Employee Satisfaction vs. Employee Engagement

By on May 7, 2019

What’s the Difference and Why You Should Care

I bet if you work in HR or Talent Acquisition you’re probably a little sick of hearing about employee engagement. Or maybe your CEO said to you, “Hey, I just read this article about employee engagement. Don’t our employees read the mission and guiding principles sign we have in the lobby? We need more employee engagement now! Do something!” I’m kidding, but only a little.

The fact is you should care about employee engagement. And despite what many think, employee engagement is not just a buzzword or an intangible, touchy-feely organizational goal. Here’s why:

  • According to a Harvard Business Review study, 71% of managers believe employee engagement is one of the most important factors in overall organizational success.
  • Employee disengagement costs the USA over $500 billion annually. On the other hand, highly engaged workplaces see 41% lower absenteeism.
  • Employee turnover costs a lot of money. Some studies predict that each time you need to replace a salaried employee, it costs an average of 6-9 months’ salary.
  • Organizations with a high level of engagement report 22% higher productivity, according to a meta-analysis of 1.4 million employees conducted by the Gallup Organization.

Before we talk about what employee engagement is, let’s talk about what it isn’t:

  • Employee engagement is NOT employee happiness
  • Employee engagement is NOT employee satisfaction
  • Employee engagement is not the new office ping pong table, Bagel Monday, or a 20% increase in sign-ups for the company softball team (though those things can be fun and good for morale)

So what is it? I really like this definition from Forbes: Employee engagement is the emotional commitment the employee has to the organization and its goals. This doesn’t mean that the employee loves every (or even most) aspects of their job. What it does mean is that the employee cares. And if they care, they will use discretionary effort.

Here’s an example: Joe is an accountant for a Philadelphia hospital. Obviously, Joe is not performing surgery, dispensing prescriptions, giving physical therapy or admitting patients. In fact, he has zero contact with patients and works in an office building completely separate from the main hospital. However, Joe feels that by being a really good accountant, he is helping the hospital stay compliant with regulations, navigate today’s complex healthcare reimbursement system, save money, etc. – AND by doing that Joe believes he is part of a team that helps the hospital continue to provide an exceptional level of patient care. Joe is an engaged employee.

In other words, Joe will go above and beyond because he has an emotional commitment and really cares about his work and the hospital. Of course, he works for a paycheck and wants to be given good performance reviews and get promoted, but he is also working on behalf of the hospital’s goals. Way to go Joe!

As this graphic shows, engagement is a big level above satisfaction

Employee Engagement







Decisionwise 2018

For those in leadership, employee engagement means your organization’s ability to balance your employee’s needs with your business needs. You have an opportunity to directly impact your organization’s success through your willingness to enhance your employment experience.

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