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Employee Satisfaction vs. Employee Engagement: Yes They Are Different and You Should Address Both

In recent years, the focus of HR professionals and managers has shifted from employee satisfaction to employee engagement. An engaged workforce is a great asset, but there is no engagement without satisfaction. Employee satisfaction is an important, no, necessary measure for your organization. It’s the first step to creating an engaged workforce. Satisfied employees are more likely to be engaged employees.

The only problem is that many HR professionals, managers, and business owners confuse employee engagement with employee satisfaction. They, thus, ask the wrong questions and measure the wrong thing. Satisfied employees aren’t necessarily engaged. But they can be, in the right conditions. In order to increase productivity, you need to understand what employee satisfaction and employee engagement actually are. And how you can measure both using specific, well-structured employee surveys.

Employee satisfaction

Employee Satisfaction and Employee Engagement: Definition

Employee satisfaction is the extent to which employees are happy, content, and satisfied with their job and work environment.
On the other hand, employee engagement is the extent to which employees are passionate about their work, and committed to the organization’s needs and goals.

Employees are satisfied when their basic needs at work are met. These employees are happy to come to work and do their job. They are less likely to be discontented, and also less likely to look for a new job. They do a good enough job to meet the requirements of the job. However, in order to truly tap into their highest potential, you need to engage these employees.

One important identifier of engaged employees is that these employees are willing to put in discretionary efforts – go above and beyond their job role and responsibilities. Engaged employees are passionate about work and accountable. Increasing employee satisfaction and engagement should both be priorities for your organization.

The Business Case for Employee Satisfaction and Employee Engagement

Satisfied employees form the bedrock of a strong workforce. Strong employee satisfaction contributes to low employee turnover, as satisfied employees are less likely to leave. Reduced turnover means lower acquisition, onboarding and retention costs for you. High employee satisfaction reduces costs and employee turnover, it also creates optimal conditions for creating engaged, empowered employees.  

Engaged employees experience higher levels of absorption in their work, leading to higher productivity, and increased creativity. These employees are willing to expend discretionary effort. They are the ones responsible for heightened productivity, creativity and innovation. Engaged employees move the organization forward through innovative thinking. These employees tend to stay with your organization longer. They often display loyalty even when offered better pay or benefits. Thus, they provide a higher return on talent management initiatives. They also contribute to increased customer satisfaction.

What Measures Contribute to Employee Satisfaction and Engagement?  

Employee satisfaction measures help you meet the basic needs of your workforce. One of the top contributors to employee job satisfaction is being treated with respect, at all levels of the organization, according to SHRM. This should come as no surprise – wanting to be acknowledged and valued is a fundamental human need.

Financial benefits such as pay and benefits are also important, as well as job security, trust between employees and senior management. Other factors include the opportunity to use their skills in their work, a safe work environment, the organization’s financial stability, relationship with immediate supervisor, challenging, interesting work, communication, corporate culture, teamwork, access to, and use of resources, and more.

Once you implement measures for creating satisfied employees, you can focus your efforts on creating engaged, passionate employees. These employees also expect more from their companies than just meeting their basic needs. SHRM finds that certain job satisfaction measures promote workplace conditions that encourage employee engagement. Their recommendation: to increase employee engagement promote workplace practices and aspects that are linked to overall job satisfaction.

Some of the job satisfaction measures that create conditions of employee engagement include relationships with co-workers, opportunities to use skills/abilities, meaningfulness of the job, the work itself, relationship with supervisor, contribution to business goals, autonomy, corporate culture, job-specific training, career development opportunities, and more.

How Should You Measure Employee Satisfaction and Engagement?

The first step in creating a satisfied workforce is to understand whether their basic needs are being met. An employee satisfaction survey is a simple solution. This will help you get your employees’ feedback on the specific measures that contribute to employee satisfaction. You will be able to measure your workforce’s current level of satisfaction. These employee surveys will also help you identify areas where employee satisfaction is lacking and that require improvements.

Employee engagement is harder to quantify and often depends on the specifics of the role, the culture of the organization and more. Nevertheless, employee engagement surveys can help you get a sense of employees’ satisfaction and engagement levels. They are also a great way to identify areas of improvement. You can understand the obstacles to higher engagement your employees face. And you have the benefit of hearing from employees themselves on what would motivate them.

Employee satisfaction survey for employee feedback

Employee Surveys are the Answer

Employee surveys measure existing levels of satisfaction and engagement. They also highlight corresponding initiatives that contribute to existing levels. But they also provide valuable information on what measures the company is falling short on. Regular and frequent employee surveys can help you assess the success of organizational initiatives, and shed light on changes that might be required. By engaging with employee feedback in a meaningful way, you can find areas to focus on. You can implement and promote workplace practices that improve both satisfaction and engagement.

According to SHRM, management’s recognition of employee job performance is an important factor for employee job satisfaction. In a survey by SHRM, HR professionals revealed that performance management is a top priority that they give attention and resources to. However, many HR professionals gave mixed ratings to their organization’s performance management systems. Many organizations are transitioning from annual discussions to frequent feedback. A number of different types of employee surveys, including pulse surveys, or real-time surveys can be extremely useful for this activity.

Zonka’s employee survey templates provide a helpful guide to creating your employee surveys. Our feedback management software can help you keep track of survey results and provide helpful analysis to create a satisfied and engaged workforce.

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