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The relationship between employee engagement and job satisfaction

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Modern theoreticians define engagement as being the degree in which employee values are consistent with the mission, vision and values of the company. Engagement consists of dimensions such as job involvement, employee satisfaction, enthusiasm and the consensus between the company’s organizational culture and employee behavior.

Employee engagement vs. employee satisfaction

Employee engagement is a multidimensional construct that has direct implications in developing productivity, improving operational processes and the company’s workflow. As the study of employee satisfaction is directly linked to retention and commitment to the company, the study of employee engagement can help in enhancing productivity by assessing factors such as Vitality or Auto-determination.

The study of employee engagement relies heavily on prior studies regarding job satisfaction and organizational commitment levels within the company. The current organizational development methodology attaches the concept of employee engagement to job satisfaction; according to Mark Gatenby, the difference between employee engagement and job satisfaction is that the first can highlight employee dedication, whilst the second can highlight employee motivation.

In terms of research, both concepts can be measured through quantitative instruments (questionnaires and observation sheets). Although both can be transposed through similar statements and gauged using the same scales, differences between the two generally arise from result interpretation.

The necessities of employee engagement

In order for employee engagement to exist in an organization, the hygiene factors identified by Herzberg must first and foremost be at a sufficient level – according to employee standards. In other words, neither employee engagement, nor employee motivation (the second dimension of job satisfaction) cannot be achieved if the general working conditions are considered as unsatisfactory.

Thus, the study of job satisfaction and employee engagement must be processed in the following order: firstly, hygiene factors must be adapted to employee needs, as previously mentioned. Afterwards, employee motivation can be factored into the study of survey topics such as:

  • communication in each department and in the organization;
  • perceptions of middle and top management;
  • retention level among employees;
  • commitment to the company.

Finally, employee engagement can be integrated in surveys which highlight:

  • concentration levels;
  • dedication;
  • energy;
  • job involvement (according to the UWES scales);
  • employee’s perception of the organization;
  • trust in the company’s leadership;
  • client orientation;
  • work/life balance;
  • teamwork;
  • work efficiency.

In this regard, employee engagement can be considered a more complex concept than job satisfaction, being testament to a company’s capacity to create an environment where employees offer the most of their capability and dedication in order to achieve high performance and results.

Engaged employees believe that the values and behavioral norms which the organization promotes are truly lived up and adhered to, leading to a sense of trust and integrity. An engaged employee experiences a blend of job satisfaction, organizational commitment and feelings of ownership and empowerment.

Paving the road to employee engagement: first steps

In order for a company to generate and maintain engagement it must first have a clear understanding regarding a few elements:

  • the level of satisfaction in the company;
  • the degree in which the current organizational culture is in accordance with the formal set of organizational norms;
  • values and the degree in which employees adhere to the company’s objectives;
  • understanding the impact of their contribution to the company’s results.

Having this in mind, the difference between employee engagement and job satisfaction (from a research perspective) is the higher level of complexity of the former.

By diagnosing its engagement level, a company can improve certain personnel management processes, such as performance management, talent management, accurate career pathing and its rewards system. Also, highlighting the level of employee engagement within a company helps the management department pinpoint the necessary culture shifts in order to move on from the current status quo to the desired state.

Defining organizational development programs by diagnosing job satisfaction and employee engagement are factors that can improve business sustainability, and thus increase company performance.

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