A big challenge. The Holy Grail. What keeps HR people up at night.

Those are only a few descriptions in a handful of articles covering the struggle to understand what engages employees — and how to create workplaces that offer them what they need for motivation and maximum performance.

What engages them varies by the study, but two elements seem clear:

  1. Money isn’t the answer. Pay and benefits are important, but not the most deciding factor.
  2. More personal aspects of the workplace, such as people and purpose, play a critical role.

While we’re not undertaking a comprehensive review of the factors that motivate employees in this blog, here’s what rises to the surface in the studies cited below (and in others not included, but readily available on the web).


Peers. Colleagues and camaraderie are the number 1 reason employees go the extra mile at work, according to a 2014 employee engagement report by TINYPulse. That was followed by “intrinsic desire to do a good job” and “feeling encouraged and recognized.” Money ranked 7th on the list.


Positive relationships. A recent Harvard Business Review article reports that a U.K. study found companionship and recognition to be more important than high salaries in promoting employee loyalty. Other research confirms that positive and warm relationships, including those with managers, are one of the most important predictors of psychological well-being, HBR says.

A sense of purpose. The same HBR article says:No matter what your organization does — whether it’s offering a service or building products — it is important that your culture be infused with meaning. Studies show that people who have a sense of purpose are more focused, creative, and resilient, so leaders should make a point of reminding employees how their work is improving people’s lives.”

A supportive environment. A recent hrPost blog reports that the UK’s Institute for Employment Studies found that the key driver of engagement is “the sense of feeling valued and involved” at work. Feeling valued comes from involvement in decision-making, the ability to voice ideas and be listened to, opportunities for growth, and the belief that the organization is concerned for their employees’ well-being. As with positive relationships, managers also are key to creating a supportive workplace.

Leadership. In its 2016 Employee Engagement Trends Report, Quantum Workplace identified trust of and commitment exhibited by managers and leaders as an important motivator. “Deloitte research also shows that more than six in 10 employees (62%) who plan to stay with their current employers reported high levels of trust in their corporate leadership, while only 27% of employees who plan to leave express that same trust,” according to a recent blog in gethppy.com, an HR and employee engagement community.

Those same managers and leaders are the ones communicating with employees, which also is a key element of employee satisfaction. Dissatisfied, disengaged employees — as much as 70% of the workforce — cost the U.S. economy as much as $550 billion annually in lost productivity, according to Gallup. Conversely, the same report says, companies with high employee engagement have 3.9 times the earnings per share when compared to those in the same industry with lower engagement levels.

As we’ve written before (in this post about engaging workers with digital signage), digital signage also can play an important role in corporate communications, clearing out the inbox and delivering informative, fun and fresh content that furthers communication goals and needs. Effective digital signage offers employers a new way to help employees connect to the organization and feel valued.

But it can’t be a crutch for either corporate communicators or managers. When it comes to communicating with employees, judging from the studies quoted above, the personal touch clearly is key.

Want to learn more about understanding and measuring the impact of your digital signage on employees? Download our “5 Ways to Measure the Impact of Your Digital Signage Solution in Corporate Communications.”