Love of Workplace Beats Employee Engagement: why and how

Love of Workplace
Love of Workplace

Most organizations have chosen to cope with the pandemic and its lockdown. They first dealt with the distribution of work, and they now focus on rectifying the dysfunction caused. Companies hope to return workers to new floor plans and safety practices. But they must rethink the work and its context.

Organizations bet on higher compensation and additional benefits to secure and retain talent. Companies offer huge hiring bonuses and perks, including pop-up pubs, popcorn and pizza parties, and bring-your-pet to workdays. Too many businesses want to buy worker productivity and loyalty by increasing employee engagement.

Although compensation, benefits, and perks have long been the currency of labor, the Best Practice Institute (BPI) has secured data showing why and how Love of workplace beats employee engagement in motivating productivity, branding, and employee and customer loyalty.

Gallup, Gartner, Qualtrics, and others once launched and continue to focus on the value of employee engagement. For decades, they have led management media in framing employee engagement as the magic performance metric. However, it has played out its singular value. Even admitting the role of employee engagement, there remains only one measure.

The logic holds that leaders can purchase employee engagement, and they throw millions into the transaction. One meta-analysis and literature review found “overall satisfaction and employee engagement showed generalizability across companies in their correlation with customer satisfaction–loyalty, profitability, productivity, employee turnover, and safety outcomes (Harter, Hayes, & Schmidt, 2002). Still, that same research indicated the difficulty in defining “work-unit” and assumed employee engagement equaled employee satisfaction.

A 2008 study asserted that the concept of employee engagement had grown despite “a sparse and diverse theoretical and empirically demonstrated nomological net—the relationships among potential antecedents and consequences of engagement as well as the components of engagement have not been rigorously conceptualized, much less studied” (Macey & Schneider, 2008). The continued parsing of employee engagement references two propositions:

  1. “Engagement behaviors include innovative behaviors, demonstrations of initiative, proactively seeking opportunities to contribute, and going beyond what is, within specific frames of reference, typically expected or required (Macey & Schneider, 2008, p. 15)
  2. “Engagement behavior includes actions that, given a specific frame of reference, go beyond what is typical, usual, ordinary, and/or ordinarily expected” (Macey & Schneider, 2008, p. 16)

These propositions cite observable metrics to strengthen the recognition, understanding, and definition of employee engagement, metrics that give dimension to a concept casually confused with satisfaction, happiness, and comfort.

Narrowing the definition and identifying the metrics are crucial to beneficial organizational outcomes, with evidence confirming that “employee engagement is interwoven significantly with important business outcomes” (Markos & Sridevi, 2010). These include extended customer loyalty, workplace safety, talent recruitment and retention, performance productivity, and value realization. In addition, the numbers show “the more engaged employees are, the more likely their employer is to exceed the industry average in its revenue growth” (Markos & Sridevi, 2010, p. 92).

Engagement advocates suggest causal links between employee engagement and “wellbeing,” “happiness,” and “satisfaction,” leading to specific outcomes. However, observers and analysts place perhaps too much faith in the periodic Gallup reports on employee engagement. In the most recent Gallup results, “The engagement of U.S. workers in late June and early July then reversed course to a record level of 40% engaged” (Harter, 2021). The same report shows variations among hybrid workers, remote workers, and other deployed work. More significantly, “In 2020, manager engagement, already low, declined from 34% to 33% in the first to second half of the year” (Harter, 2021).

The Gallup reports routinely stir interest and controversy. Problems lie in defining “work unit” and integrating self-reporting participants from statistically and radically different economies, environments, and ecosystems. Moreover, the rates of employee engagement do not approach majority acknowledgment.

The management pundits fail to understand that employee engagement is a means and method that has not ensured success on its own.

Love of workplace


Putting employee engagement in its place, Most Loved Workplaces® have built a new foundation for success, one that integrates all best efforts, motives, and incentives. As a result, these organizations share an ecosystem where love leads to employee interest, productivity, and commitment. Love of workplace thus beats employee engagement as a leadership goal.

To substantiate this context, the Best Practice Institute (BPI) has offered its research to assess the connection between love of work and productivity outcomes. BPI has partnered with The Frances Hesselbein Leadership Forum at the University of Pittsburgh, John Wiley & Sons’ Leader to Leader, and Newsweek. They plan to identify, certify, rank, and publish the Most Loved Workplaces®, where Love of workplace connects employees, peers, and managers across the organization. It links internal and external customers to the organization’s espoused goals. Moreover, this Love of workplace triggers more positive outcomes than does employee compensation or engagement.

