Does Employee Engagement Depend On Position Level?

The simple answer to that question is yes. Employee engagement levels change depending on the position level of the employee. But yes does not address the complexity of the issue.

To get a feeling of whether or not this is a real issue affecting companies and what lies behind it in terms of management tactics, organizational culture and employee motivation, we started by looking at the available data.

By the Numbers

According to Quantum Workplace, the engagement increases as employees gain higher level positions within the company. This leaves about 63% contributors feeling engaged and about 90% of executives feeling engaged.

Does Employee Engagement Depend on Position Level

Source: Quantum Workplace 2016 Employee Engagement Trends


Additionally, a recent Gallup poll from 2015 found that only about 30% of workers feel engaged, while only 35% of managers feel engaged. In fact, 51% of managers are not engaged and 14% are actively disengaged, while 52% of workers are not engaged and 18% are actively disengaged.

In another recent study by Brian Solis and The Jostle Corporation, researchers investigated how engagement programs impact the engagement levels of employees and executives. Without programs, employees placed their engagement at 4.7 out of 10, while executives placed it at 5.2 out of 10. With engagement programs the, scores were about one point higher.

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Source: The Engagement Gap: Executives and employees think differently about employee engagement

Putting the numbers together

While the results of the three studies are not exactly the same, the message is clear:

Managers feel more engaged than employees


Overall engagement is very poor.

While the numbers tell us that position level does change engagement, the research does not really tell us why it is like that and how it got that way. Although there are some factors that may play a role in the results, it’s hard to give a definitive answer without more data and research.

But that doesn’t stop us from trying to get closer to the “why” of the matter, based on what we’ve learned so far. Let’s look at some of the factors behind the data and try to understand what’s behind these discrepancies in engagement levels across job positions.


Executive Disconnect

Sometimes executives can be so far removed from the daily functions of the employees they may no longer be aware of how much or little employees are engaged. This can be seen in how important employee engagement is to executives, but how small the effect of engagement programs is.

Almost all executives believe that employee engagement has a huge impact on success. They believe that their programs are improving engagement. But the data shows differently.

Leadership Skills

While leaders may feel like the company is running smoothly, their lack of awareness of the company and their leadership style may be undermining the company’s success.

Effective and engaged leaders with positive leadership styles can make a huge difference on managers and employees. Part of a manager’s responsibilities is to create highly engaged employees. But over half of managers do not seem to care about the company or the job.

A manager’s level of engagement can be passed on to affect the level of engagement of the employee. The Gallup Poll calls this the Cascade Effect. They found that managers who are supervised by engaged leaders are 39% more likely to feel engaged. Moreover, higher engagement levels in managers can lead to employees who are 59% more likely to feel engaged.

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In a related study, it was found that the more effective a leader’s leadership skills, the more engaged the employees were.

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These two studies put a lot of emphasis on how the engagement of employees may be less about job position and more about the effectiveness of the direct supervisor. This kind of change starts from the top.

Download our free eBook on how to design and implement employee engagement activities for your team.

Social Leadership

The Gallup Poll also found that practicing social leadership can increase the engagement of employees. A related finding was that openness and a strengths-based approach can also lead to significant increases in engagement.

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Sense of Purpose

Position title may be related to how close an employee is to the CEO and the company’s mission. Finding a connection between executives and employees through a sense of purpose and the greater good can improve the engagement of employees. People need to feel that are making a difference in order to feel engaged.

This sense of purpose may be related to different factors depending on position level. Lower level employees are highly motivated and more engaged when the company invests in their future success and their sense of purpose.

Managers are more motivated by the sense of purpose that interesting and challenging work provides.

For executives, engagement comes from the belief that organization will the successful in the future. Their purpose is the success of the organization.

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Source: The Engagement Gap: Executives and employees think differently about employee engagement

Employee Resources

According to the Aon Hewitt 2015 Trends in Global Employee Engagement report, a large factor in engagement is the availability of resources. When employees feel they able to do their jobs with the right resources engagement increases to 78%. Here again we have a mix of position level and effective leadership having an impact on engagement.

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Job titles

While an employee may not have a very high position within a company, they can feel more engaged by having some control over how they view their job and their title. Most companies create job titles that help place the job in the company hierarchy and define an employee’s responsibilities.

Companies who allow their employees to create their own titles saw a 16% increase in satisfaction, proving that job titles can help employees have a greater sense of purpose and belonging in a company.

Control of Position Level

Similar to how the control of a job title can impact engagement, the control of position level can have a similar effect. Research done by Gisela Jönsson found that when employees were given their first choice in position they were more satisfied with their job.

Does Employee Engagement Depend on Position Level

Source: Gisela Jönsson – After the change: how work role changes affect job satisfaction, turnover intention and general health

If we start back at the beginning and look at the statistics related to position level and engagement, it is still true that higher level employees are more engaged. But there are many factors that impact engagement across all levels of employment that can make the issues more complex than the numbers above represent.

While the current state of employee engagement seems a little depressing, many of the skills related to social leadership have the potential to have huge impacts on the engagement levels of all employees, potentially creating an organization where lower level employees are as equally engaged as higher level employees.

The more that all employees, regardless of position, care about each other, learn from each other, communicate and collaborate effectively, create a system of values and purpose, and use their strengths, the more engaged and successful individuals will feel and the company will be.

Download the eBook and get practical ideas on designing employee engagement activities for your team!