Employee engagement has risen in the past year, according to Temkin Group research announced Wednesday, and those companies with highly engaged employees are reaping meaningful rewards in terms of personnel and profit.

Temkin researchers say engaged employees are three times as likely to suggest improvements to a firm than those who aren’t engaged and twice as likely to do something positive for the company, even if it’s not expected of them. They are also twice as likely to stay late at work to get something done or help a coworker without being asked; a highly engaged worker is reportedly more than six times as likely to recommend a friend or relative apply for a job.

The study indicates that three-quarters of employees with companies with markedly above-average financial performance are at least moderately engaged. For employers with subpar financial results, it’s less than half.

The best news: engagement is up. After tabulating results from surveys of approximately 2,400 full-time U.S. employees from August of last year compared to August 2011, Temkin reports that 57% are moderately or highly engaged, up from 47%.

“It may not show up on any balance sheet, but a highly engaged workforce is one of the most valuable assets that an organization can possess,” says Bruce Temkin, a customer experience expert and managing partner of Temkin Group.

Small businesses fare better in the research than the very large — 60% of the populations at companies with 100 or fewer workers are engaged, versus 46% at companies with 10,000 or more employees. Travel and retail firms have the lowest engagement levels; professional services firms and construction companies have the highest.

Temkin says the most engaged employees trend toward older, male, college-educated and African-American. Forty-six percent of individual contributors are moderately or highly engaged, as are 75% of senior executives.

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