Why do you need to distinguish between employee satisfaction and employee engagement?

Employee satisfaction and employee engagement are sometimes used interchangeably. While both are imperative to an organisation’s people strategy, it is employee engagement that drives business performance. That is why it is important to understand the difference before making any strategic decisions about evolving workplace culture.  

What is the difference?

Employee satisfaction is the extent to which employees feel content and happy with their jobs and their workplace. Using Herzberg’s Motivation Theory, often referenced in business and HR articles, satisfaction is met by achieving hygiene factors which fulfil basic needs such as pay, job security, a safe work environment, a manageable workload and work-life balance. Whereas employee engagement is the extent to which people are personally involved in the success of an organisation. Engaged employees will go the extra mile because they feel a strong emotional connection to the organisation. They want their company to succeed because they identify with its mission, purpose, or values on a personal level. Believe it or not, an employee can be satisfied with their job, but disengaged (think about the person who often arrives late, does just enough to get by, chats a lot throughout the day and leaves bang on 5 pm). Additional motivation factors are needed to take an employee from being content and satisfied to fully engaged, such as more challenging work, recognition and responsibility.

Why does it matter?

Employee satisfaction levels strongly influence an organisation’s staff retention levels. People who do not feel content, or believe that their needs are being met, are more likely to think about looking for another job. But just being satisfied doesn’t result in the high performance or engagement needed to drive business growth. People who are content to get the job done are less likely to challenge the status quo. However, engaged employees, who feel emotionally invested in the success of the business, are more committed to helping their company achieve its goals. They make the direct choice to go above and beyond, apply the maximum effort, look to add value and suggest new ideas, all of which improve productivity and innovation.

Engagement enablers

Engage for Success, the voluntary movement promoting employee engagement as a better way to work has carried out a lot of research into the specific motivation factors which take employees beyond job satisfaction to being engaged. It describes employee engagement as:  

“A workplace approach resulting in the right conditions for all members of an organisation to give their best each day, committed to their organisation’s goals and values, motivated to contribute to organisational success, with an enhanced sense of their own well-being.”

To help employers create this workplace approach, it has identified four common features of highly engaged and high performing organisations. These Four Enablers are:

  • Strategic narrative
  • Engaging managers
  • Employee voice
  • Integrity

Together these enablers encompass a set of key engagement factors including; visible and empowering leadership, a real understanding of an organisation’s vision, a coaching culture in which managers are equipped to stretch their teams, strong communication channels which keep employees informed and able to contribute ideas, and a genuine, authentic approach to living by the organisation’s values.

How does Best Employers Eastern Region help businesses with employee engagement?

To be able to create a culture of engagement, it is important to understand where you are currently at. Our Best Employers Eastern Region employee survey has been expertly developed in conjunction with eras ltd to ask the right questions which will capture accurate feedback needed to monitor employee engagement. As well as looking at employee satisfaction, it provides detailed findings on the key factors which impact on engagement and performance, including how staff perceive their organisation’s current culture, their understanding of the company’s vision and values, and how supported, empowered and engaged they feel by leadership and management teams. Each organisation receives a tailored report summarising the culture, values and leadership style and an action plan to help inform strategic planning and deliver long term results.  

Find out more about Best Employers Eastern Region 2020 here >>

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Written by

Lynn Walters

Lynn is a founding Director of Pure and leads Pure Executive. She has over 25 years’ experience recruiting for executive appointments, and helps east of England-based businesses with senior management and board-level recruitment. Lynn also leads our Best Employers Eastern Region initiative and Women’s Leadership Programme, both of which help companies and people develop.

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