Recently, I’ve been in several conversations with business leaders regarding employee engagement vs. employee satisfaction: Why does it matter?
Engagement is NOT the same as satisfaction. Although many companies still consider them the same or similar, there is a subtle yet significant difference between the two.
Engagement is when employees are willing to go the extra mile. They are emotionally connected to the company and their work. They contribute wholeheartedly to the organization. They are passionate and purpose driven. These are the employees that are pushing for innovation, creativity, and truly having a positive bottom line impact.
Engagement is about the extra expendable effort they are willing to give to an organization that goes beyond their job description. It’s the type of employees companies strive to have.
When we measure employee satisfaction (and this applies to customer satisfaction as well), what are we really measuring? The definition for satisfy is as follows: to fulfill the desires, expectations, needs, or demands of (a person, the mind, etc.); give full contentment.
So satisfaction is about feeling good, feeling happy, being content but that doesn’t mean a burning desire exists there. It takes into consideration their job description, their working conditions, their compensation, benefits, and potential career development within the organization.
But it is not about the extra effort they are willing to commit to the company. Satisfaction is the same as “ok” or “fine” (ho hum)—but there simply is no WOW in that!
Engaged employees are striving to far exceed satisfaction with excellence and enthusiasm—they are the ones delivering a “WOW factor”.
It is engaged employees that creates engaged customers and therefore drive the business forward.
It is possible to have high rankings on employee satisfaction but still have a high level of disengagement. So satisfaction is not the best measure of profitability or productivity in a company.
If you have high levels of engagement, then it is natural that there will be high levels of satisfaction in the organization. And highly engaged companies are naturally more productive which leads to higher profits.
In our book, Engage!, we discuss how the companies we featured have been able to turn both their employees and customers into Raving Fans—getting them emotionally connected and committed to make that extra effort.
HCL Technologies for example, has eliminated employee satisfaction surveys. Instead, they work with Employee Passion Indicative Count. This is “an annual self-assessment by which employees can identify their ‘passion drivers,’ factors that drive an employee to excel at work.” It has nothing to do with satisfaction and everything to do with what their burning desires or passions are. This makes it easier to match employee’s skills to the right jobs when recruiting or promoting but also in exit interviews if an employee is leaving the company.
The positive implications are not only for a company. Engaged employees obviously have higher productivity which positively impacts the business, but they also feel better, are generally healthier, take less sick leave, are more loyal, and that overflows into their personal lives with having better relationships, being better parents, contributing positively to society.
Engaging employees is not only critical for businesses, but it is also essential that societies and governments understand the importance.