Should You Keep Your Employees Satisfied or Engaged?

May 5, 2015
Engaged or Satisfied?

Employee engagement is a huge topic in the business world, but how many companies fully understand what that means? More importantly, are companies taking the right steps to keep their employees truly engaged?

We know that managers “get” that engagement is important. The 2014 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends study found that 78 percent of business leaders rate retention and engagement as urgent.

But our own experience reveals that company leadership has a few common misconceptions about employee engagement that prevent them from getting the most out of their teams. We’re here to dispel those myths and set the record straight.

Employee Engagement Trumps Satisfaction

Perhaps the biggest misconception is that employee engagement is the same as employee satisfaction, but this is just not the case.

Usually measured by annual HR surveys, employee satisfaction looks at an employee’s “happiness” with his or her current job and working conditions. However, it stops there, falling short of measuring how much effort the employee is putting forth on behalf of the organization.

Employee engagement, by contrast, measures an employee’s emotional commitment to the organization and how much effort they put forth purely on a discretionary basis.

Of course, both satisfaction and engagement are important, but because engagement is proven to tie more closely to business results, many companies are starting to focus their efforts on boosting it.

Employee Satisfaction Has Nothing to Do with Employee Engagement

Law #4 of Engagient, LLC’s “10 Laws of Employee Engagement” states that just because employees are satisfied, managers shouldn’t assume they are engaged. Now, we’re not saying that achieving a higher level of employee satisfaction isn’t important – in fact, it is one of the top outcomes of increased workplace engagement.

The problem is that satisfaction is not a driver of engagement. Think about it – you could have an entire office of employees who are “satisfied” because they are being paid to do very little and are simply coasting along until their next paycheck.

This revelation can take managers by surprise since many employee engagement tools commonly used today are heavily weighted toward satisfaction factors. Emphasis on satisfaction leads employers to believe that increasing employee satisfaction will deliver business value, but sadly, this is not the case.

Employees aren’t as motivated by salaries as you think

According to Engagient CEO Don Rheem, salaries are not the motivation carrots most managers believe them to be. “Every employee comes to work every day with discretionary effort that he or she can only volunteer,” he says, “and we now know how to measure that level of engagement – and, more important – how to improve it.”

Instead of viewing salary increases as rewards for a job well done, employees often view them as a “catch-up effort” to what should have been paid to them months or even years earlier. In fact, research has demonstrated that employees view salary and benefits as entitlements, not as inducements or motivators to work harder.

Need help accurately measuring employee engagement? Contact us today to learn how ZeroedIn applies Collective Listening to measure the pulse of your workforce.

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