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In my post, ‘STOP! It’s Time to Revolutionise Employee Engagement’ you had the opportunity to gauge your own level of engagement by rating yourself on the eight statements Marcus Buckingham and his team used in their global study of engagement.

Did you find yourself in the ‘fully engaged’ category or the ‘coming to work’ category? And if you were in the ‘coming to work’ category, are you taking up the challenge and making some changes?

In this case study from Marcus Buckingham’s research, it shows very clearly why you should, and the very real difference that being ‘fully engaged’ or ….. not, makes.



Two nurses, same job, different hospitals. One provides great care for patients, the other doesn’t. Why?

JORDAN has worked as a clinical nurse in the Orthopaedic department for the past three years. In a recent interview with the research team, she described how thrilled she is to be in a role whose entire purpose is helping people get better one by one. In particular, she loves what she calls the interdisciplinary approach, in which the family, the case manager, the physical therapist, the physician, the occupational therapist, the social worker, and the nurse all come together to choose the best care for each patient.

FRITZ has been a clinical nurse for about the same amount of time, but he works for a different department in a different hospital. He works the same long hours Jordan does, but unlike her, he is not part of an interdisciplinary unit. He is merely one of 76 nurses, all of them assigned to rotating shifts whose members change from one week to the next, and all of them overseen by two administrators and one nurse supervisor. He is struggling. He embarked on his nursing career with as much passion to help people as Jordan did, but now he’s tired, burned out, and thinking about quitting.

Nurse taking blood pressure reading

Both Jordan and Fritz face incredible daily pressures at work. The job is inherently stressful, the system under strain, the paperwork endless, the emotional burden of caring for the ill weighty, the risk that errors may lead to lawsuits a constant worry.

For Fritz, the stress lands heavily. His feeling, as he gets on the bus every morning to head to the hospital, is that he’s going through the motions and surviving the experience at work. He’s just not engaged in his work. Something different is happening for Jordan. Something about her experience at work is lifting her up, not pulling her down. She is fully engaged — and her patients’ health outcomes reflect that.

Jordan and Fritz happen to be nurses, but they could be any pair of workers anywhere in the world today, one thriving, the other just muddling through. Most managers have a Jordan and a Fritz in their team and wonder how they can make Fritz more like Jordan.


To find the most effective levers for building engagement, Marcus and his team set about analysing a number of variables and their ability to impact engagement. Were older workers more disillusioned, and thus less likely than younger people to be fully engaged? Was high engagement best explained by a higher level of education? Did being fulltime or part-time make a difference? The ADP study probed these variables and many more in an effort to discover which of them could best explain engagement and productivity.

It turned out that the most powerful factor was simply whether or not respondents reported doing most of their work in a team. Those who did were more than twice as likely to be fully engaged as those who said they did most of their work alone. The ground-level experience of work – the people they worked with and their interactions with them – trumped everything else.


The power of teams


This can seem like a very lucky discovery because most work – in every industry, in every region of the world, and at every level in an organisation – is actually teamwork.

In fact, 83% of workers say they do most of their work in teams. They have responsibilities that seem to be connected to other people’s responsibilities, their strengths are usually complemented by those of others, they look out for each other, share ideas, help when a person seems overwhelmed, and give their input to help solve issues. The quality of this team experience is the quality of your work experience.



A high-quality team leads to higher engagement. Interestingly, to feel like you’re part of a team doesn’t require you to be particularly aligned with the company culture or to have completed a team building course. Rather it depends on whether your team leader and your teammates show up every day, talk to you, listen to your views, and support you. Your experience with your team drives so much – how productive you are at work, how happy you are at work, how creative, innovative, and resilient you are, and often how long you choose to stay with your company. In other words, when it comes to your work, great teams and teamwork aren’t a nice-to-have, they’re a must-have.

The best way, in fact, according to Marcus Buckingham’s research, the only way to help Fritz feel and perform more like Jordan is to start with the needs of his team. And if we want to increase engagement and productivity at work, we must direct our investments and energies to improve these team experiences.