This joint project seeks to:

  1. Label the metrics defining Most Loved Workplaces®.
  2. Gather and discern the quantity, quality, and value of information within solicited employee data.
  3. Develop and strengthen a culture of accountability, engagement, and transparency.
  4. Help organizations understand and act upon employee feedback regarding crucial current and evolving issues.
  5. Publicize organizations recognized as “most loved” to sustain culture, retain talent, and attract high-potential employees to populate their futures.


Recent Best Practice Institute research explored the Love of workplace among thousands of employees from small companies to Fortune 50, 100, and 1000 employers. The work shows Most Loved Workplaces® have the potential to transform their human potential into high performers who positively impact the bottom line.

In a Most Loved Workplace®, individual sentiment contributes to team sentiment tieing workers to organizational purpose fulfilling their individual and group potential. This love integrates horizontal and vertical factors and structures.

For example, the results of a brief self-disclosure survey found 94% of employees felt they would more likely work harder; 59% reported they would be four times more likely. The results in Figure 1 also showed 95% of employees were more likely to remain with the organization thanks to their feelings for teammates, peers, subordinates, and bosses. The data differentiates “love,” finding it stronger than engagement.

Figure 1: Percentage of employees more willing to work harder.

Furthermore, Love of workplace enables psychological and physical wellbeing. Love creates a concerted commitment and emotional bond, a drive to partner. It is key to curiosity, creativity, and self-actualization (DiPaolantanio, 2019), and it escapes overwhelming economic and external pressures. It follows that “universally, a Great Place to Work for All is one where employees trust the people they work with, have pride in the work they do, and enjoy the people they work with” (Bush & Lewis-Kulin, 2018).


Love of workplace meets these tests and more. Where engagement comes at a cost, Love of workplace is a sentiment, a feeling that people, plan, and purpose have singular value.

Employees are likely to report love for their workplace when employers present, deploy and empower five components:





Systemic Collaboration

Employees thrive in environments where collaboration fosters and values their independence, contribution, and feedback.



Positive Future

Employees consume, metabolize, and transmit the forward-focused positivity modeled by optimistic and confident leadership.



Aligned Values

Employees take pride in a workplace where honesty, integrity, ethics, and accountability are operational aspirations.




Employees want respect and appreciation for their work done in an ecosystem that is just, responsive, and supportive.



Killer Achievement

Employees revel in accomplishment, mainly when it results from their opportunity to co-collaborate in an environment of psychological safety.


Love exists where these components coexist. This argument does not discount the importance of ample resources, comfortable facilities, and better-than-market compensation and benefits. But these are transactional means and conditions. Nevertheless, in looking for the cause of increased, sustained, and scalable performance, the BPI data describes an infrastructure and framework where love motivates and incentivizes, as shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Most Loved Workplace framework

In Great Company (Carter, 2019) examines how loving one’s work:

  • Positively correlates with organizational citizenship behaviors.
  • Positively correlates with psychological safety.
  • Accounts for variance in psychological safety beyond that of affective commitment.
  • Positively correlates with self-reported performance.
  • Accounts for variance in self-reported performance beyond that of affective commitment.

The romantic love portrayed in literature offers wisps of sentimental attachment. However, Love of Work marks an integrative behavior that metabolizes inputs and capabilities into outcomes and futures.

Love of workplace


The BPI research referenced earlier (and illustrated in Figure 3) found only 24% of respondents credited compensation with their Love of Workplace. In comparison, 28% appreciated good benefits (Carter, Creating a Most Loved Workplace®, 2020). However, 76% of the respondents felt their organization lived its espoused values and ethics, and 78% reported a feeling of value and respect from those in the organization (Carter, Creating a Most Loved Workplace®, 2020).

Figure 3: Reports on employee satisfaction with incentives

  • Love, for example, reduces bias when systemic collaboration respects and uses the feedback and inputs of all.
  • Love opens windows; it refreshes, restores, and rejuvenates because it puts aside preoccupations with the past in favor of the future’s positive options.
  • Love commits the self and performance to achieve values and ethics espoused by the organization.
  • Love shares the respect extended by leaders and peers in a revised work contact, turning it into performance.
  • Love realizes dreams and expectations for the self, team, and organization through killer achievement.

