Employee Engagement vs. Employee Satisfaction

Recognize This! – Engagement and satisfaction are not interchangeable – in goal, measurement or outcome.

Employee engagement is not employee satisfaction. It most certainly is not employee communication. Yet these terms continue to be used – and measured – interchangeably.

You at Work recently shared:

“A new book [The Engagement Manifesto] published this month asserts that employee engagement initiatives are often misunderstood or wrongly applied.

“[Author Alan] Crozier: “I have seen companies measuring employee satisfaction and calling that engagement. I have seen three published ‘engagement’ surveys in the past 18 months that only measured communication effectiveness.”

What’s the Difference?

Employee satisfaction measures only the employee’s contentment in coming to work every day. Many employees are quite satisfied to come to work and surf the web. That’s a far cry from employee engagement.

Employee engagement is a combination of employee understanding of what needs to be done and willingness to go the extra mile (give discretionary effort) to make that happen. But employee engagement doesn’t occur in a vacuum. Employees engage with people – their colleagues – and with a culture they believe in.

Strategic recognition makes creating that culture and building those relationships possible – across geographic and position barriers. Recognition also can provide a measurement of employee engagement by assessing and reporting how frequently an employee is recognized for demonstrating your values (understanding what needs to be done) and contributing to success (making it happen). Equally important is noting how often an employee recognizes others for those same behaviors.

Do you measure employee engagement or employee satisfaction?

Derek Irvine

About Derek Irvine

The VP of Client Strategy and Consulting at Globoforce, Derek Irvine is one of the world’s foremost experts on employee recognition and engagement, helping business leaders set a higher vision and ambition for their organizations. As a renowned speaker and co-author of "The Power of Thanks" and "Winning with a Culture of Recognition," he teaches companies how to use recognition to proactively manage company culture. Derek holds a B.Comm and Masters of Business Studies from the Smurfit Graduate Business School at University College Dublin.

10 Responses

  1. Kathy says:

    Can you have engagement without satisfaction? Perhaps disgruntled, unrecognized team members understand what needs to be done and give discretionary effort in order to avoid a layoff and keep hold of a paycheck. If their behavior says “engaged” but they’re unhappy with the culture, are they engaged or not?

    • Derek Irvine Derek Irvine says:

      Kathy, I would argue a disgruntled employee who does give discretionary effort to get the job done is not engaged. The task may be done, but there is no discretionary effort given in attitude, creativity or that added “spark” that inspires others around you. That’s the mark of the truly engaged.

      • Kwame says:

        We say that employee satisfaction is a necessary, but not a sufficient condition for employee engagement. Conceptually, we cannot see an employee being engaged without being “satisfied” with certain leadership and organizational factors. We therefore measure employee satisfaction and engagement together, and find that when satisfaction increases, engagement increases.

  2. […] of my opinion on why employee satisfaction is a useless measure ( and how it is completely different from employee  engagement), I drew three clear lessons from Lance’s assessment of the […]

  3. […] of my opinion on why employee satisfaction is a useless measure ( and how it is completely different from employee  engagement), I drew three clear lessons from Lance’s assessment of the […]

  4. […] Engagement is not satisfaction or happiness at work. Employees can be quite satisfied with their work and happy to come in every day because the love […]

  5. […] HR pros and consultants alike – have jumped on the engagement bandwagon, and with good reason. Employee engagement is far different from employee satisfaction and measures much more of real value to an organization, such as how well the employee understands […]

  6. […] pros and consultants alike – have jumped on the engagement bandwagon, and with good reason. Employee engagement is far different from employee satisfaction and measures much more of real value to an organization, such as how well the employee understands […]

  7. […] HR pros and consultants alike – have jumped on the engagement bandwagon, and with good reason. Employee engagement is far different from employee satisfaction and measures much more of real value to an organization, such as how well the employee understands […]

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