12 Elements of Great Managing: Employee Engagement is Key

In 12: The Elements of Great Managing, by Rodd Wagner and James K. Harter, Ph.D., the authors show significant correlations between organizational performance and employee engagement.

The results were published by Gallup Press and represent the outcome of hundreds of focus groups and worker interviews across a broad spectrum of organizational types, in many industries and countries.

The study identifies twelve “key employee expectations” that form the basis for feelings of engagement:

  1. I know what is expected of me at work.
  2. I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.
  3. At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.
  4. In the last seven days, I have received recognition or praise for doing good work.
  5. My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.
  6. There is someone at work who encourages my development.
  7. At work, my opinions seem to count.
  8. The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.
  9. My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.
  10. I have a best friend at work.
  11. In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.
  12. This last year, I have had opportunities at work to learn and grow.

Two of these elements can be directly supported by digital signage systems. The statements made in #4 and #8 above support the idea that engagement must come from the top, that it must be handled on an organization-wide scale, and that managers must have a means by which they can communicate mission goals and recognition to workers. Digital signage systems and targeted messaging can help managers engage employees on both of these topics.

ELEMENT #4: Recognition and Praise

It’s not just an occasional “Attaboy!” – it’s about specific and recurring recognition of efforts. “The truth is that the best managers are always finding things to praise,” says Kent Blumberg in his e-book summary of 12.

This is not just a feel-good management tool with intangible results. Organizations with respondents who said they had received recognition or praise for doing good work in the last seven days show at least 10% higher productivity and revenue, and 50% lower employee turnover. Praise outnumbered blame by a ratio of 5.6 to 1 in high performance teams, and a previous study showed giving careful praise increased happiness and decreased depression of the givers.

The authors of 12 note that praise works better than financial incentives and has virtually no cost associated with it. Praise should be delivered within context. In some cases, it may be more appropriate to praise someone privately for their efforts. However, public recognition can be a major motivating factor.

Managers can use digital signage and targeted messaging to motivate teams and individuals:

  • Broadcast performance statistics against quotas: “Blue team is at 89% of annual quota”
  • Recognize leading reps or employee of the month: “Jane Camp is our employee of the month”
  • Congratulate Summa Cum Laude graduates: “Join us in congratulating these graduates…”
  • List certificates or degrees earned: “Tim Neese is now CTS certified”
  • Publish goal attainment: “Accounting finishes software migration”
  • Communicate results: “African Missions Trip builds 2 houses”
  • Celebrate anniversaries and birthdays: “Chuck Wald celebrates 7 years with us”
  • Acknowledge academic achievements: “Professor Wilde published in Science June edition”
  • Show company-wide praise: “Thank you all for making us ABA’s Business of the Year”
  • Advertise team successes: “Marketing hosts over 2000 visitors in EduComm booth”
  • Praise activities participants: “Girls Soccer takes First in County”
  • Note community accomplishments: “Laura King heads up Blood Drive”
  • Incorporate personal efforts: ”Ted Beck finishes third in Butler marathon”
  • Welcome new employees: “Welcome to Barbara Sands, new Warehouse Manager” 

ELEMENT #8: Connection to a Noble Purpose

Demystifying the company mission is simply defining whom you are trying to help and how you are trying to help them or make their lives better. However, many workers do not feel that they have a clear understanding of their organization’s mission, or they see no clear path between their efforts and achieving that mission.

”Great managers are able to connect their direct reports to the mission of the company resulting in employees feeling their job is important,” states John Moore in his summary of 12. The study shows that employees who feel engaged exhibit 27% less absenteeism and 62% more accidents occur when employees feel disengaged. Mission-driven teams reported 15-to-30% lower turnover rates.

Groups who feel comfortable with their role in respect to the mission show higher profitability, lower accidents and lower turnover. Also, when employees feel a direct connection between their job and the company mission, trust in managers’ decisions increases, on-the-job conflicts decrease, and commitment to getting the job done is greater.

It is not a new concept that mission direction and motivation starts at the highest levels. However, 12 reports that less than 50% of workers surveyed strongly agree that, “The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.” These numbers show that managers are still struggling to define their organization’s mission, to communicate that mission to workers, and to tie individual performance back to mission goals. Dynamic communications delivered to digital signage and portable devices can explain and reinforce the mission for employees.

Define the mission:

  • “Zero preventable accidents is our goal.”
  • “Higher education for tomorrow’s leaders in health care.”
  • “Bringing affordable organic food to families.”
  • “Spreading the gospel, one person at a time.”
  • “Improving worker productivity through excellence in training.”
  • “Bringing marketing expertise to small business owners.”
  • “Providing the highest quality shoes for the best price.”
  • “Delivering vocational education to commuter students.”
  • “Providing superior technical support for PC users.”
  • “Delivering a product while encouraging employee growth.”

Recognize worker contributions:

  • “Red Team has 0 accidents in March”
  • “38% of ITU students graduate with 3.7 GPA or higher”
  • “Milwaukee division contributes 23% of annual profit goal”
  • “Youth Group hosts Campbell Middle School at Sunday service”
  • “Betty Wilkes delivers training to 3 new clients”
  • “Dan Tanner completes management training”
  • “Michael Joy decreases COGS by 17%”
  • “Andrea Rally launches P&G intern program”
  • “Customer Service decreases call wait time by 73%”
  • “Human Resources builds improved benefits offering”

Not unexpectedly, the further a worker is from the top of the organization, the less they feel a connection to the mission. Blumberg notes, “Out in the field, the level of agreement was less than 1/3. The most important people in your organization – those who produce the goods and deliver the services to your customers – are the least likely to feel their job is important to the company’s mission.”  Targeted messaging is a new tool that can address this gap. By broadcasting mission-driven communications to teams in the field, central management can deliver important direction and feedback to engage employees.

Blumburg summarizes, “We all want to feel that our efforts at work are helping our organization achieve something special. There are two parts to this. First, we need to understand what our organization is trying to achieve and believe that such a purpose is worthy of our efforts. Second, we need to understand how our contributions help achieve that purpose. We need to see the link between what we do and what our organization is trying to accomplish for the world.”


*12: The Elements of Great Managing by Rodd Wagner and James K. Harter, Ph.D. – Gallup Press, 2006

*12: The Elements of Great Managing – As summarized by Kent M. Blumberg – Kent M. Blumberg, 2007

*The Elements of 12 Elements – John Moore, Brand Autopsy, 2006