Employee engagement is not the same as employee satisfaction

By Aparna Raparthi
Employee Engagement

Jim McCoy, chief revenue officer and general manager at Scout Exchange, an AI-powered recruitment marketplace, shares some of the character traits engaged employees to exhibit. He beautifully explains, “Highly engaged employees are typically high energy people that have close relationships with their colleagues, including their direct manager or supervisor. They have a clear sense of commitment to their organization. They are excited to take on new challenges, embrace change, and welcome solving tough problems. They also tend to be curious by nature, continually learning, and regularly seeking new ways to broaden their existing skill sets. They effectively are ambassadors for the organization, continually looking for ways to promote the organization and further the organizational mission.”

As opposed to engaged employees, disengaged employees simply put in their specified hours at work and leave. They do not involve themselves in activities beyond their regular jobs, and they value the job just enough to ensure that they get their paycheck at the end of the month.

A level above disengaged employees is actively disengaged, employees. Such employees are not only unproductive, but they also undermine the work engaged employees do. Their negative attitude may create a toxic workplace, and they essentially become a burden on the business.

Employee satisfaction or job satisfaction is, quite simply, how content or satisfied employees are with their jobs and work environment. Employee Satisfaction only indicates how happy or content your employees are. It does not address their level of motivation, involvement, or emotional commitment. For some employees, being satisfied means collecting a paycheck while doing as little work as possible. While a satisfied employee is happy to show up to work, an engaged employee is happy to show up to work too and also actively looks for ways how to the company better. They throw themselves into their job wholeheartedly, because they feel that they have a vested interest in it.

It is not surprising, however, that employee satisfaction is an important prerequisite to employee engagement, according to a study conducted by the Forum for People Performance Management and Measurement in the Medill Integrated Marketing Communications program at Northwestern University. Employee satisfaction is typically measured using an employee satisfaction survey. Factors that influence employee satisfaction addressed in these surveys might include compensation, workload, perceptions of management, flexibility, teamwork, resources, etc.

When organizations focus on how to improve employee satisfaction, changes won’t necessarily lead to increased performance. Oftentimes, the conditions that make employees “satisfied” with their jobs are the same conditions that frustrate high performing employees. Top performers embrace change, search out ways to improve and challenge the status quo. They expect all employees to be held accountable for delivering results, whereas low performers avoid accountability, cling to the status quo, and resist change.

Engagement is a key differentiator when it comes to growth and innovation. Engaged employees look at the whole of the company and understand their purpose, where, and how they fit in. This leads to better decision-making. Organizations with an engaged workforce outperform their competition. A company that has an effective employee engagement strategy and a highly engaged workforce is more likely to retain top performers as well as attract new talent. Successful organizations are value-driven with employee-centric cultures.

There’s a key reason why innovative companies like Apple, Microsoft and Netflix spend so much time and budget on ensuring they engage their team members across the globe. The resulting innovation means they stay at the forefront of their respective industries.

To better understand the needs of your organization, administering an employee engagement survey is key. This is not the same as a satisfaction survey. The best time to conduct an employee engagement survey is anytime. The timing of an engagement survey will have an effect on survey results, but it is always a good time to have a better understanding of how engaged your employees are.

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