The four building blocks of employee engagement

Engaged employees! We all hear and read about building employee engagement. But how? Research clearly demonstrates that high engagement is built around four connected employee performance development needs.

When those development needs are consistently met, employees are more likely to become emotionally and psychologically attached to their workplace, their team and their work. In this environment, individual performance improves and they propel their team to improved outcomes around such critical areas as quality, productivity and safety.


Employees need to be equipped to perform and then positioned for individual and team success. The first three levels – basic, individual and teamwork needs – create the environment of trust and support that enables managers and employees get the most out of the fourth level.

These development levels provide a roadmap for managers to motivate and develop their team members and improve the team members’ performance, with each level building on the previous. For example, employees may feel connected to their team members, but if they don’t know what is expected of them (a basic need), don’t have the appropriate equipment (a basic need) or are not able to do what they feel they do best (an individual need), then their connection with the team is less likely to have a positive impact on performance.

These levels do not represent phases that managers can ‘finish’ and move on to the next level. They must work to ensure that all basic needs are being met, whilst simultaneously meeting the needs of the second, third and fourth levels. The best way to sustain progress is to keep doing more of what works and using this hierarchy as a framework for understanding how best to support employees.

Organisations have more success with engagement and improve business performance when they treat their employees as stakeholders in their future and the organisation’s future. They put the focus on concrete performance management activities, such as clarifying work expectations, getting people what they need to get their jobs done, enabling development and promoting positive team relationships. Approaching this as a business strategy yields clear and better results including:

  • 10% improvements in customer metrics and a 20% increase in sales
  • 41% lower absenteeism and a 17% increase in productivity
  • 28% reduction in shrinkage and a 40% reduction in quality defects
  • 70% decrease in employee safety incidents

How do your employees feel about your 4 building blocks of engagement?