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The Difference Between Job Satisfaction and Employee Engagement

Our attitudes dictate much of what we do – and we have thousands of attitudes, according to Essentials of Organizational Behavior: 14th Edition.

Within organizational behavior are attitudes that shape the way employees feel about where they work. These attitudes include perceived organizational support, job involvement, organizational commitment, job satisfaction and employee engagement.

Those last two seem to get thrown around interchangeably, but they are quite different in terms of what they mean. According to ADP, if organizations continue to view these attitudes as the same thing, they could be missing out on important ways to develop and sustain engagement.

What is Job Satisfaction?

Job satisfaction, a positive view of a job based on assessing its various aspects, is generally what people focus on when discussing employee attitudes, according to Essentials of Organizational Behavior: 14th Edition.

If an employee’s job satisfaction measures high, then they are generally happy with their job, while a low job satisfaction indicates a poor view of the job.

Measuring job satisfaction can be simple or complicated, depending on the route human resource professionals decide to take. A simple survey with a “circle one to five based on your satisfaction” can give the needed results, or a more detailed survey that encompasses all facets of a job can paint a more specific picture of how employees feel about their environment.

In a 2017 survey published by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 38% of U.S. employees stated they felt very satisfied with their jobs, while 51% shared they felt satisfied but “to a lesser degree.” Overall, 89% of Americans feel some degree of job satisfaction.

Many of the survey respondents said they felt that respectful treatment of all employees was important to their level of job satisfaction, as well as compensation and trust.

Additionally, the U.S. job market is strong at the moment – with an unemployment rate the lowest it has been in 17 years and high consumer confidence, according to Bankrate.

“With the job market strong, most Americans should have a high degree of job satisfaction,” said Bankrate senior economic analyst Mark Hamrick in an interview.

What is Employee Engagement?

Job satisfaction is important, but it’s just one aspect of employee engagement. An engaged employee is involved, satisfied and enthused with their job. Engaged employees feel passionate about what they do and often perform above expectations, while disengaged employees will complete their work but don’t feel invested in it.

There is ample opportunity to improve the employee engagement rate, according to SHRM. In fact, less than a third of U.S. employees feel like they have engagement with their job, according to Gallup.

Focusing more on increasing employee engagement can help create an environment of innovation, as well as a performance boost and increase in competitive success, according to ADP. Engaged employees drive the company toward its goals, while satisfied employees are there to do their job and nothing more.

How to Improve Employee Attitudes

SHRM lists a few tips for organizations looking to improve employee attitudes, which in turn can increase both productivity and revenue:

  • Gain self-awareness
  • Implement a civility policy and/or training
  • Create programs to teach employees about mediation tactics
  • Tell employees about compensation levels
  • Establish open-door policy and transparency
  • Enhance employee emotional intelligence with feedback and other processes
  • Implement a job analysis process
  • Train employees who show potential

Employee satisfaction is important to an organization, but it’s engagement that will give organizations the driven, motivated employee needed to move the company toward its goals and beyond. According to ADP, organizations should look to create a “dynamic approach” to both of these attitudes that can measure them more frequently to find trends and actionable insights.

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