By Chad T. Ahern
A question I often get is what's the difference between employee satisfaction and employee engagement? So many people seem to believe that the two terms represent essentially the same thing.
Employee satisfaction "(also known as job satisfaction), is the extent to which an individual is happy with their job and the role it plays in their life." (HRZone.com; other similar definitions available here and here.)
Companies usually measure this to find out if employees like their salaries, benefits, work spaces, etc. In general the company -- in particular, HR / People Operations professionals -- are trying to assess whether their employees like what they are GETTING from the organization.
Employee engagement, in contrast to satisfaction, is a measure of how committed, and emotionally connected an employee is to their work so they contribute their best, discretionary efforts. Another way to think of it is to consider it a measure of how well the employer is fulfilling the "core unwritten social contract between employee and employer...'if you do these things for us, we'll do what the company needs of us.'" (Wagner & Harter, pg. xi). At it's core employee engagement is about what employees are willing to GIVE.
To measure employee engagement, Gallup spend nearly a decade developing the Q12 Assessment and identified three types of employees:
Why The Difference Matters
Most national surveys place employee satisfaction around 80%-85%, meaning that most workers like what their employers provide them. By comparison, employee engagement continues to hover around 33%.
There are two critical conclusions these two numbers highlight:
So before you conduct your next employee satisfaction survey, consider this...
Do you want to find out how people are enjoying what you provide, or do you want to know how willing they are to contribute to your success?
Both are valuable, but only one will push your organization forward.