DNA of Engagement: How Organizations Can Align Engagement and Inclusion to Enhance Employee Experience | The Conference Board
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DNA of Engagement: How Organizations Can Align Engagement and Inclusion to Enhance Employee Experience

As organizations strive toward greater diversity and inclusion (D&I) and more flexible, team-based operating models, the synergy between employee engagement and inclusion becomes critical for driving performance and sparking innovation. This report shows that a more integrated way of thinking and working around employee engagement and inclusion creates a better, more cohesive employee experience (EX).

Lack of integration of employee engagement and inclusion can result in confusing messaging and unclear strategy around EX initiatives. To improve EX and drive efficiency in talent and inclusion activities, organizations should closely align engagement and inclusion to foster collaboration and synergy.This alignment will ultimately lead to greater effectiveness,  shared resources, and strengthened opportunities to build a common sense of ownership around creating a positive EX across the organization.

Previous research from The Conference Board and other organizations has demonstrated that a culture of engagement leads to improved business results, and an organizational structure that fosters inclusion is a key element of an engaging culture. Several of the factors that contribute to positive EX, such as psychological safety, trust, sense of belonging, having a voice in decision making, and perceptions of fairness, influence both employees’ engagement and their feelings of inclusion.

As a continuation of our DNA of Engagement research to uncover how to further improve EX, we decided to look at how aligning engagement and inclusion could potentially help organizations better understand EX and thus enhance it. A key question then arises: How can organizations align engagement and inclusion activities firm-wide?Specifically, what areas (e.g., strategy, structure, resources, initiatives, and metrics) should engagement and inclusion practitioners focus on to increase strategic alignment?

Insights for What’s Ahead

We identified the following insights about how organizations can strengthen the alignment between engagement and inclusion to enhance EX and, ultimately, talent retention and profitability.

To achieve more effective EX initiatives, organizations should develop shared definitions of engagement and inclusion. Engagement and inclusion practitioners value and focus on many of the same elements of EX. Survey participants reported similarly high ratings of key factors, such as “diverse perspectives” and “sense of belonging.” They also agree that higher levels of engagement and inclusion have similar organizational outcomes such as “employee performance” and “increased creativity and innovation.” Despite this agreement, the two functions often use different definitions and processes, leading to a lack of shared definition and clear strategy around EX.

To better align inclusion and engagement efforts, organizations should identify specific, measurable behaviors that support engagement and inclusion strategy, such as inclusive leadership behaviors. Interviewees recommended linking definitions of engagement and inclusion to behavioral and leadership competencies. Clear behavioral expectations can help organizations reinforce values about culture and inclusion and create a set of consistent accountabilities.

To avoid duplicating efforts, organizations should develop or enhance the strategic collaboration between engagement and inclusion. Almost all surveyed practitioners agree that engagement and inclusion should be integrated, but only 31 percent reported actual integration. Functions and/or organizations may lack the structures and resources required for alignment. Inadequate collaboration between engagement and inclusion often results in disconnected initiatives and duplicate efforts.

To ensure the strategic integration of engagement and inclusion efforts, organizations should encourage resource sharing and support programs that foster both engagement and inclusion. Interview and focus group participants in our study identified “competition for resources” as a key challenge to collaboration among engagement and inclusion teams. Partnering with external communities on volunteer opportunities is one way to foster synergy between the two constructs. Companies may appoint both engagement and inclusion practitioners to organize such events, which often convene employees from all business units and/or locations and help instill a sense of pride and belonging.

To ensure consistency and a more balanced view of their employees’ experiences, organizations should align measurement of engagement and inclusion. Practitioners agree that both engagement and inclusion are important to the employee experience; however, many report less consistency in defining and measuring inclusion efforts. In our survey, the number of organizations that measure engagement was nearly twice the number of those that measure inclusion. Organizations should identify the metrics aligned with both engagement and inclusion priorities and track them regularly.

Engagement and inclusion thrive when there is clear accountability for metrics and results across all levels of the organization, including leaders, managers, and employees. Our study reveals that proactive HR teams also conduct regular follow-ups with functional or team leaders to ensure results have been turned into action. In addition, it’s important to link integrated metrics to leader and employee performance and reward teams with high levels of engagement and inclusion.



Robin Erickson, PhD

Principal Researcher, Human Capital
The Conference Board

Sabattini, Laura 120x120.jpg

Laura Sabattini, PhD

Principal Researcher, Human Capital
The Conference Board


Amy Ye

Researcher, Human Capital
The Conference Board


Amanda Popiela

Researcher, Human Capital
The Conference Board



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