Monday, October 12, 2009

Are You Measuring Engagement vs. Only Employee Satisfaction

Most "employers of choice" do some form of employee "satisfaction" survey. The question is: Is it worthwhile, and if so, why?

In the current economic climate, one might be tempted to ask: "Why bother?" With unemployment at record high numbers, one might assume that employers have employees "over a barrel," that they (the employees) don’t have many other options, so it's not necessary to go out of our way to give them what they want.

This argument fails on (at least) two levels. Even overlooking the crass opportunism of such an argument, theatre operators need to recognize that while overall national unemployment rates climb to record levels, the current jobless rate for working-age teenagers (our key employment demographic) remains little changed over the last several years, at 21.6 percent.

The other way in which the "over a barrel" thesis might fail would be if we were only measuring satisfaction. But most companies that do this "right" aren't measuring mere satisfaction; they're measuring engagement.

What's the difference? In a nutshell, satisfaction is simply how happy or content your employees are. Engagement is a measure of their level of motivation and their potential for discretionary effort.

Big difference.

While satisfaction is certainly a component—or driver—of engagement, so are many other things, like trust, company pride, feeling valued, commitment, and feeling your work is significant or relevant. Given that definition, it's easy to see how someone could be satisfied, but not engaged. Having a bunch of happy employees might make us feel all warm and fuzzy inside; but it’s not going to necessarily have any impact on the business.