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Employee Engagement vs. Satisfaction

Employee engagement and employee satisfaction are similar concepts, and many people use these terms interchangeably. However, the importance of knowing the difference between the two is crucial for an organization to make strategic decisions so that they may create a culture of engagement.



Consider Mark and Abby

Mark arrives at work every day ready to be the best employee he can be; to add value wherever it is needed. His company has a clear mission and vision that motivates him to be deeply invested in his work. His work has meaning, and he’s committed to the company’s success. Mark also likes that his company is willing to invest in his professional development now and into the future.


Abby is content with her job. She has steady employment, decent pay and gets off work in time to meet her kids at the school bus. She has flexibility to work from home if needed. Abby’s job meets her basic needs. However, for Abby, it’s just a job. She doesn’t necessarily enjoy her work, nor is she motivated to do her best for the organization.


Engagement vs. Satisfaction

When we compare Mark and Abby, there is a significant difference in their attitude and commitment to their job. The difference? One is engaged. The other is satisfied.


Employee engagement, quite simply, is the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to take positive action to further the organization’s reputation and put discretionary effort into their work. Factors that influence employee engagement might include defined vision (and knowing the role they play in implementing that vision), working in roles that use their strengths, desiring a challenge, and wanting plenty of feedback. Employee satisfaction, on the other hand, is the extent to which employees are happy or content with their jobs and work environments. Factors that influence employee satisfaction might include compensation, benefits, workload, and flexibility.


Why is Employee Satisfaction a Potential Problem?

The problem with employee satisfaction is that this person might be perfectly content doing the bare minimum required for their job. Their performance will be “good enough” to keep their jobs, but they often lack purpose and are not adding value to the company. And according to Gallop, it’s estimated that within the U.S. workforce, disengaged employees cost $300 billion annually in lost productivity.


Engaged employees, on the other hand, add value by driving growth and innovation. They want to be engaged and empowered. They want to be challenged and pushed to perform higher. They want their work to have meaning and purpose. Engaged employees have higher retention, productivity, innovation and quality.


Why Are Most Organizations Ill-Equipped at Employee Engagement?

Truthfully, most organizations focus on employee satisfaction. It’s easier. And its been the norm for a long time. An employee engagement strategy takes significant work. It takes transformation. And apparently, more organizations are committed to it and getting better at it. According to an August 2018 Gallop article entitled, Employee Engagement on the Rise in the U.S., “the percentage of ‘engaged’ workers in the U.S. is now 34%, tying the highest level since Gallop began reporting the national figure in 2000."


Designing and incorporating a business strategy such as employee engagement is hard work. And many employers cannot immediately see how it is affecting their bottom line. But with the right knowledge, the right tools, and the proper mindset, an employee engagement strategy can be a powerful way to transform the organization and improve the bottom line. An effective employee engagement strategy will enable the organization to maximize the energy, creativity and productivity of the company’s workforce – and allow the organization to thrive.


Millennials and Engagement: Something to Think About

Millennials now make up about 35% of the work force. That percentage will continue to rise as more Baby Boomers retire and there are fewer Gen Xers. As this percentage grows, employers simply cannot ignore the needs, desires, and attitudes of the Millennial generation. Let’s look at some characteristics of this generation. Some of these include:

  • Being confident, ambitious and achievement orientated

  • Having high expectations of their employers and tend to seek new challenges at work

  • Wanting to be included and involved

  • Craving feedback and guidance

Sound a lot like what we have already described as engaged employees? There’s a surprisingly close relationship between the characteristics of Millennials and the characteristics of engaged employees. It benefits to pay attention when considering the make-up of the work force.

Questions to Consider Regarding Engagement

Whether placing engagement and satisfaction under one umbrella or keeping them separate, knowing the difference between the two is crucial for an organization to make strategic decisions so that they may create a culture of engagement. Think about these questions regarding engagement:

  • Is the organization clear in its vision, so that employees see value in their work?

  • Are leaders leading in a way that brings deep commitment from their employees?

  • Are employees grateful to work for a company that truly cares about them?

  • Do customers see something special and keep coming back for more?

  • Are employees saying, "I'm proud to be a part of this company!"?

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