Main Content


The importance of rational engagement

Employee engagement is an essential part of business growth and innovation. Employees who feel engaged are more likely to go that extra mile, show enthusiasm and pride in their work and crucially, feel invested in the company’s success.

It should come as no surprise that when business leaders channel their efforts into supporting and nurturing employee engagement, they not only reap the rewards of a happier, more satisfied workforce, but positively influence productivity and their bottom line.


To gain a better understanding of engagement levels within the design agency sector, we were thrilled to join forces with the DBA last year to carry out an employee engagement survey for their members. It was encouraging to see that DBA agency members have a 10% higher engagement level than a typical UK organisation, which is testament to the commitment and passion within those agencies to create great places to work.

But in today’s fast paced and increasingly competitive landscape, it’s important that businesses don’t rest on their laurels. Despite the lead on other sectors, the survey showed that there is still room for improvement, particularly around communication.

To create a highly engaged workforce, leaders first need to understand the difference between rational and emotional engagement and make sure they’re succeeding on both fronts.

tengyart-_vkwivncnfo-unsplashWhile emotional engagement is based upon an employee’s feelings about their role and the organisation, rational engagement is defined as the extent to which an employee understands and positively views leadership and strategy.  

Rational engagement asks questions such as “Do I understand the company strategy?” “Do I have confidence in our leaders?” “Do I understand how my role contributes to the overall objectives of the business?” 

There is an expectation of leaders to set the vision and purpose of the business and communicate that to the team. Yet, our survey found that some smaller agencies often don’t have a defined purpose or vision, and just three fifths (62%) of employees stated that their leaders actively communicate the direction of the business to them.

lina-silivanova-6ykbeudk7rm-unsplashWhat a business stands for and what it wants to achieve not only guides decision-making but helps employees understand the bigger picture and how the business objectives are broken down into their day-to-day goals. In short, they provide employees with a sense of purpose. 

Every employee should feel they are part of a shared path to achieving that vision and understand the expectations of the business and how that impacts them. It was reassuring to find that 83% of respondents said they understand the relationship between their work and the organisation’s goals.

elena-koycheva-bgeupv246bm-unsplashCommunication also extends to keeping employees informed about the financials of the business. While it might be tempting to stay silent, particularly in challenging or uncertain times, keeping employees in the dark can often cause worry or resentment.

Being transparent helps build a more open and honest culture, but importantly, helps employees to better understand decisions that may otherwise seem out of the blue or just plain ill-advised.  The results of our survey showed that only three quarters (75%) of employees had confidence in their leaders’ decisions, while less than two thirds (64%) felt informed about important changes taking place across the business. This suggests there is still some way to go for business leaders to build trust among their employees – a crucial element to increasing rational engagement.

Openly communicating business developments and the reasons behind those, means that everyone, regardless of seniority, shares a common agenda and understands the “why” behind what they’re doing.

markus-spiske-qozzjpfz2lg-unsplashBut it’s not solely the responsibility of business owners to lead the charge; managers also have a crucial role to play in ensuring their team is motivated and that requires them to be engaged with their own roles. The results of our survey showed senior and mid-level employees actually have lower (74% and 82% respectively) rational engagement levels than both board members (86%) and junior staff (90%).

A key driver of employee engagement is the quality of the relationship between employees and their direct managers. Managers should be properly trained on how to assess staff performance, provide constructive feedback and ensure they and their team members understand how their day-to-day responsibilities align with the company goals. Only two thirds (65%) of respondents said they felt their manager communicated effectively. 

The survey also shed light on the fact that some smaller agencies often have a workforce unclear of their roles and this comes down to communication. Only around three fifths of employees said their line manager delegates effectively (63%) or helps them set achievable goals (61%).  Without a sense of purpose, employees can quickly become demotivated and dissatisfied, and in the worst-case scenario, decide to leave.

Being clear on job roles allows managers to put in place a learning path for their team and opportunities to upskill and progress, which can have a huge impact on the way people view the company. 

Interestingly, the results of the survey showed that being optimistic about the future of the business and understanding the vision championed by the leaders, were the two areas that had the greatest impact on overall engagement. But rational engagement is only one part of the jigsaw. To create truly happy, engaged employees who consider their company a great place to work and will go above and beyond the call of duty, leaders need to ensure they connect the rational with the emotional. 

About: Aliya Vigor-Robertson

Aliya started her HR career in 1996 and co-founded JourneyHR in 2010. Aliya works with Founders and business leaders in the creative industry and advises them on creating sustainable and creative cultures where their people can thrive and their businesses get great results.

Aliya is also a DBA Expert. Find out more about the DBA’s experts register and how our specialists could make a positive difference to your business here.

DBA Employee Engagement Survey

ees-2019Further details about the 2020 DBA Employee Engagement Survey will be sent to DBA members this Spring.


If you have any questions in the meantime, please contact – especially if there is a specific person in the business that we should be liaising with on HR matters. Read more about the benefits of the DBA Employee Engagement Survey here.


Not yet a DBA member? If you’re interested in finding out about the many benefits of membership including the DBA Employee Engagement Survey, please get in touch.

Image credits:

Volodymyr Hryshchenko, Unsplash
Tengyart, Unsplash
Elena Koycheva, Unsplash
Markus Spiske, Unsplash


We use cookies to help improve our website. By continuing to use this website, you agree to our use of cookies.