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Employee Satisfaction

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

strategic decisions.

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

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