What would you say if we told you that the most engaged employee in the world actually exists? Oh, and in case you’re wondering, her name is Barbara. Just kidding! Her name isn’t actually Barbara and she really isn’t a person at all, but rather a composite of many types of people and employees around the world. In 2018, the ADP Research Institute performed a 19-country study on engagement, and after slicing and dicing all the data, researchers identified the key traits of an uber engaged employee.

Here’s what we know about “Barbara.”


  • Is a manager or employee in professional services.
  • Has been with her company 5+ years.
  • Works on a team.
  • Has a day job and a side hustle.
  • WFH 80% of the time (bonus: her office is the HQ of her firm).
  • Has a 31-60 minute commute.
  • Is married, but doesn’t have kids.
  • Has a pet.

Let’s pause here. As you can probably tell, Barbara is a bit of an anomaly; after all, she isn’t real. But the most important takeaway from the research? Barbara is part of a team.

Why does that matter?

Unlike Barbara, people have specialized skill sets, and the best managers know that the way to optimize all that human capital is by building a strong team. In fact, according to the ADP study, if you feel you are part of a team, you are also twice as likely to be fully engaged at work.

But here’s the challenge. Only 34% of the US workforce say that they feel fully engaged in the workplace. That means that 66% of employees are merely showing up. So once people come join your company, how do you engage them and get them to be their most productive selves? How do you get more of the world’s most engaged employees working on your team? The answer is, you’ve likely already hired these top performers. It’s how you design a team that brings out the best traits in your “Barbaras” that builds a deeper connection between the workplace and your employees.

What is workplace engagement?

Workplace engagement is often confused with job satisfaction, but when it comes to the long-lasting impact that drives better performance, they’re actually very different. Job satisfaction simply measures how content an employee is with his job, which can include many factors, including the compensation, title, stability, or location of the job. An employee may feel satisfied with the job he has chosen, but not engaged enough to put discretionary effort into his work, let alone feel committed to the organization.

Engaged employees bring their best selves to work. And with more companies embracing hybrid work models, the signal of a successful “workplace” is no longer about the physical office, but a united team and the environment created around it.

So how do you measure successful engagement? Key indicators are the commitment and enthusiasm employees feel toward their team, and their willingness and ability to help the company succeed. 

The ripple effects of better workplace engagement

90% of leaders believe that an engagement strategy has an impact on business success. When workplace engagement and corporate culture are driving components of a company’s overall approach, it can deliver high value to business objectives (productivity and retention) and financial performance (profitability and YOY growth). An 11-year case study even revealed that companies with these values in place experienced a 682% growth in revenue. 

But improving employee engagement is not only about improving output; engagement also improves quality of work and health. Emotional affinity, personal well-being, social connections, and a supportive culture—all key metrics of employee engagement—are positively correlated with employer-sponsored health and wellness programs.

Use AI for pattern recognition

Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming a wide range of business functions, and workplace engagement is no different. AI and machine learning are built into the top employee engagement platforms, like Surpise.com. Surprise.com is the world’s first and only SuccessOS™ for teams that uses AI to detect patterns, gain insights, and proactively address issues related to employee engagement. The active and integrated workforce alignment software surprises employees with experiential prizes and tracks data to help teams stay motivated and connected.

The Takeaway

True employee engagement requires a deeper connection between the workplace and employee’s personal values, goals, interests, and motivations. Disengaged behaviors lead to apathy-induced performance drags that can be a major pain point in the overall success of your firm. Therefore, leaders looking to solve qualitative weaknesses should take advantage of advanced analytics and pattern recognition to measure and predict trends in work habits, throughput, and much more. 

Liv Huntley is a Content Writer at Surprise.com. Born in the Midwest, raised on NFL and Miles Davis, lives on Google Drive. A serious journalist, a not-so-serious copywriter, and a social psychology nerd, she formerly wrote for a women’s magazine and always enjoys a bit of storytelling tomfoolery. You can catch her skiing in the winter and chasing cold climates year-round.