If you were choosing whether to increase your employees’ satisfaction or their engagement – which would you choose?
Or would you even consider there to be any difference between the two?
Perhaps you’re like some of the employers whom I’ve been talking to recently about this. They use the two terms interchangeably without having a clear picture of what, if anything, distinguishes them.
Well in strict definition terms there is a difference. Employee satisfaction is just that – an employee having their needs met in terms of their jobs and work environment. But satisfied employees might not necessarily be engaged – and this is because engagement means more. It’s about commitment, passion, and what employees do with their discretionary effort.
Now we don’t live in a world where strict definitions rule us. Put two employees in the same role and treat them the same and there’ll often be – indeed there’ll probably be – a difference in their engagement levels. This is because we’re all unique individuals. And our attitudes differ. For example, one person might be more positive than another. One person might deal better with authority than another.
You want to avoid your satisfied employees being too cosy. I worked for a company once which cut the salaries of people in the same pay grade by the exact same amount. The goal was to avoid redundancies. The goal was achieved. And ordinary employees were “satisfied”. But was it a good thing? What effect did this have on the highly motivated and high achieving employees? Was an opportunity to get rid of deadwood lost?
So ordinary “satisfaction” isn’t always a good thing. And your policies can affect that as can the profile you develop of the person whom you hopw to recruit. In contrast, it’s always good for you to have engaged employees.
I’m not being pedantic here. Let’s not get hung up on terms. It’s perfectly legitimate for you to use the word “satisfaction” to encompass those elements of engagement I mentioned earlier – commitment, passion & the use of discretionary effort.
The actual label you use – be it “satisfaction” or “engagement” – is not a crucial point. What is important is for you to be mindful of the impact on your organisation of your employees’ commitment levels and the extent to which they’re emotionally invested in your organisation’s welfare.
This post has dealt with a complex distinction. If I’ve provoked any disagreement, confusion, questions or comments then please email me. I’d be glad to respond to you personally – or perhaps in a future post if I think that’ll be instructive to others.
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