Employee Engagement or Employee Satisfaction?

What do you want? Do you want employees to be satisfied or to be engaged?

I know that a lot of companies use the two interchangeably, and I am suggesting that they stop. They are not the same.
Think about the things in your life that you are satisfied with versus the things that you are actively engaged with. For instance, you may be satisfied with the community that you live in, the roadways are well maintained, the play areas are clean and the garbage is collected on a regular basis. If you don’t attend residents’ meetings, or are not actively involved in ensuring that things run smoothly or  do not participate in the community’s events, then you’re not engaged.
We all have our favourite restaurant, where we are always satisfied with the food and the service, but, on the occasion that the dish isn’t well prepared we become dissatisfied and complain. We may be interested that the restaurant keeps its doors open but we are not vested in its success, we are not engaged with the restaurant’s business outcomes.
These arguments extend to the company – while it is flattering that employees are satisfied, companies need to appreciate that satisfaction is not #EmployeeEngagement. Read this article for a definition of employee engagement.
When companies focus on #EmployeeSatisfaction they are constructing a relationship, in which, the employees are the clients and the company is of service to the employees. When something goes wrong, the employees do not perceive any personal responsibility to improve the situation; while they may make recommendations, they will fold their arms and wait for someone to fix it, or wait to be told to fix it.
When we focus on employee engagement, we don’t have to worry about when things go wrong, because we know that employees see themselves as part of the solution, they have a vested interest in offering recommendations, and in fixing things.
There is the argument that satisfied employees will become more engaged. I can appreciate this from an emotional point of view – satisfied employees are happy employees and  will (more likely) work better. But what happens when the employees become unhappy or dissatisfied? What then? Whose job is it to make them happy or satisfied?

I believe that if companies focus on employee engagement, then they won’t have to worry about employee satisfaction. If companies only focus on employee satisfaction, then they cannot be certain that employees are engaged.

What do you want? Do you want employees to be satisfied or to be engaged?

Maxine Attong is an Organizational Development Consultant who specialises in Employee Engagement. Check out my website www.maxineattong.com to learn more about me.

P.S. Save the date – March 15,2017. Breakfast seminar: Maximising Human Capital in the New Economy.

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