Updated: Oct 15, 2021
What is Employee Satisfaction?
Let us deconstructing and analyzing the meaning of employee satisfaction and understand why satisfied employees are not what your company is looking for.
Employee satisfaction or Job satisfaction is a measure of workers'
contentment towards their job. It shares how employees like or dislike certain
facets of their jobs, such as the nature of work or the way they are supervised.
Employee satisfaction is typically measured using an employee satisfaction
survey. These surveys provide a comprehensive view of how satisfied the
employees are. Factors that influence employee satisfaction addressed in
these surveys might include compensation, workload, perceptions of
management, flexibility, teamwork, resources, etc..
These things are all important to companies who want to keep their
employees content and reduce turnover, but employee satisfaction is only a
part of the overall solution. In fact, for some organizations, satisfied
employees are people the organization might be better off without.
Satisfaction doesn't mean high performance or engagement. HR ideas and
strategies focused on how to improve employee satisfaction oftentimes
have results that demoralize high performers.
Employee satisfaction and employee engagement are similar concepts on
the surface, and many people use these terms interchangeably. The
importance of knowing the difference between satisfaction and
engagement is critical for an organization to make strategic decisions to
create a culture of engagement. Employee satisfaction covers the basic
concerns and needs of employees. It is a good starting point, but it fails to
account for the bigger picture and what really matters.
By contrast, Passion, commitment, and most importantly, discretionary
Engaged employees are a key link to customer satisfaction, company
reputation and overall stakeholder value.
Engaged employees are motivated to do more than the bare minimum
needed in order to keep their jobs. They have a strong sense of purpose
and leadership. They love to be challenged. Engaged employees are the
engine of a company, and their performance is proof of this. Engaged
employees are a key link to customer satisfaction, company reputation and
overall stakeholder value.
The importance of engagement cannot be overstated. Satisfied employees
are merely happy or content with their jobs and the status quo. For some,
this might involve doing as little work as possible. They may resent their
jobs, tend to gripe to co-workers and drag down office morale. An
employee satisfaction survey will not diagnose key factors that can help an
organization improve engagement and performance.
Turnover vs. Unwanted Turnover
Some level of turnover is healthy for all companies. Employees who are not
adding value or who are not a good fit for the company should leave, making
way for fresh new perspectives and new energy. We could call this healthy
turnover. By contrast, unwanted turnover happens when a company loses
talented employees that they want to keep.
Talented and motivated employees expect more from companies. For
these employees, job satisfaction includes a different set of criteria. They
want to be engaged and empowered. They want to be challenged and
pushed. They want their work to have meaning. They want a sense of
purpose. They are ambitious and will strive to achieve their professional
goals. A culture of continuous improvement and the importance of
professional development opportunities for employees to grow and
advance their careers, to better their performance, are key factors that
contribute to the engagement of high performers.
To foster a culture of engagement, HR should lead the way in the design,
measurement and evaluation of proactive workplace policies and practices
that help attract and retain talent with skills and competencies necessary
for growth and sustainability.
Why is employee satisfaction a potential problem?
The problem with employee satisfaction is that it does not focus on the
things that are important to your most talented staff. A happy or content
employee might be quite satisfied with a job that requires very little effort.
This employee might be perfectly content doing the bare minimum required
to keep his or her job. These employees are likely "very satisfied" with their
jobs. They aren’t empowered when given the opportunity to receive larger
responsibilities, training for expanding their roles and more involvement in
As opposed to satisfied employees, engaged employees add value by
pushing limits, driving growth and innovation. Organizations that embrace a
value-centric, engagement focus, too, have to push limits. Companies with
an engagement strategy provide informal and formal learning experiences
in order to create significant opportunities for employees so employees feel
valued and recognized for their work. Engaged employees will often snatch
up these opportunities, satisfied employees often will not.
Sole focus on employee satisfaction surveys without strategies to increase engagement can lead an organization down the wrong path. As a company,
if you focus on increasing the wrong kind of employee satisfaction, you risk entrenching those employees who are adding the least value while driving your
most talented employees out.
Satisfaction and Engagement Semantics
Many people use the terms "satisfaction" and "engagement" to refer to not
just the basic core needs of job satisfaction, but also the added meaning,
motivation, and commitment of engagement. There is nothing wrong with
that. As long as your company measures and understands the importance
of striving for the factors that we include in our definition of engagement, it
really does not matter what you call it.
By employing an engagement survey, asking the right questions,
measuring the right factors with benchmarked results, questions and
results backed by statistics, your organization can construct a strategic
plan to improve employee engagement and, in turn, performance. If this
is what you're doing, call it what you like.
Popular Employee Engagement Article Topics and Resources:
What is Employee Engagement?
Employee Satisfaction vs. Employee Engagement
Sample Employee Survey Questions
Employee Engagement Dashboard Examples