At an operational level, organizations with Most Loved Workplace certification and recognition will see improvements:

  • Productivity: Organizational and managerial efforts to respect employees relieves their focus on negatives. A pat on the back, thank you, or “way to go” act as psychological prompts that deploy hormones that calm. Even minor signs of respect energize performance.
  • Quality: Entering work or assuming tasks while happy, secure, and comfortable improves the quality of the outcomes. Optimism and future focus improve accuracy and speed. These non-financial incentives support Sales, Branding, and Marketing efforts with enthusiasm and energy.
  • Customer Service: Happiness, satisfaction, and confidence are not self-contained characteristics. They exude, communicate, and extend, translating their power into community and customer satisfaction. The customer’s loyalty brings love full circle.
  • Self-control: Employee satisfaction reduces adverse interaction among employees and between workers and managers. People grow in emotional and psychological health, lose less time at work, and reduce workplace injury claims.
  • Loyalty: Whatever the source of contentment, happy employees will continue their employment. Their loyalty will align with management’s best efforts to sustain their direct and indirect needs.

It also follows that organizations should structure an environment that enables and empowers relationships measured as Love for the Workplace.

  • Leaders must make collaboration an imperative. They must teach, facilitate, and model collaboration. But, they must do so in a legacy prone to coercive bureaucracy and hierarchical structure.

The key to systemic collaboration lies in the talent and ability to listen, to encourage conversation and dialogue. It treats teams as collaborators rather than work units, and it hates the treatment of employees as “associates” in favor of considering them “partners.”

  • Leaders will hold and demonstrate a passionate, forward-focused, and innovative energy. “The bottom line is that an upbeat outlook is ‘positively’ contagious, and it motivates people to change for the better to be their best” (Carter, In Great Company, 2019, p. 36).

Leaders are tasked with championing innovation, adaptation, and change. Commitment to a positive future provides the path to pivot and improvise as tested and needed.

  • Leaders must define organizational values and goals. They must also discern the means and methods to actualize what they espouse. Their pursuit of emotional connectedness begins with the values they claim as priorities.

Leaders must decide, act, and communicate in sync with the expressed values. This creates a “value chain” that inspires others to follow. The alignment of decisions, actions, and communications defines the organization’s purpose and culture.

  • Leaders must use respect to extend their empathy. Employees have high expectations for individual success and self-fulfillment. Expected to show respect for their management, employees respond in kind to a psychologically safe climate of mutual respect.

Leaders can test their respect profile by assessing two roles: (1) They must assess their actions, attitudes, and behaviors toward others, and (2) They must solicit the feedback of others on if and how they practice, cultivate, measure, and incentivize respect.

  • Leaders support, facilitate, and motivate achievement. They communicate clear and compelling goals to drive best-in-class performance. Leaders will play to the strengths in their high potential talent to make things happen.

Leaders understand that success follows the mastery of achievement. Still, they recognize that employees need respect in an emotionally connected ecosystem to deliver killer achievements aligned with organization goals.

Shareholders watch an organization’s P&L closely. They measure success by the dividends paid and received. Stakeholders may or may not hold shares, but they consider success from multiple angles.

Internal and external stakeholders look for a concerted practical commitment by performance partners across the organization and its markets. These stakeholders gladly invest in a flexible, resilient, and scalable future built on mutual respect and constructive dialogue.

Best Practice Institute, therefore, has invited organizations to distribute a simple predictive tool assessing employee love for the workplace. Best Practice Institute will designate and certify the Most Loved Workplaces®, Leader to Leader will benefit from the case studies, and Newsweek will publish the resulting rankings. Shareholders and stakeholders will appreciate the branding endorsement, the talent attraction, and the ensured employee retention and customer loyalty promised by a listing among Most Loved Workplaces®.


Bush, M., & Lewis-Kulin, S. (2018, February 15). What It Takes to Be One of the 100 Best Companies to Work For. Retrieved from Fortune:

Carter, L. (2019). In Great Company. New York: McGraw Hill Education.

Carter, L. (2020, August). Creating a Most Loved Workplace®. Best Practice Institute. Retrieved from

DiPaolantanio, M. (2019, November). The Malaise of the Soul at Work: The Drive for Creativity, Self-Actualization, and Curiosity in Education. Studies in Philosophy & Education, 38(1), 601-617. Retrieved from

Harter, J. (2021, February 26). U.S. Employee Engagement Rises Following Wild 2020. Retrieved from Gallup Workplace:

Harter, J., Hayes, T., & Schmidt, F. (2002). Business-Unit-Level Relationship Between Employee Satisfaction, Employee Engagement, and Business Outcomes: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology, 87(2), 269 – 279. Retrieved from

Macey, W., & Schneider, B. (2008). The Meaning of Employee Engagement. Industrial and Organizational Psychology, 1, 3 – 30. Retrieved from

Markos, S., & Sridevi, M. (2010, December). Employee Engagement: The Key to Improving Performance. International Journal of Business and Management, 5(12), 89 – 95. Retrieved from