How organisations measure employee engagement (employee research explained)

Posted: 23-03-2023



Our Principal Consultant Joshua Reed explores how 50 organisations measure employee engagement through employee research, also providing some initial pointers for organisations looking to build their own bespoke employee engagement index.

First, let’s take a recap on the terminology and broader goals of employee engagement:

What is employee engagement – why does it matter?

Employee engagement is originally an academic term, describing employees having strong commitment to their organisation and being more likely to give discretionary effort. Engaged employees care more and give more – not because they have to, but because they want to.

Engaged employees feel connected to their organisation and want to be part of its future success. A higher proportion of employees who feel that way is nearly always a good thing for an organisation – with decades of research showing tangible links between employee engagement and improved safety, absence rates, turnover and productivity.

How is employee engagement linked to the wider employee experience?

A key aim of most organisations’ people strategies is to positively shift the dial on engagement – and employers can achieve this by influencing employees’ perceptions of their organisation.

From providing training and career opportunities, to giving clear strategic direction, and to creating a strong and healthy culture – these factors and more shape an employee’s overall experience of working somewhere.

Employers who can craft a positive overall employee experience are those most likely to foster high levels of commitment and motivation in the workplace.

Measuring employee engagement as part of employee research

This naturally leads us to the big question: how can we measure employee engagement?

You might suppose that such a key facet of the employee experience would come with its own certified (or at least standardised) measurement within organisations. And for an important reason:

Engagement presents differently across organisations. It’s affected by nuanced behaviours and actions, and is influenced by factors including sector, organisational structure, company values and culture.

There are some common factors, of course, but a robust, accurate measurement of engagement is only really possible when it’s tailored to the specific characteristics of employees in your workplace.

How employee engagement measures vary across organisations

The data visualisation below explores how 50 organisations measure employee engagement through employee research – highlighting just how varied approaches can be.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach, which is why we caution against using off-the-peg research models instead of a bespoke one.

Some key insights include:

  • Engagement is nearly always measured via an ‘index’, most often comprised of three to five questions to capture both breadth and depth.
  • Pride is the most common indicator, closely followed by employee advocacy – every organisation asks at least one of these two questions.
  • Job enjoyment, motivation, belonging and intention to stay also rank high.

HME mobile HME tablet HME desktop

How to start building your bespoke employee engagement measure

We’ve seen that measuring employee engagement is important, but also that engagement presents differently across organisations. So, how can your organisation get started in defining what employee engagement looks like in its respective context?

We advise getting inquisitive. Go deep. The best and most representative engagement indexes we see – which ultimately are the ones best able to predict organisational performance – are those built from the ground up.

Soliciting opinions from a diverse sample across your organisation (through a pulse survey, for example) is a great place to start. Ask the question: ‘how would you describe an engaged (or disengaged) employee in your part of the business?’. And remember to test the robustness of your working hypotheses with a validation panel made up of operational and senior stakeholders.

Is employee engagement alone enough?

Now for the pivot. The criticality of engagement within the overall employee experience should not be understated, but is engagement alone enough to secure organisational performance and longer-term prosperity? Not quite.

The world has shifted in recent years in ways we can scarcely comprehend. VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity) is becoming a better descriptor of our BAU (business as usual). Researchers and practitioners alike are quickly realising that the conditions facilitating high engagement do not always reach far enough to achieve business results. What’s more, the war on talent means engaged employees are becoming more and more prone to leaving organisations.

Our response to this is to step back and acknowledge the broader factors in modern day society which, alongside employee engagement, are responsible for shaping how we feel and what we do at work. Enter the Ipsos Karian and Box Employee Experience Research Framework.

If you’d like to know more about our EX Research framework, we’d love to know more about your organisation. Please feel free to drop us a line at for an in-depth conversation with a member of our Consulting team.

Commentary by Joshua Reed

Design by Victor Pardos Costa

Analysis by David Lasky

Ipsos Karian and Box

Latest insights

IC Index 2024: Trust Issue

The IC Index 2024 delves into the impact of internal communications on trust; a topic on the tip of many a tongue in today’s climate.

Read more

Fear or Apathy? What stops employees speaking up

Our ‘Fear or Apathy?’ study reveals that many UK organisations are missing out on valuable insights and innovation. A lack of comfort in speaking up means that great ideas are going unheard.

Read more

State of learning for UK office employees

The latest Ipsos research on learning in the workplace shows that half of UK workers have not been given opportunities to develop in their job.

Read more

Should I stay or should I go?

The working landscape has changed for so many people, but has the turbulence of recent years influenced people’s reasons for staying in a role, or seeking out a new one?

Read more

More than a third of employees are taking leave due to stress. What can we do?

Ipsos World Mental Health Day survey shows more than a third of employees (39%) across the world have had to take time off for stress in the past year.

Read more

Making the case for the office

At Ipsos Karian and Box, we’ve analysed the views of over 1,400 full-time UK workers to explore the positives of both home and office working, how hybrid serves employers and employees, and how to best go about getting people back into the office.

Read more

IC Index 2023

The IC Index 2023 is our latest research in partnership with the IoIC. We’ve surveyed over 3000 employees in the UK to discover what people need from their internal communications.

Read more

Exploring Sustainability and Employee Experience: A study of four major Financial Services Institutions

We’ve surveyed over 8000 employees from four major financial services organisations to answer one question: How much does sustainability matter when it comes to creating a great employee experience?

Read more

We'd love to hear from you


Please enter your first name
Please enter your lastname
Please enter your company
Please enter correct email


Please tell us your challenge



Thank you for contacting us.

We will reply to you in the next two working days.