Distinguish Between Employee Engagement and Satisfaction — or else

When watching the series finale of your favourite TV show, no one had to ask if you were engaged. The same goes when at work.

Emily Grace Peck

What Prize Do You Have Your Eyes On?

If you’ve ever taken a psychology class, you may have done the passing the ball challenge. This study was an excellent way to show that we can have selective attention that too often we only see what are looking for and neglect other components of a situation.

Think about when you’re listening to music while working. Often, you’re so focused on what you’re working on, that if someone where to ask the name of the last song, you wouldn’t know what was playing.

These are the kind of scenarios that the founder of Jalapeño, Samin Saadat, considers on a regular basis in order to address employee engagement.

So What Exactly is Employee Engagement?

People often confuse employee engagement with employee satisfaction and use them interchangeably. But in fact, they are two different concepts with two very different purposes.

We asked our Jalapeño community what they thought the difference is between employee engagement and satisfaction. Romina shared her two cents about the distinction:

“…an engaged employee is one that is actively actioning on deliverables for their employer and is laser focused and productive during working hours. A satisfied employee is one who resonates with their company’s culture, is compensated fairly for their achievements, and is happy with where they are in their trajectory of career growth…there may be some overlap depending on the person and/or the corporation. An employee can be engaged but not satisfied, or satisfied and not engaged.”

Romina brings up an excellent point here. Research has shown that employees can be satisfied, yet unproductive at the same time. Most organizations will focus on two things: working conditions and employee satisfaction. We often think If we improve working conditions, employees will have higher job satisfaction and with more job satisfaction employees will have higher productivity.

Employee satisfaction is the level of content an individual feels regarding the components of a job such as pay rate, workload, and the members of their team. These attributes often get measured and accounted for on either quarterly or annual surveys.

Employee engagement, however, is an individual’s empowerment that cannot be achieved through benefits and compensations. Engagement unlocks an individual’s potential to consistently perform at a high level. This is more so seen through effort, quality of work produced and disposition. When you’re watching the season finale of your favourite TV show, no one has to ask if you’re engaged. They can tell by your behaviour.

What Have Researchers Said?

In the table below, the differences between engagement and satisfaction can be thought of where a person’s energy is being spent. Satisfaction is about sucking in and taking from the surroundings and engagement is radiating outwards and filling the surroundings. Engagement comes from within a person that then spreads throughout an organization.

A.N. Noor explores engagement research and states employees that are dedicated to their work are more likely to live happier lives, and also are often more ethical and loyal in their careers. Employers reap the benefits of these results by having a reduction in layoffs and an increase in competitive advantage when it comes to employees that contribute to organizational effectiveness.

We all feel better when we are heard by those around us. No matter if that’s when suggesting ideas for dinner or which plan better suits the client. People are more likely to be engaged if there’s a process in place for their ideas to be put forward and shared with others. Ensuring that those processes are in place will only help to encourage a more satisfying work environment by motivating employees and giving a sense of ownership of the work.

Did You Know?

Employee engagement scores in Canada have remained stagnant since 2010 and in many cases are actually declining. A new study by The Conference Board of Canada reports that only 27 per cent of employees in Canada are highly engaged.

Engagement In Action

In a previous job, my supervisor was looking to add more programs to offer to our clients. She asked each of us what would be something we would want to teach to people, rather than dictating what she thought the programs should be. The only guiding point that was given was that we had to list three different concepts people could learn from our programs. Sure enough, we ended up having a diverse offering of programs covering topics from physical literacy to creative expression to computer analytics.

Our programs had higher attendance rates, with higher quality exercises and feedback from the clients was more positive. Why was this the case? Because we were able to find our own meaning in our work. My supervisor wanted us to be invested in our programs so we would be more accountable for their success or failure, and therefore more engaged when working on them.

What Can You Do About Engagement?

It is in everyone’s best interest to invest in employee engagement to have a more positive, productive and profitable environment at work. Outside of work, people will feel more fulfilled with a greater sense of purpose. Have you ever thought of strategies to promote engagement in the workplace? Do you know if your workplace has a clear definition of employee engagement?

Accountability and intrinsic motivation are two characteristics that are important when thinking about how to encourage an environment where employees will be engaged. But if there is currently no conversation about the working environment, initiating any form of change will be difficult.

Here’s my challenge: start the conversation.

In your network, ask three colleagues what they think the difference is between employee engagement and employee satisfaction.

Let us know the highlights or any new epiphanies that come from these conversations by reaching out via our LinkedIn page for a chance to get featured in future articles.

Tune In Next Time…

While engagement and intrinsic motivation are greatly desired from an employee, it can be tricky to facilitate in the workplace. I’ll be exploring some of the roadblocks that can prevent an employee from being engaged and what barriers organizations come up against when trying to facilitate engagement.

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Emily Grace Peck is the Senior Writer at Jalapeño Employee Engagement in Vancouver, BC, Canada. She has a BFA in Creative Writing from the University of British Columbia and a Masters of Management from the Sauder School of Business.

Jalapeño is bringing their vision of a better workplace to life by pairing their diagnostic platform with full service consulting to foundationally transform employee retention, productivity and engagement. Learn more here.