Key takeaways

  • Meaningful work and a safe working environment are the top drivers of positive employee wellbeing.
  • Organisational integrity and senior leaders are the key drivers of positive engagement.
  • Highly engaged employees also report high levels of wellbeing and vice versa.
  • Public sector organisations can focus on these drivers to improve employee wellbeing and engagement.

Why engagement and employee wellbeing matters

Engaged employees help strengthen the efficiency, effectiveness and capability of the public sector to deliver high-quality services.

Remember this: employee engagement is a foundational component to workplace outcomes. If you want to talk about wellbeing, manager development, performance (and more), you also have to talk about employee engagement.

–, Your Business Strategy Hinges on Employee Engagement

Safe and healthy work environments benefit employees, employers and the Victorian community.

A safe workplace is a key outcome of the Victorian public sector mental health and wellbeing charter.

Improving the wellbeing of your employees triggers a virtuous cycle. It leads to higher levels of engagement and productivity, which again leads to better wellbeing, motivation and retention.

Research suggests that employees who report high levels of wellbeing are more likely to:

  • be more engaged
  • be more creative
  • be more productive
  • provide better customer service
  • report more positive interactions with their managers
  • be more confident to speak up
  • be more satisfied with their job, career development and work-life balance.

A workforce that is well works well…organisations need to take better care of their people and recognise how the demands of work affect their physical and mental health, as well as their ability to perform well at work.

– Sir Professor Cary Carter, Chartered Institute of Personnel Development, President and wellbeing expert.

Improving engagement helps organisations attract new talent and retain their employees. Turnover is costly, and in an increasingly competitive job market, it’s important to measure and improve employee engagement.

A Gallup Panel Web study found that employees who are engaged and have high wellbeing are:

  • 59% less likely to look for a job with a different organisation in the next 12 months
  • 27% more likely to report “excellent” performance in their own job at work
  • 27% more likely to report “excellent” performance by their organisation
  • 45% more likely to report high levels of adaptability in the presence of change
  • 30% more likely not to miss any workdays because of poor health in any given month and miss 70% fewer workdays over the course of a year because of poor health
  • 18% less likely to change employers in a 12-month period
  • 19% more likely to volunteer their time in the past month.

Measures of wellbeing in 2022

To improve employee wellbeing we need to understand what affects it.

We’ve included some measures of wellbeing from the People matter survey 2022 that organisations should pay attention to. Police and emergency services aren’t included in this data because Victoria Police and Fire Rescue Victoria weren’t able to participate in the survey.

Results from the survey show about:

  • 54% of respondents feel happy
  • 48% of respondents feel enthusiastic about their work
  • 33% of respondents feel worried about their work
  • 19% of respondents feel miserable
  • 25% of respondents experienced high to severe job-related stress.

This chart shows the percentage breakdown of responses.


Impact of negative behaviour

Negative behaviour can impact the health, wellbeing, performance and behaviour of your employees.

Measures of negative behaviour should be considered and included in your action planning.

We asked respondents if they’d experienced negative behaviour at work in the 12 months before they took the survey.

This chart shows a breakdown of the types of negative behaviour respondents experienced.


Drivers of positive and negative wellbeing

We analysed People matter survey data from 2019 to 2022 to find out what drivers impact employee wellbeing the most.

We put all survey questions into factor groups. The factor groups that have the biggest impact on employee wellbeing are called drivers.

For example, we found meaningful work to be the top driver of employee wellbeing. Respondents who felt they were doing important work and making a worthwhile contribution reported higher levels of wellbeing.

In the survey, we asked respondents how work made them feel in the 3 months before they took the survey.

The top 5 drivers of employee wellbeing in 2022 are the same factors identified from the 2019 to 2021 People matter survey data. Interestingly, we found consistent results before and during the coronavirus pandemic.

Top 5 drivers of positive wellbeing in order of impact

  1. Meaningful work
  2. Safety climate
  3. Learning and development
  4. Manager support
  5. Workload

Top 5 drivers of negative wellbeing in order of impact

  1. Workload
  2. Safety climate
  3. Manager support
  4. Safe to speak up
  5. Job enrichment

About the drivers

All drivers are important to understanding and improving employee wellbeing. But we found some were more important than others depending on where you work and what you do.

