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What Engaged Employees Say About Your Brand

What Engaged Employees Say About Your Brand

by Emily Wetherell and Sangeeta Agrawal

Story Highlights

  • Engaged employees use different words to describe their work culture
  • Employees in engaged workplaces become powerful brand ambassadors
  • Relationships, honesty, support and alignment define engaged cultures

Employee engagement is often mistaken for workplace culture -- but they aren't the same thing. Engagement is about meeting employees' needs in a way that sets them up for high performance. Engagement is the performance aspect of an organization's culture. Gallup defines culture as "how we do things around here." It is what makes your organization special and different from others.

Years of Gallup data show that engaged organizational cultures work differently -- they're just more successful. But a new analysis from the Gallup Panel reveals that engaged cultures actually talk differently too.

That has a big impact on your organization's brand reputation. Every day, people talk about what it's like to work for your organization, shop at your business or hire your company's services. And your engaged and disengaged employees are saying very different things about "how we do things around here."

In fact, engaged employees are 23 times more likely than disengaged employees to strongly agree that they would recommend their organization as a great place to work.

I would recommend my organization as a great place to work.
Do not strongly agree Strongly agree
% %
Actively disengaged 97.5 2.5
Not engaged 84.6 15.4
Engaged 40.4 59.6
Gallup Panel, 2019

Leaders can gain powerful insights into the culture and reputation of their organization by understanding how employees talk about their workplace. As these Gallup Panel results show, your workplace culture and the engagement of your employees fuel your organization's identity to the general public, potential customers and future job candidates.

Engaged employees are 23 times more likely than disengaged employees to strongly agree that they would recommend their organization as a great place to work.

We asked over 9,000 U.S. employees to describe their workplace culture using three words or short phrases. We then compared the results between those who are engaged and those who are actively disengaged.

We found that engaged employees were more likely to use these words:

  • friendly
  • open
  • family
  • teamwork
  • collaborative
  • caring
  • cooperative
  • integrity
  • efficient
  • supportive

And that actively disengaged employees were more likely to use these words:

  • lazy
  • poor
  • lack
  • bad
  • disorganized
  • slow
  • old
  • busy
  • reactive
  • gossip

These two lists allude to very different employee experiences. We can see how these differences play out by looking at four key characteristics that define engaged cultures.

1. Warm Relationships

Engaged employees reported that friends and caring colleagues are staples of their organization's culture. Their coworkers truly feel like family. But none of the disengaged workers' top responses involved warm or positive connections with others.

2. Honesty

Engaged workers were far more likely to use words like "open" and "integrity" to describe their culture, suggesting honesty and humility in their interactions with others. The actively disengaged, however, mentioned "gossip" far more frequently. That's negative communication and opens the door to destructive patterns and distrust.

3. Shared Accountability and Performance

"Family," "teamwork" and " supportive" -- all among the top words of engaged employees -- describe close working relationships. In an engaged culture, colleagues are there for support and to remove roadblocks, not point out mistakes. "Bad" and "poor" describe disengaged workplaces and, quite often, employee outcomes.

4. Alignment on Shared Goals

The engaged tend to use positive words related to agility -- "cooperative," collaborative," efficient" -- when they talk about work. Conversely, the actively disengaged describe inefficiency and disjointed work: "lazy," "slow," "disorganized." There's an element of lethargy in that, but also a sense of injustice: More than likely, a few people are doing the work while the rest are actively disrupting it.

What does this mean for your organization?

Workplaces that are "supportive, friendly and collaborative" are very different from "disorganized, gossipy and lazy" ones. They get very different results too -- engaged workplaces are far more profitable and productive than disengaged ones. And engaged employees are also more likely to talk about your organization in a way that makes potential customers and possible job candidates want to pursue your brand.

Leaders pour countless resources into brand management through marketing endeavors, ad campaigns, customer engagement initiatives, social media platforms and more. But what also matters -- and is often overlooked -- is the way your workplace culture creates, or fails to create, candid brand ambassadors out of your employees.

If those candid brand ambassadors talk about warm relationships, honesty, alignment on shared goals, and shared accountability and performance, you should be pleased. They are telling the world that excellence within your organization is simply "how we do things around here."

Need to change the conversation? Gallup can help.


Emily Wetherell, Ph.D., is a Methodologist at Gallup.

Sangeeta Agrawal is a Research Manager at Gallup.

Jennifer Robison and Ryan Pendell contributed to this article.

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