The Difference Between Employee Engagement and Employee Satisfaction

5 min read
Dec 27, 2016

employee engagement vs employee satisfaction

While the terms “employee engagement” and “employee satisfaction” may sound sort of like the same thing, they are actually quite different. Yes, employers should try to make sure their workers are both engaged with their jobs and satisfied with their work. But, if they wish to build a strong workforce, they need to understand the differences between the two terms.

First, some brief definitions:

  • Employee engagement is something that occurs when workers are committed to helping their companies achieve all of their goals. Engaged employees are motivated to show up to work every day and do everything within their power to help their companies succeed.
  • Employee satisfaction is the state of a worker enjoying their job — but not necessarily being engaged with it. Imagine the employee who gets to show up to work early and leave late without contributing much or breaking a sweat.

While engaged employees are satisfied with their jobs, satisfied employees are not necessarily engaged with theirs.

Some companies only care about whether their employees are satisfied. When much of the staff is satisfied with their jobs, they’re content with showing up to the same office every day and aren’t on the lookout for the next job. Because they’re satisfied, their companies have low turnover rates — which, in some instances, convinces management that everything is just peachy.

The era of peer and personal accountability

While satisfied employees may handle their job responsibilities decently, they’ll never go above and beyond. This is the key differentiation between engaged employees and satisfied workers. When employees are engaged, not only are they happy to have their jobs, they are always thinking about how their company can be better. This might entail streamlining business processes, brainstorming new product or service ideas, or never hesitating to give a coworker a helping hand when it’s needed.

For those reasons, while companies should certainly be interested in ensuring their employees are satisfied with the work they’re doing, they should be more concerned with measuring and improving employee engagement.


What Factors Contribute to Engagement?

According to Gallup’s Engagement Measurement Model, employee engagement is the sum of four distinct categories:


01. Entitlements

For employees to be engaged, they need to know precisely what’s expected of them and what their job responsibilities are. They also need to be equipped with the tools and technologies that enable them to do their job well — and relatively easily. You can’t expect your workers to love showing up to the office every day if you’re relying on technology that’s more than a decade old.


02. Contributions

Engaged employees are able to contribute to their organizations in a measurable way on a daily basis. Their superiors often compliment them on a job well done. It’s not all work all the time either; bosses care about the well-being of their workers, inside and outside of the office.

Managers of engaged employees also understand that their workers have their sights set on moving forward at some point during their careers. To that end, they are interested in helping their employees develop professionally.


03. Community

Whereas satisfied employees might show up to work, ignore their colleagues, and listen to music on their iPods all day, engaged employees love the people they work with. Some of their coworkers are even considered their actual friends outside the office.

Engaged employees feel as though they have a voice at their company. When they speak, people listen and respond. Engaged employees believe that the work they are doing is invaluable to their companies. If they were to start producing less, everyone would notice.


04. Growth

Engaged employees have adequate opportunities for professional development at their organizations. On one hand, that means the opportunity to attend symposiums, conferences, and trade shows. On another, it means the ability to get promoted — or at least interview from a position that carries more responsibility.

Again, compare all of that to the satisfied employee who is simply happy to get a paycheck without having to bust their tail.

Gallup’s Engagement Measurement Model.png


How Your Company Can Improve Engagement

Are your employees engaged? If not, don’t sweat it. By changing the way your organization operates — even slightly — you could increase the chances your workers become engaged. With that in mind, here are six simple tactics you can use to increase engagement:


01. Recognize your employees’ hard work

When your employees do a great job on a significant project, by all means, tell them how proud you are. Recognizing your employees’ efforts regularly (but not constantly) can help improve engagement.


02. Invest in professional development

According to our Engagement Report, only 25% of employees say their companies offer adequate development opportunities. Invest in your team’s future and they’ll return the favor.



03. Let employees pursue pet projects

Doing the same thing at work every single day gets tiring quickly. When employees have the opportunity to work in other departments and tackle projects they’re interested in, they’re more likely to be engaged.


04. Embrace remote working and flexible scheduling

Great perks can create engaged employees. If you haven’t done so already, let your employees work from home (at least occasionally). You may also want to look into flexible scheduling. Your workers will be happier if they can work when and where they want.


05. Plan team-building activities regularly

Employees are more likely to be engaged when they get along with their coworkers. Schedule team-building activities — like happy hours or potlucks — so that your employees can get to know each other better. You never know when an amazing friendship will be made over a beer.


06. Treat your staffers like adults

Anyone who’s ever had a boss that micromanaged every task will tell you how awful it is. You hired your workers to do a job. They are talented enough to tackle their work responsibilities without having to worry about you peering over their shoulder every five minutes. Treat your employees like adults and let them enjoy some measure of autonomy.

If you want to take your company to the next level, you should strive to produce as many engaged employees as you can. A few investments in engagement can go a long way toward strengthening the foundation of your company — which translates into a happier workforce and a healthier bottom line.



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