The Three Cs of Employee Engagement

The Three Cs of Employee Engagement

April 19, 2018

Big data can be so enlightening! And leave it to Facebook and Adam Grant at Wharton to give us something new to think about in recognition and engagement.  The Facebook team recently looked at the results of their hundreds of thousands of employee engagement surveys, searching for patterns in what really matters to their teammates. They identified three Cs of employee engagement. The results are reported in a recent Harvard Business Review article, The 3 Things Employees Really Want: Career, Community, Cause.

It turns out that, with some subtle differences, employees across geographical locations, and across generations, all have roughly the same three concerns. Here’s how the findings relate to how you can drive engagement in your own organization:


Most employees are concerned with the opportunities before them. They want to be sure that they’re doing what they can to advance, and that a path forward exists for them. Without it, their best option is to job hop, seeking opportunity where they can find it. When it comes to top performing employees, this is an even greater issue. Not only are they more likely to achieve, they are often more focused on their goals. And if you don’t provide access to senior leaders and remove obstacles to advancement, somebody else will, especially in the current talent market. Well-designed recognition and incentive programs are good ways to keep people focused on goals, and to acknowledge – even broadcast – their successes. This gives people not only direction, but also visibility, which are important to moving ahead in their careers.


Research consistently shows that to do their best, people need to feel that they are a part of the group. This frees them to speak their minds, share ideas, celebrate the achievements of others, and to focus on goals, rather than on getting through the day. Being a valued member of the team gives confidence, and encourages people to thrive. Building a healthy community that values its members should be foundational to every employee initiative. Give people reasons to cross departmental lines, and provide places for them to gather to celebrate and commiserate – whether on line or in the company kitchen.


As the authors of the article put it, “Cause is about purpose: feeling you make a meaningful impact, identifying with the organization’s mission, and believing that it does some good in the world. It’s a source of pride.” We all want our working days to be meaningful and purposeful. Your company can begin by identifying brand values, link them to specific goals in the organization, and grounded recognition and even performance reviews in these shared priorities. When employees feel that they know what is expected of them and can rally around the company’s mission, vision, and values, they are more likely to be engaged with the effort and the organization.

In the HBR article, the writers call the combined effect of the three Cs of employee engagement the psychological contract. They write, “When that contract is fulfilled, people bring their whole selves to work.” Recognition and engagement programs serve as the framework for the contract, providing guidance and opportunity to excel.