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Employee Thriving Not Employee Engagement

Engagement is used to measure employees. It has been believed if someone's engagement score is high, the person has a positive impact on both company and themself sustainably. But according to Microsoft's study[1], it was wrong.

Why Thriving Is the New North Star Prior to this year, we conducted one lengthy, annual survey that tracked employee engagement. It often took months to digest and plan actions around. Yet, we consistently encountered challenges in building a shared definition of engagement across the company. And often, despite employee engagement scores that would seem to indicate that things were going well, it became clear that employees were struggling when we dived deeper into the responses. To us, this was a reflection that we hadn’t yet set a high enough bar for the employee experience, and it motivated us to do better in measuring what matters.


We also sought to define a new, higher bar that went beyond engagement only, drawing inspiration from many sources. One was what Our Chief People Officer, Kathleen Hogan, calls “The 5 P’s.” Similar to Maslow’s Hierarchy, it breaks down employee fulfillment into five key, successive components: pay, perks, people, pride, and purpose.

Then they started to use "Employee Thriving" Not "Employee Engagement". Employee engagement is about how to motivate employees by esteem (approval) needs. Employee thriving is to motivate employees by self-actualization needs.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs[2] defines human motivations of the stages. The esteem (approval) needs are equivalent to the orange color in Ken Wilber and Frederic Laloux's study, Teal organization[3]. The self-actualization needs are equivalent to the teal color.

In my impression, employee thriving can allow people who have their own north star with the company's north star in the company, but employee engagement only has the company's north star. It's easy to leave the company when someone starts their own north star when the company only encourages the company's north star.

The pictures below are to describe employee engagement (1st picture with orange and green color) vs employee thriving (2nd picture with teal color). In the employee thriving, no power hierarchy = lot of natural hierarchies.

Image source: A shorter, illustrated version of Reinventing Organizations - Frederic Laloux - page 78

Image source: A shorter, illustrated version of Reinventing Organizations - Frederic Laloux - page 79

If you are interested in learning more about it, I would recommend Frederic Laloux's books, both Reinventing Organizations illustrated and normal versions. And check his website[5].