The Workforce Institute at Kronos Incorporated and today released the third and final study in The Employee Engagement Lifecycle Series1, which examines the 25 Essential Elements of a Highly Engaging Workplace Culture.

Workplaces are a complex ecosystem of people, programs, policies, and priorities, each with their own impact on the happiness - or unhappiness - of employees. Since every organization has its own formula for success, employers can achieve good chemistry when they understand the elements that matter most to their particular workforce. The periodic table of essential elements for engaging workplaces is categorized into five core groups: People & Relationships; Leadership; Benefits & Perks; Work-Life Balance; and Learning & Development.

For The Employee Engagement Lifecycle Series, three different survey groups - HR professionals (601 respondents); people managers (604 respondents); and full-time, non-managing employees (602 respondents) - responded to an online questionnaire about various aspects of workplace culture and employee engagement. Data points below were pulled from these survey responses.

Periodic Table of Elements for a Highly Engaging Workplace Culture

Group 1 - People & Relationships:

  • Culture Trumps Performance (CtP) - Nearly 60 percent of HR professionals say they would fire a high performer who did not fit into the company culture or get along with their team.
  • Appreciation (Ap) - As Kronos revealed in its previous "Do You Feel Appreciated at Work?" survey, 55 percent of employees say receiving a simple "Thank you" from their manager gives them a high sense of satisfaction at work.
  • Friendships (F) - When asked how important friendships at work were to impacting their performance, 64 percent of employees say they were important or very important.
  • Boomerangs (Bm) - As the first installment of this series explored, nearly half of HR professionals claim their organization once had a policy against rehiring former employees, even if the employee left in good standing. However, as the war for talent has heated up, 76 percent say they are now more accepting of hiring so called "boomerang employees" than in the past.

Group 2 - Leadership:

  • Leadership (Ld) - HR professionals and managers both say that the most important aspect of their workplace culture is having managers and executives who lead by example.
  • Innovation (In) - Everyone agrees that innovation is a critical component of a successful organization, but there is a disconnect when it comes to how employers encourage innovation. While 63 percent of managers and 62 percent of HR professionals say their organizations encourage employees to bring new ideas to the table, only 40 percent of employees agree - and a full 39 percent of employees say their organizations "aren't innovative."
  • Active Feedback (Af) - Nearly half of both HR professionals and people managers actively seek feedback from employees to preserve and strengthen their workplace culture.
  • Empathetic Managers (Em) - Nearly one-quarter of employees say a flexible manager is an important part of supporting their work-life balance.
  • Customer-First (CuF) - More than 40 percent of both HR professionals and people managers say they look to their customers and the market to seek insights for innovation.
  • Mentoring (M) - Millennial employees say mentorships are important, as 20 percent claim having a mentor or sponsor was a useful aspect of their employer's onboarding strategy.

Group 3 - Benefits & Perks:

  • Pay and Benefits (Pb) - Nearly a quarter of employees say that, excluding pay, better benefits elsewhere is the top reason they would leave their current company. And 36 percent of managers say that paying employees more is an important strategy for retaining top talent.
  • Rewards and Recognition (R2) - HR professionals (45 percent) say offering more rewards and recognition to top-performing employees is an important strategy for retention.
  • Wellness (FiT) - Wellness programs are an increasingly popular piece of retention, with 23 percent of HR professionals and 25 percent of managers citing the importance of health programs.

Group 4 - Work-Life Balance:

  • Flexibility (Fx) - Flexibility emerged often as a critical component of any desirable employer, with 24 percent of HR professionals and 35 percent of managers recognizing that providing employees with more flexibility is an effective strategy for retention.  Additionally, 26 percent of employees, 27 percent of HR professionals, and 30 percent of managers say flexible scheduling contributes to improving work-life balance.
  • Me Time (Me) - A whopping 83 percent of employees say their workload does not prevent them from engaging in personal activities at home or in the office, a sign that employers and employees recognize the importance of maintaining meaningful personal connections in and out of the office.
  • Generational Awareness (Ga) - More than 40 percent of HR professionals claim they change how they promote the company and its culture when recruiting candidates across different generations, highlighting different aspects based on what they feel will appeal to the candidate.
  • Time Off (To) - Almost one-third of employees say time off - whether paid or unpaid - is the best way their employer can support their work-life balance.
  • Work-Life Balance (Wl) - Work-life balance was the third most important aspect of workplace culture cited by employees (40 percent), behind only pay (50 percent) and co-workers who respect and support each other (42 percent).

