Built Intelligence

Is employee satisfaction enough? By Andrea Newton

Is employee satisfaction enough? By Andrea Newton

Over the years I have worked with lots of organisations who have conducted employee surveys and often these are referred to as “Employee Engagement” surveys, designed to indicate just how engaged employees are with their work and to possibly highlight any areas of concern.

However, something struck me recently when I was creating a workshop for managers, “The Shadow You Cast” and digging into the difference that great leadership can make, and that is that many of those surveys measured Employee Satisfaction rather than Engagement.

While the terms may sound similar, they are actually quite different, and yes, whilst it is important that employees are satisfied, engagement is the thing that takes it to the next level really.

Let’s think about what they both actually mean. Commonly used definitions include:

  • Employee engagement is something that occurs when workers are committed to helping their companies achieve all of their goals. Engaged employees are motivated to rock up regularly and do everything within their power to help their companies succeed. Engaged employees go the extra mile, because they want to.
  • Employee satisfaction is more to do with how much an employee is enjoying their job — but not necessarily being engaged with it. Satisfaction tends to be about how happy they are with the work, role, reward, recognition and relationships within it – do they enjoy it, does it give them satisfaction, are they essentially happy? And whilst engaged employees are satisfied with their jobs, satisfied employees are not necessarily engaged with theirs. And that’s where the difference lies.

Perhaps some organisations will only care about the level of satisfaction because that way people show up each day, they are not on the lookout for another job, therefore the turnover rates are steady, people don’t leave – maybe that’s what is being measured?

Perhaps it is enough that satisfied employees will do their jobs well, although they will not necessarily go above and beyond and that is the key difference.

When employees are engaged not only will they do their job well but they will be prepared to go the extra mile, they will suggest improvements and innovation, they will have a pride in their work and their organisation that will manifest itself in other ways and contribute to the reputation of your business. For all those reasons, and more besides, whilst satisfaction matters, engagement is where it is at.

But how do we make that happen?

Again in my experience over the last 26 years (yes, I am that old!) I have seen Action Plans generated on receipt of the results of such surveys. Generally these are created between HR and Line Managers where they seek to address “low scores” and work on improvements. I have seen systems in place whereby managers present their action plans to HRD’s, where they are discussed at Board level, where managers pull their team together to share results with them – and I have also seen this whole process repeated again the following year, where little has changed and people lose faith and get frustrated.

My belief, after all this time, is that one of the things that is missing from those action plans is “develop our managers so that they can create a climate that drives high engagement by building great relationships” … and actually, at the very crux of that, enable them to have conversations that matter.

We know that visible leadership is so important, supported by a clear line of sight in terms of what good (and the future) looks like. We know that where employees are consulted, their opinions sought, their concerns heard and their feedback ACTED upon, engagement flourishes. We know that where managers walk the talk and don’t just have words painted on the wall in reception, where a coaching conversation is more likely than a barked instruction, and where people feel valued, engagement tends to show up. Gallup’s research clearly points out that the primary driver of engagement is the quality of the relationship people have with their immediate line manager – The Shadow You Cast – and so the ability to build positive, trusting, psychologically safe relationships where conversations happen, matters so much!

I believe there are 7 Significant Conversations that all managers ought to be able to have. Conversations can change organisations, increase results, improve standards, develop relationships – conversations can even save lives, but trust needs to be present, for both parties and that isn’t something you can buy in a bottle at Boots and sprinkle liberally around. That is something that we CAN build though through actions that line managers can take – day by day – so how about we forget the Action Plans, the presentations to the HRD, the roadshows, the pie charts and the traffic light systems and invest in the capability and confidence of our management population if we are serious about business success?

About the Author

Andrea Newton has been helping organisations develop the skill and confidence to have Confident Conversations and get comfortable with the uncomfortable for over 21 years. She has worked across a range of industry sectors and is happiest working in a way that is practical, down to earth, direct and uncomplicated. She prefers a mug to a cup and prefers places that call a spade a shovel ... if you would like to benefit from her expertise and ability to make a room full of people comfortable with subjects as sensitive as suicide, then you can find out more about her at www.confidentconversations.co.uk or https://www.linkedin.com/in/andrea-newton-cc/

Sign up to the latest free webinars on NEC3, NEC4, CDM, JCT and more.