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Employee Satisfaction or Employee Engagement?
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Employee Satisfaction or Employee Engagement?

by Ashok Grover

Are you measuring the Employee Satisfaction or Employee Engagement? What is the difference between the two? Or was Shakespeare right when he said, "What is in a name?"

This organization had been conducting an annual Employee Satisfaction Survey for the last six years with marginal improvements here and there. The departure of the HR manager resulted into a void and after a couple of months, came a new manager, who was acquainted with the Employee Engagement Survey while working with one of his previous employers. Very soon, an Employee Engagement Survey was conducted in the organization.

Did it bring a welcome change? Not really! In fact, the only change was in the name. It was the same old Employee Satisfaction Survey with exactly the same questionnaire... with a new name! And at least in this case, Shakespeare was proved right, “What is in a name!” Only the name does not change the game!

Surely, satisfied employees are happy to report on duty and do what is asked of them or may be a little more.... and in some cases, the bare minimum to stay safe in their job. Their needs are met by the organization and they may not have any reason to go above and beyond. Such employees may help an organization to run smoothly; but do not make it great. To take an organization on the accelerated growth path, you need more than “satisfied” employees.... employees who are motivated, employees who are inspired, employees who are passionate about their jobs, and employees who are engaged! Engaged employees are emotionally attached to the goals of the organization. They attend to their job with a high degree of commitment and are always looking for ways and means to deliver high performance, using their discretionary efforts, without being asked, without being watched!

And merely a change in the name of your survey cannot make that happen! For that matter, no survey can bring in any improvement, unless followed by a thorough analysis and an appropriate action plan... and an appropriate action plan can come out only of an appropriate questionnaire.   

Before having a peep into the satisfaction vs. engagement issue, let us have a look at a few facts:

A poll conducted by Gallup, showed that the organizations with high engagement ratings experience: 

  • 86% higher customer/client ratings
  • 70% less turnover
  • 70% higher productivity
  • 44% higher profitability
  • 78% better safety records

These numbers are an eye-opener for the people who believe that employee engagement is only a fad and HR jargon. The fact is that the employees really want to be engaged. Unfortunately, it is equally true that at any time, on an average, half of the employed population come in the “wanting to leave” category, a majority of them citing lack of employer engagement as their principal reason for leaving.

Employee satisfaction surveys address topics such as compensation, workload, perceptions of management, flexibility, teamwork, resources, etc. All these issues are important to organizations who want to keep their employees happy and reduce attrition. But, it may be worthwhile to watch who the “retained” employees are. Unfortunately, the employees “wanting to leave” includes top performers... and according to “The Conference Board”, disengaged employees are 24% less likely to quit than the engaged employees. So, is employee retention the only goal?

Sustainable engagement requires that the employees are driven by more than fluctuating variables such as exciting projects or extrinsic motivators like monetary rewards. By and large, talented and motivated employees want to be empowered and engaged in meaningful work. They love to be challenged and pushed. They look for personal and professional development opportunities so that they may grow and advance in their careers.

Though employee engagement does include employee satisfaction, do not think that you can start with satisfaction surveys and graduate to employee engagement in due course. By doing so, you may be focusing on increasing the wrong kind of employee satisfaction. You run the risk of encouraging those employees who are adding the least value while driving out your most talented ones.

Ashok Grover is an expert in people assessment and focused executive / leadership coaching. He is Director at Skillscape, a company with a vision of Value Creation by enhancing people and organizational competencies.

His last assignment was with the JBM Group as Corporate Chief Human Resource Officer. He has over four decades of experience in operations, materials, information technology and people development with Parle Group, Mohan Meakins Group, Hawkins Cookers Limited and JBM Group.

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