A while back, I wrote a blog post on employee engagement and employee satisfaction and presented some real, practical solutions on how to analyze and measure, set SMART goals, and implement talent management and development strategies to drive innovation.
But there still seems to be some confusion as to the difference between employee satisfaction and employee engagement. Many organizations believe these are same thing and, consequently, may be missing opportunities to foster the kind of workforce engagement that helps drive innovation and competitive success.
Close, but Not the Same
Employee satisfaction and employee engagement are similar concepts on the surface, and many people use these terms interchangeably. Employee satisfaction covers the basic concerns and needs of employees. It is a good starting point, but it usually stops short of what really matters. [ What is Employee Satisfaction, Custom Insight]
Employee satisfaction is functional. What an employee is getting out of their company as much as they are putting into it (that is, the employee value proposition). It is a measure of an employee’s happiness with a company, their particular job, or their co-workers among other factors. While an employee’s happiness or satisfaction is important, and can contribute to their engagement, it’s not the same thing as engagement.
Employee engagement is emotional. Employees who are engaged speak positively about the organization to others, are committed to remaining with their current employer, and are motivated by their organizations’ leaders, managers, culture and values to go “above and beyond” to contribute to business success.
Do not assume that these two are always aligned: a satisfied employee does not necessarily mean an engaged employee and vice versa.
In a recent blog, “Are Your Employees Engaged or Just Satisfied,” Decision Wise reviewed some of the differences between employee engagement and employee satisfaction. They found that satisfied employees operate under a transactional relationship—“Because the company gives me X, I am willing to give X worth of effort.” On the other hand, engaged employees go beyond a transactional exchange and are willing to give discretionary effort. They bring their hearts, hands, and minds into their jobs. [ Are Your Employees Engaged or Just Satisfied, Decision Wise, Dec 19, 2012]
Making the MAGIC Happen
To help construct what employees need from a job to feel engaged, Decision Wise identified five key employee engagement factors: MAGIC.
Meaning—What I do must have some significance to me; it must mean something to me personally, and on more than just a surface level. To me, my work is something of value—something of worth. If I’m only focused on a paycheck, I am willing to put in as much work as is commensurate with the paycheck. However, when my work has meaning to me, what I do has greater purpose.
Autonomy—Do I have the freedom and empowerment to perform my job in a way that I do best? Autonomy involves a degree of self-governance. It allows me, as an individual, to create or shape my role and environment in a way that is best for me and for the organization.
Growth—There was a time years ago when one could maintain a base set of skills or level of development, and that base could carry that individual throughout his or her career. However, our internal speed of change and growth must match (or exceed) the external rate of change. Particularly with rising generations, the ability to develop, grow, and progress in a job provides challenge and excitement that benefit not only the individual but also the company.
Impact—Have you ever worked for a company where employees give their all, only to face each fiscal quarter with a dismal report of their business performance? The adage “nothing breeds success like success” holds true here. When an employee puts in his or her all, yet has little impact on the organization’s or team’s success, engagement is difficult to cultivate. On the other hand, if what I am doing is making an impact (on the company, the world, patients, etc.), I am often willing to go through tough times if I have hope of making an impact. This is also where recognition and feedback fit in. I need to understand what kind of impact I am having; feedback from a customer, peer, boss, etc., will help me understand that level of impact.
Connection—This factor is clear throughout many of our employee engagement surveys. Quite often, one of the highest-scoring questions on the engagement survey is related to a version of the following question: “I like the people I work with.” Employees need to feel a connectedness to those around them. Similarly, my connection to the organization—whether or not I feel a part of the organization—will often dictate my level of commitment.