To achieve high levels of employee engagement, it’s important to understand the keys to employee engagement. We’ve identified five keys to employee engagement based on over two decades of research and a database of over 50 million employee survey responses related to the employee experience.

What do employees need from a job to be engaged?

These keys are grouped under the acronym “MAGIC” and include meaning, autonomy, growth, impact, and connection. By focusing on these keys to employee engagement, organizations can create an environment where employees feel that their work has purpose, have the power to shape their work and environment, are being challenged and stretched, see positive outcomes, and feel a sense of belonging.

engagement magic circles


Your work has purpose beyond the work itself. What I do must have some significance to me; it must mean something to me personally, and on more than just a surface level.  To me, my work is something of value, something of worth.  If I focus only on a paycheck, I am willing to put in as much work as is commensurate with the paycheck.  However, when my work has meaning to me, what I do has greater purpose.

Video: Examples of Meaning at Work


The power to shape your work and environment in ways that allow you to perform at your best.  Do I have the freedom and empowerment to perform my job in a way that I do best?  While Autonomy is not anarchy (we must still operate within acceptable boundaries), it does involve a degree of self-governance.  It allows me, as an individual, to create or shape my role and environment in a way that is best for me and for the organization.

Video: Examples of Autonomy at Work


Being stretched and challenged in ways that result in personal and professional growth. There was a time years ago when one could maintain a base set of skills or level of development, and that base could carry that individual throughout his or her career.  However, our internal speed of change and growth must match (or exceed) the external rate of change.  Particularly with rising generations, the ability to develop, grow, and progress in a job provides challenge and excitement that benefit not only the individual but also the company.

Video: Examples of Growth at Work


Seeing positive, effective, and worthwhile outcomes and results from your work.  Have you ever worked for an organization where employees give their all, only to face each fiscal quarter with a dismal report of their business performance?  The adage “nothing breeds success like success” holds true here.  When employees give their all, yet have little impact on the organization’s or team’s success, engagement is difficult to cultivate.  On the other hand, if what I am doing is making an impact (on the company, the world, students, patients, etc.), I am often willing to go through tough times if I hope to make an impact.  This is also where recognition and feedback fit in. I need to understand what kind of impact I am having; feedback from a customer, peer, boss, etc., will help me understand that level of impact.

Video: Examples of Impact at Work


The sense of belonging to something beyond yourself. This factor is clear throughout many of our employee engagement surveys.  Quite often, one of the highest-scoring questions on the engagement survey is related to a version of the following question: “I like the people I work with.”  Employees need to feel a connection to those around them.  Similarly, my connection to the organization—whether or not I feel a part of the organization—will often dictate my level of commitment.

Video: Examples of Connection at Work

It’s important to note that the keys to employee engagement are not tied to adding more expense and it’s not based on a transactional relationship. While both the employee and the employer have a role in engagement, it involves discretionary effort and choice, not obligation or debt repayment.

To truly address employee engagement, organizations need to prioritize the keys to employee engagement and not just focus on depositing more money into the employee satisfaction account.

Take the Free Engagement MAGIC Self-Assessment to find out!

Learn More About Engagement MAGIC

Learn about our e-learning course for employees and managers to boost their own engagement and create an engaged workforce.