Don’t Confuse Job Satisfaction and Engagement

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Oct 21, 2016

Are your employees engaged, or are they just satisfied? The first step: Ask. How would they describe their current level of job satisfaction?

  1. Very satisfied.
  2. Somewhat satisfied.
  3. Moderately satisfied.
  4. Not at all satisfied. (I’m miserable!)

According to the Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement survey report from the Society for Human Resource Management, U.S. workers are more satisfied with their jobs now than they have been in the last 10 years:

  • SHRM Job Satisfaction 201588% of employees were at least somewhat satisfied
  • 37% were very satisfied

The survey findings indicate that the top three factors driving job satisfaction are:

  • Respectful treatment (67%)
  • Compensation/pay (63%)
  • Benefits (60%)

Workers only moderately engaged

While job satisfaction appears to be at an all-time high, the same research from SHRM indicates that employees are only moderately engaged. On a scale of 1 (low engagement) to 5 (high engagement), the average engagement score was 3.8.

The top three conditions for engagement were:SHRM engagement findings chart

  • Relationships with co-workers (77%)
  • Opportunities to use skills and abilities (77%)
  • Meaningfulness of their job (76%)

Job satisfaction vs. engagement

As these survey results indicate, employee engagement and employee satisfaction are connected. But they’re not synonymous. An employee can be satisfied with their pay, or the hours they work, or some of the perks they receive from their job. But that doesn’t automatically mean they’re engaged.

Satisfaction involves personal happiness with one’s job, while engagement indicates an employee’s sense of connection and commitment to advancing organizational goals.

Engagement vs. indifference

Engaged employees are wholly interested in their work and the progress of their organization. They work hard; not with the expectation of reward, but out of an internal desire to excel in their position. DecisionWise describes employee engagement as “magic,” meaning autonomy, growth, impact and connection.

While employees who are satisfied — but not engaged — are pleased with what their job offers, they’re indifferent about their role in the organization. They’re not as invested in contributing to the company’s success. They find very little, if any, magic in their work.

Benefits of engagement

The benefits of employee engagement are many. Research from Gallup says organizations with a high level of engagement report:

  • 22% higher productivity
  • 48% fewer safety incidents
  • 41% fewer patient safety incidents
  • 41% fewer quality defects

These benefits aren’t surprising when you consider that Gallup researchers describe engaged employees as “more attentive and vigilant.” They also say engaged employees take a sense of personal ownership for their work, which positively impacts business results.

Survey your workers

If you want to get serious about reaping the benefits of employee engagement in your business, return to the first step. Conduct a survey and ask for employee input. Need help thinking of questions? You’ll find 20 great suggestions from the team at TINYPulse.

But asking questions about satisfaction and engagement isn’t the only step. You next need to examine the results:

  • Are you covering the “satisfaction” basics: respectful treatment, equitable compensation, and excellent benefits?
  • How connected do your employees feel to the company?
  • Are they committed to advancing organizational goals?
  • Do they have fulfilling relationships with co-workers?
  • Are there enough opportunities to use their skills and abilities?
  • Do they find meaning in their job?

By asking the right questions and then using the results to direct your actions toward creating a workplace built on communication, respect, and collaboration, you can turn your satisfied employees into engaged employees.