Truth is, in most of the reports we write about how to prepare your company for the future, two major recommendations always come out: Get your C-level leaders on board, and cultivate a culture that can transform your business. The first is crucial yet obvious, and I’ve grown tired of writing it. The second, culture, is equally obvious, but it’s also huge. Yes, we have statistically measured the role of culture in successful digital transformations and found that culture is the strongest predictor of whether you’ll make it. But culture is enormous, and changing it can feel overwhelming.

Today we offer a lifeline of incredible value. Culture can encompass a myriad of things, but it is best measured at the level of individual employees. Do they like being there? Do they support the mission of the organization? Do they feel supported in trying to accomplish the goals of the company? All of these things matter, but today the responsibility for engaging employees is diffused across the org. HR helps but focuses on narrow metrics while not touching on the business strategy. Leaders occasionally try to motivate with enthusiasm, but they don’t rigorously account for the impact of their demands on the employee base. And when you add technology, it’s clearly not IT’s job to make sure people feel like the tech is helping them as much as it’s helping the customer. Drowning yet? 

That’s where our lifeline comes in: “Introducing Forrester’s Employee Experience Index.” Rather than simply telling you to go engage your employees, we’ve systematized the process. We’ve spent two years surveying more than 13,800 employees in seven countries. Drawing from the best of three decades of organizational psychology research, we’ve constructed a tool that identifies what an engaged worker looks like and then worked backward from there to figure out what factors either help or hurt employee engagement. The result is a clear blueprint for inspiring, empowering, and enabling your employee base. 

I’m so impressed with our team’s effort. You’re going to see a lot of good stuff come from them as they take it even further. But just going through what we’ve published today, I can already see some important implications that we owe it to you to address in the future. I’d summarize my concern in a single phrase: 

You can’t give what you don’t have.

It’s appropriate for this research to point out all the things your organization can do to engage employees, to magnify what they already have — their talent, their energy, their emotional commitment. But not every employee has the same talent, energy, and commitment available. It’s different between employees, and it’s even different from day to day in a single employee. How can we help our employees figure out what they have to offer and help them prepare to give it in a way that builds them rather than drains them?

My own research will help here. Soon we’ll be releasing a simple survey tool called Forrester Future Fit. The tool invites individual employees and leaders to answer a handful of questions. We take the answers and statistically project their Future Fitness, a composite measure that combines nine key attributes of future readiness that you need more of if you want to come to work ready to draw deeply from your own personal well. 

Employees will want to deepen their well of readiness. But so will leaders, which, not coincidentally, comes back to one of my first points above. How do you get the support of the C-suite if the executives aren’t fit for the future? You can’t, and you won’t — which will ultimately erode the very engagement you are trying to build among employees. We’re working on this, too. Expect a new leadership report to come out in the coming months that examines leaders with this same imperative: They can’t give what they don’t have.

There’s a lot to do with this great research, a lot for us each to learn, and an exciting future of engaged transformation to make happen in your organization. I look forward to navigating it with you.


James McQuivey, Ph.D. is an engaged employee and author of the classic book on consumer-led digital transformation, Digital Disruption: Unleashing the Next Wave of Innovation.