Workplace Culture

A Whole New Employee Engagement Model

By Andie Burjek

Nov. 2, 2016

WF_WebSite_BlogHeaders-13A couple of months ago I attended an interesting webinar: Maritz Motivation Solutions, a company that designs and consults on employee recognition programs for major companies in the US and internationally, was contemplating employee engagement on the global scale. I don’t know about you guys, but I know I’ve seen story after story in a variety of sources — in basically every business publication, in pitches, most recently in an issue of Women’s Health — about how low employee engagement is dropping.

26 years ago, professor William Kahn of Boston University coined the term “employee engagement.” Since then, we’ve been trying to figure out: What keeps employees engaged?

Maritz Motivation Solutions and the Maritz Institute partnered with the Employee Engagement Alliance to create a global employee engagement model. I spoke with Kimberly Abel-Lanier, vice president and general manager of workforce solutions for Maritz and head of the company’s employee recognition program, CultureNext, to learn more about this model, how it came about and how they hope to develop it further into a global standard.

They started by looking for a contemporary global standard of employee engagement already in existence, said Abel-Lanier. When they couldn’t find one, they began creating one of their own. The wanted a model that combined the best of everything: academic research, expert opinion and practical knowledge of HR practitioners.

Meanwhile, they also wanted it to take into account the global, hyperconnected, multigenerational workforce. The purpose was to have a holistic framework in which to develop strategies to advance employee engagement across an organization. There could be a specific strategy per each specific dimension.

The seven dimensions Maritz decided on were:

  • Purpose
  • Innovation
  • Social systems.
  • Realizing potential.
  • Contribution awareness.
  • Advocacy
  • Well-being.

What especially interested me about this model was that it incorporated holistic well-being: the corporate trend I’ve been hearing more and more about. Consider the whole person, not just their physical health.

“When people are healthy mentally as well as physically, they are more mindful, creative and engaged, which is going to benefit organizations who need that critical thinking ability to be competitive in the marketplace,” said Abel-Lanier.

A strategy around well-being that could promote engagement, she added, is committing to wellness goals in a team setting, which makes people more apt to keep those goals. Participating in a healthy competition, sharing your progress with your social network and maybe even receiving incentives for hitting certain health milestones — doing things like this may not only help employees achieve their wellness goal but also foster relationships with their teammates and coworkers.

What also interested me about this model is that it acknowledges the rapidly changing workplace. Employee engagement isn’t a static concept. This is true on an organizational level, and what engages employees at company A won’t be exactly what engages employees at company B. Also, it’s true across time. That is, what engages employees today may not engage the employees of the future, and an accurate model should have room for growth as time goes on.

Maritz had been getting consistent feedback from practitioners in order to keep the model relevant. It’s still in the exploratory phase — that is, they’re still making tweaks and changes as necessary to optimize the model based on feedback.

“We want this to be a living, dynamic, relevant model that is updated based on input,” said Abel-Lanier. “We want to create value and increase engagement within an organization. It’s going to be an ongoing effort to make sure that happens with this model.”

The end goal, she added, is to measure global engagement using and applying this model. It’ll be interesting to see what kind of progress and changes occur in the next year.



Andie Burjek is an associate editor at

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