The Employee Engagement Blog

The Employee Engagement Blog

What’s More Important: Employee Satisfaction or Employee Engagement?

Posted by Stephen Spiegel on Sep 4, 2018 9:00:00 AM

Job satisfaction may retain employees, but the payoff for employers is productivity. It’s not until employees are inspired and engaged that they’ll want to do more than what’s required.

It's a “chicken or the egg” scenario. Which do you focus on employee satisfaction or employee engagement? The important thing is knowing there is a choice, and that’s because employee satisfaction and employee engagement are not the same things.

An engaged employee will tell you they’re satisfied with their job; however, a satisfied employee may not actually be all that engaged. Job satisfaction may retain employees, but the payoff for employers is productivity. It’s not until employees are inspired and engaged that they’ll want to do more than just what’s required. Here’s how to tell the difference between employee satisfaction and employee engagement – and why your focus should be on engagement.

Satisfaction is one-sided

Companies go to great lengths to facilitate employee satisfaction – and many succeed in their quest. But, here’s the downside to the pursuit of employee satisfaction. It starts with taking a closer look at the definition of satisfaction.

The dictionary defines satisfaction as, “fulfilling expectations or needs; acceptable, though not outstanding or perfect.” It offers “adequate,” “sufficient,” and “passable” as synonyms. It’s not true across the board, but it’s fair to assume that if an employee tells you they’re satisfied with their job, they’re communicating that they find it, well, passable.

If that’s the case, an employee generally enjoys what they do for you, but it’s likely not much more than a means to a paycheck. They may not complain about the job to their spouse or friends, but they’re also probably not bragging about being a part of your company, either.

Nevertheless, the work gets done. Unfortunately, you’re not seeing much beyond what’s expected. The measurable productivity you’d like to see isn’t happening because there’s a lack of a proactive approach. A recent Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) report says that 63 percent of working adults list their compensation as one of the top contributors for overall job satisfaction. So, six out of 10 employees are motivated to do what’s necessary to get their paychecks.

They see their job as a one-way street. The reward – their salary – isn’t enough to warrant anything more. As a result, they’re unengaged, and the direction of reward tends to be, “What can you do for me?”

What does employee engagement look like?

Everything changes when employers seek employee engagement, rather than just employee satisfaction. An engaged employee instead asks, “What can you do for me, and what can I do in return?” These individuals are emotionally invested in the success of your business, instead of just motivated by a paycheck.

Engaged employees go beyond the minimum requirements of their job willingly. Why? They’ve been included in the organization’s mission. They get to see how their individual contributions are making a difference. It’s no longer, “If I do a satisfactory job, I get a paycheck.” Now, it’s “If I do an excellent job, not only do I get a paycheck, but I also am helping to make a difference.”

Consider these four areas to help keep your employees engaged:

  • Basic needs: Knowing role responsibilities and requirements is important, but engagement requires that employees have the appropriate tools and technologies to fulfill those duties.
  • Individual contributions: Engaged employees want to be recognized for their work and contributions. They need you to create measurable ways they can see the result of their contributions.
  • Community and teamwork: Engaged employees believe in the work they do for you is valued by the company, their fellow employees, and your customers. What you’re establishing when you make these measurable connections is a sense of community. What proves it is when you welcome and act on their opinions.
  • Growth: Do you offer your employees the ability to pursue professional growth? This is a crucial way to facilitate engagement. By getting better at what they do, they share their improved abilities with you to generate innovation and revenue growth.
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Topics: employee engagement, employee satisfaction, employee recognition