employee recognition & motivation
Jul 20

Employee engagement is not the same as employee satisfaction

Rico Fernando
HR Strategist, Co-founder at Bonrepublic
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.

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 be held accountable for delivering results, whereas low performers avoid accountability, cling to the status quo, and resist change.


Why is employee engagement important?

Employee engagement goes beyond activities, games, and events. Employee engagement drives performance. 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. They have a higher earning per share (EPS) and recover more quickly after recessions and financial setbacks. Engagement is a key differentiator when it comes to growth and innovation. To better understand the needs of your organization, administering an employee engagement survey is key. This is not the same as a satisfaction survey.

Moreover, expectations of employees have changed. Mobile professional careers are much more common than "job for lifers". Retention of top talent is more difficult than before. 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.
How is employee engagement measured?


Measure what matters.

Employee engagement surveys have been developed specifically to measure the performance, strategic alignment, competency and satisfaction of contributors. Engagement surveys must be statistically validated and benchmarked against other organizations if they are going to provide useful results. Without these things, it is difficult to know what you are measuring and whether the results are good or bad.



Engagement can be accurately measured with short surveys that contain just a few questions, but such short surveys can only provide an indication of whether employees are engaged. They have a hard time explaining why employees are engaged or disengaged because they lack detail. Without sufficient information, an organization cannot develop meaningful activities, training programs, strategies, and initiatives to raise levels of engagement.

In order to get a complete picture of employee engagement, a survey needs to include about 50 to 80 questions that cover a complete range of relevant topics. There should also be open ended questions to further diagnose potential engagement problems in a company.

When should an organization measure eployee engagement?

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.

Create a readiness assessment, communicate the reasons for doing the engagement survey, communicate results, and take action on survey results. These actions give meaning to the survey. Otherwise, a survey ends up being more of a waste of time and de-motivator.

There are two primary factors that drive employee engagement. These factors are based on statistical analysis and widely supported by industry research.

Engagement with "My Manager" is a more specific measure of how employees relate to their direct supervisors. Topics include feeling valued, being treated fairly, receiving feedback and direction, and generally, having a strong working relationship between employee and manager based on mutual respect.

Engagement with The Organization measures how engaged employees are with the organization as a whole, and by extension, how they feel about senior management. This factor has to do with confidence in organizational leadership as well as trust, fairness, values, and respect - i.e. how people like to be treated by others, both at work and outside of work.
Who should be involved in employee engagement initiatives?

A high-performing workforce is necessary to remain competitive, even survive. Developing programs to raise levels of employee engagement must be intentional, have meaning, purpose based on survey results.

HR can lead the charge to create an effective employee engagement strategy, but it needs to be embraced by the entire organization. There is a clear gap between the optimism of upper management and what middle managers experience with their teams. To understand the whole-organization picture, it's essential to have an effective, multi-directional communication strategy in the organization. Effective communication is one of the most important factors that is most likely to bring company success. Organizations that thrive are able to articulate and communicate what success looks like – as individual employees, teams and departments, and the company as a whole. This increases engagement organization-wide.
The two Organization factors deal with how employees relate to and connect with the organization.
The two Manager factors look at whether managers display the essential skills and behaviors needed to be effective.
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