Gallup’s 12 Elements of Employee Engagement: Insights for Small Business Owners


A business is only as good as its employees, and excellent performance comes from positive engagement. The more you invest in your team, the more they will give you, so employee engagement should be a top priority. 

Gallup’s 12 Elements of Employee Engagement detail the essential ways you must support your workers, from encouraging healthy friendships to providing consistent feedback. 

Over the coming weeks, we will do a deep dive into these insightful elements of employee engagement one article at a time, but let’s start with an overview of all 12!

Element #1: I know what is expected of me at work.

How can someone do their job well if they don’t know what that looks like? Frankly, this should all start with your job postings and descriptions, but clarifying expectations with current employees is most important. 

Communication is key here, and you should set digestible goals for each team member. Quality and productivity standards should be outlined, and employees should have a resource — whether a person or manual — to find these expectations.

Element #2: I have the materials and equipment I need to do my work right.

Employees can’t do their jobs well if a lack of tools and materials stifles them. These can be literal tools, but more often than not, they’re things like a clear point of contact, clear guidelines, and outlined expectations.

However, they can also be literal materials, tools, and equipment, such as reliable WiFi, decent software programs, and safety equipment. If you’re unsure if your employees have what they need, all you have to do is ask!

Element #3: At work, I have the opportunity to do what I do best every day.

It’s very frustrating for workers hired for a particular skill to be assigned to things that don’t involve their talents. Employees’ responsibilities are misaligned with their skills far too often. 

Giving employees work that they feel is outside their capabilities is a recipe for resentment and withdrawal. It can feel like they’re being set up for failure. Ensure employee skills are utilized accordingly. 

Element #4: In the last 7 days, I’ve received recognition or praise for doing good work.

We cannot overstate the power of positive reinforcement. Some think negative reinforcement is more effective, but this is a misguided opinion. 

People respond best to praise and encouragement, not scrutiny and scolding. Regular positive reinforcement is essential, so every employee should receive it in some form at least once a week. If your employees didn’t do anything in the last week worthy of praise, you may need to rethink your staff standards. 

Element #5: My supervisor, or someone at work, seems to care about me as a person.

These days, many employees feel like their companies see them as nothing but labor that contributes to the bottom line. It often feels like the first thing that gets slashed during a budget cut is employee salaries, benefits, or bonuses. 

Bosses don’t necessarily need to insert themselves into employees’ personal lives, but it’s important that employees feel seen as people, not just employees. It doesn’t need to be a friendship; it can just be a clear level of respect and empathy. 

Element #6: There is someone at work who encourages my development.

Similar to caring about employees as people, it’s also important to show that you care about their success and career. Discouragement of development and advancement is the best way to turn a great worker into a bad one. 

This doesn’t necessarily mean promotions, but it means giving them opportunities to achieve their goals and build their skills. Some ways to encourage development are training, education, promotion opportunities, facilitated networking, or simply professional advice.

Element #7: At work, my opinions seem to count.

Do you know what happens when employees feel their opinions are undervalued or ignored? They stop sharing them, which is detrimental to a productive team. Always, always, always listen to your team, even if you don’t like what they’re saying. 

Thank your employees for their opinions whenever they give them to validate this engaging and thoughtful behavior. If you act on their opinion, let them know and give them credit. If not, consider touching base with them to explain why.

Element #8: The mission or purpose of my company makes me feel my job is important.

Throughout human history, there has been the great and unanswerable question, “What is our purpose?” While this is intensely philosophical, you don’t need to read Aristotle to yearn for meaning. And when employees can find meaning, purpose, and fulfillment at work, they’ll be better at their jobs. 

It might sound cheesy, but having a clear mission statement and embodying it can lead to a more cohesive and engaged team. If employees believe in the company’s mission, they won’t just be working to make rent; they’ll be working toward a common goal. 

Element #9: My associates or fellow employees are committed to doing quality work.

Probably everyone has had a slacker coworker that drags the team and business down, creating frustration and resentment. High-performing employees often feel shorted when they receive the same compensation and recognition as someone who barely puts in effort. 

If one worker slacks off, it indirectly gives the other employees permission to do the same. The last thing you want is to cultivate a culture of underachievement. Reprimanding, punishing, or even terminating poor employees is not easy, but it’s entirely necessary for good employee retention.

Element #10: I have a best friend at work.

First, we want to highlight that it’s a huge red flag when a company or boss discourages employee interactions and friendships. It implies a sense of secrecy, control, and coldness. You should do the opposite, facilitating opportunities for your employees to connect and bond.

Remote work makes employee friendships more out of reach but not impossible. Having friends at work can make employees feel more supported and happy to work. This creates camaraderie, which leads to a more positive and collaborative work environment. 

Element #11: In the last six months, someone at work has talked to me about my progress.

To be clear, the “someone” here should be a manager or supervisor, not just another employee. The key to excellent performance is consistent and constructive feedback. Give quality feedback regularly, whether a formal review or a weekly shoutout.

Perfecting employee reviews and feedback can take time, as every company needs a routine or system appropriate for the environment and operations. Feedback can be positive or negative, but without any, employees can feel adrift and in the dark. 

Element #12: This last year, I’ve had opportunities to learn and grow.

This last element is similar to element #6 but is more actionable. Encouraging development is wonderful, but employers must also push (nicely) employees to learn and grow. Offering employees new opportunities can help them see their future, which might be within the company!

Humans naturally want to learn and can feel uninspired and unenthusiastic when they don’t get to. This element is more present than #6, as we’re not looking at the employee’s career path. Instead, we’re looking for daily opportunities to help them grow.

Explore Gallup’s 12 Elements of Employee Engagement

Follow our Elements of Employee Engagement blog series to learn more. Next up: an in-depth guide to the Element of Employee Engagement #1: “I Know What Is Expected of Me at Work.”

Lori Moen at Catalyst Group ECR can help you implement these elements and support your team so they can reach their full potential and boost your business. Reach out today!