great clinical skills, but can’t follow one of our values like “respect for patients” or “great attitude”. Those employees who we can identify as representing our values clearly set high standards, volunteer above/beyond what we expect, take the initiative, and never make excuses – all things that I believe would define an engaged employee. There is a definite connection between high engagement/happy patients/the financial strength of the organization. When recognizing our staff we must always align the recognition with our values/goals.

  4. Al Watts says:

    Thanks for continuing to reinforce the importance of values, Don; as you know, they form the foundation of “triple-E” cultures: effective, engaging and ethical. In addition to workers knowing and understanding an organization’s values, it’s even more important that leaders’ actions and organization systems and practices reinforce those values. I find that when there are disconnects, an organization would have likely been better off not stating values. ‘Not sure you saw it, but this article on “Are Your Values Scalable?” might be of interest to you and your followers:

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