The research is convincing: employees who are satisfied with their jobs and engaged in their work are more productive and stay longer than employees who are not satisfied and not engaged. But I’ve wondered about what factors contribute to satisfaction and engagement and if there are global cultural differences. Pay is a factor, of course, but it’s not the only factor, and having a best friend at work is nice, but I know plenty of people who don’t have a best friend at work and are still quite satisfied with their situations. So what is it? An annual web-based survey of approximately 15,000 full-time employees in a wide-range of small and large, service and manufacturing companies in the United States, Brazil, China, Germany, India, and the U.K., conducted by WorkTrends™ in 2007, sheds some light on this question. Using this data Kenexa Research Institute (KRI) found that companies that have strong talent management, including “…career path programs, goal development and monitoring, regular feedback sessions with managers [who are] tracking progress…”, are more likely to have employees who are engaged in their work and satisfied with their jobs, with management, with training, and with their companies. KRI found similar results in all six countries. Jack Wiley, Executive Director of KRI, described the findings this way:

“People have a fundamental need to know how they are doing and what the future holds for them. It’s simply part of who we are. Organizations that understand this and have the process in place to make it happen have an advantage over their competitors. Not only are they going to outperform their competitors, but they are building a more engaged and committed workforce.”

I was a bit skeptical of these findings at first, not because I doubted their plausibility, but because I doubt the generalizability of the results of any survey until I know how it was conducted. I mean, are we talking about a questionnaire handed out to friends at a bar one Saturday night in Kalamazoo, or is this a rigorously conducted survey employing the best survey techniques for getting highly valid and reliable results? I was pleased to find out from KRI that the WorkTrends survey is the latter. All surveys have a certain amount of error and weakness, but I think this is one that furthers our understanding of global employee engagement and its relationship to talent management.