Group 5 - Learning & Development:

  • Retention (Re) - A pleasantly surprising 86 percent of HR professionals and 79 percent of managers are confident in their ability to retain current talent, while 44 percent of employees say they have no intention of leaving their current workplace.
  • Career Development (Cd) - More than 40 percent of HR professionals say funding career development courses is an important strategy to retain employees.
  • Onboarding (On) - Most organizations claim to have a formal onboarding strategy, with 67 percent of HR professionals saying they use components such as an employee manual, on-the-job training, and online courses as part of onboarding. Yet only 13 percent of employees agree that their companies have a formal onboarding strategy - exposing a major disconnect.
  • Travel Opportunities (OOO) - A quarter of HR professionals and 21 percent of managers say offering employees the opportunity to travel was a strategy used to retain employees.
  • Work Exchanges (Ex) -  Nearly one-third of HR professionals and 25 percent of managers say offering rotational programs, whereby employees can "try out" different roles within a company for a determined length of time, is an effective strategy for retaining workers. 
  • Younger Professional Programming (Yp2) -  HR professionals and people managers agree that younger generations, Millennials and Gen Zers, are the hardest to retain. Developing employment programming designed with this group in mind and actively seeking their input in these programs can help keep younger workers engaged.
  • Internal Promotions (Ip) - One-third of HR professionals and 31 percent of managers say that hiring more internally is a strategy they use to retain employees.

Supporting Quotes

  • Joyce Maroney, director, The Workforce Institute at Kronos
    "You need the right formula for your organization to create employee engagement. Good chemistry with employees starts at the top with senior leadership identifying the elements of workplace culture that will support their strategy. Just as important is ensuring this formula is well understood and executed by people managers throughout the organization. If managers cannot deliver on the promises made by leadership and HR, mission statements, values, and perks will come off as nothing more than hot air. While this periodic table of essential workplace elements is in no way exhaustive, it is a reminder that our workplaces are a complex equation of people, programs, and policies that each have a daily impact on employee happiness and engagement."
  • Dan Schawbel, founder,, partner and research director, Future Workplace LLC, and New York Times Bestselling Author of "Promote Yourself"
    "In my ongoing work looking at how generational differences impact the workplace, I found it interesting, albeit not necessarily surprising, that Millennials and their younger co-workers in Gen Z were viewed as being the most difficult to retain. Employers really need to look at what they can do to engage these populations without alienating their older workers. Development opportunities and mentoring programs are ways to satisfy and involve all workers across the organization - all while transferring knowledge to help younger workers succeed."

Supporting Resources

About The Workforce Institute at Kronos

The Workforce Institute provides research and education on critical workplace issues facing organizations around the globe. By bringing together thought leaders, The Workforce Institute is uniquely positioned to empower organizations with the knowledge and information they need to manage their workforce effectively and provide a voice for employees on important workplace issues. A hallmark of The Workforce Institute's research is balancing the needs and desires of diverse employee populations with the needs of organizations. For additional information, visit

About Kronos Incorporated

Kronos is the global leader in delivering workforce management solutions in the cloud. Tens of thousands of organizations in more than 100 countries - including more than half of the Fortune 1000® - use Kronos to control labor costs, minimize compliance risk, and improve workforce productivity. Learn more about Kronos industry-specific time and attendance, scheduling, absence management, HR and payroll, hiring, and labor analytics applications at Kronos: Workforce Innovation That Works™.

About, launched by Dan Schawbel, Future Workplace partner and research director, is largest curator of HR research in the world, with over 160 sources of primary and secondary research on the topic of the future of work. All research is summarized in an easy to read abstract and categorized in areas highly relevant to HR professionals, such as recruiting, employee benefits, diversity & inclusion, innovation, learning & development, management & leadership, and economic trends. In addition, WorkplaceTrends. com offers podcast interviews with HR executives, CEOs, and futurists, as well as case studies, high quality infographics, and other tools that an HR team can put to use immediately.


Footnote 1: Survey Methodology
Research findings are based on a survey fielded in the U.S. between July 14 and July 22, 2015. For this survey, 1,807 respondents were asked about their thoughts regarding various aspects of corporate culture and employee engagement. The study surveyed three separate groups: HR professionals (601 surveys); people managers (604 surveys); and full-time, non-managing employees (602 surveys). The survey was completed through Lightspeed GMI's Global Test Market double opted-in panelists who have registered to participate in online surveys. All sample surveys may be subject to multiple sources of error (i.e. sampling error, coverage error, measurement error, etc.).

© 2016 Kronos Incorporated. All rights reserved. Kronos and the Kronos logo are registered trademarks and Workforce Innovation That Works is a trademark of Kronos Incorporated or a related company. See a complete list of Kronos trademarks. All other trademarks, if any, are property of their respective owners.