For example, health professionals reported different drivers of wellbeing compared to child protection practitioners or police officers.

To illustrate this, we’ve divided the drivers into 2 groups:

  • drivers that affect wellbeing across the public sector
  • drivers that affect some employee groups more than others.

Drivers that affect wellbeing across the public sector

Drivers of wellbeing that affect some employee groups more than others

Measures of engagement in 2022

Engagement, job satisfaction and wellbeing

If your employees are satisfied at work, they’ll likely be more engaged and productive.

This also leads to lower absences and turnover.

This chart shows the engagement index and how satisfied respondents are with their jobs, work-life balance and career development.



Positive affect and employee engagement

This chart shows the relationship between positive affect and employee engagement.

The positive affect rating shows how often respondents felt enthusiastic or happy at work.

As positive affect goes up, employee engagement typically goes up.

Each dot represents a public sector organisation that took part in the 2022 survey.


Negative affect and employee engagement

This chart shows the relationship between negative affect and employee engagement.

The negative affect rating shows how often people felt worried, miserable or severely stressed at work.

As negative affect goes up, employee engagement typically goes down.

Each dot represents a public sector organisation that took part in the 2021 survey.


Link between job satisfaction, engagement and levels of wellbeing

Employees who report higher wellbeing levels also report higher levels of:

  • satisfaction with work-life balance
  • satisfaction with career development
  • engagement levels


Drivers of positive engagement

Top 5 drivers of positive engagement in order of impact

  1. Organisational integrity
  2. Safety climate
  3. Senior leadership
  4. Meaningful work
  5. Learning and development.

A report to the UK government in 2009 identified 4 similar drivers of employee engagement:

  • integrity – values statements are reflected in day-to-day behaviours
  • strategic narrative – visible empowering leaders who can explain where the organisation is going
  • engaging managers – managers focus on their people, treat them as individuals and coach and stretch them
  • employee voice – all employees are seen as central to the solution of problems.

Organisational integrity, leadership and engagement

Our analysis shows that organisational integrity and senior leadership are top drivers of positive employee engagement.

Integrity is one of 7 core Victorian public sector values. Values define what’s important to an organisation and how things will be done. They underpin an employee’s interaction with the government, community, suppliers and other employees.

Public officials should demonstrate integrity by:

  • being honest, open and transparent in their dealings
  • using powers responsibly
  • reporting improper conduct
  • avoiding any real or apparent conflicts of interest
  • striving to earn and sustain public trust of a high level.

Organisational integrity and culture can affect how your employees feel and therefore what they say about you and your organisation.

Public sector organisations should demonstrate integrity by:

  • implementing internal policies and procedures that are clear, fair and in line with public sector values
  • creating a safe work environment for employees to report integrity concerns
  • delivering services and performing functions in the best interest of the public
  • monitoring their performance, acknowledging mistakes and finding ways for continuous improvement
  • implementing fair recruitment practices based on merit.

A Gallup study found that engaged employees are 23 times more likely than disengaged employees to strongly agree that they would recommend their organisation as a great place to work.

Ethical leaders reinforce the importance of conducting work with integrity and encourage employees to do the same, creating a positive work atmosphere.

Senior leaders set the tone and need to lead by example. This creates confidence in the organisation and a foundation for employee engagement. This is reinforced when governance processes support the oversight and monitoring of decision-making and when consistent and frequent communications to employees on progress and direction are provided.

How to use the drivers in your action planning

Your People matter survey 2022 results provide information on how engaged your employees are and how they feel at work.

Positive engagement and employee wellbeing benefits everyone and helps us serve the Victorian community.

You can compare your People matter survey results against each driver and use the survey statements to help guide your action planning.

Speak to your People matter survey coordinator, human resource or people and culture representative for more advice about action planning.

More information about employee wellbeing and engagement

For tips, tools and activities for managing team wellbeing check out the Wellbeing toolkit.

If you’d like to know more about what research we’ve done or the technical definitions and methods we used, please get in touch.