Every employee wants to feel satisfied with their job. Typically satisfied employees feel an overall sense of contentment with their salary, perks, work environment, safety, and resources. They start their workday on time, meet expectations, and feel the job quenches their ambition.

Job satisfaction is a good thing. A high level of job satisfaction attracts new candidates and keeps retention at the status quo, providing fertile ground for employee engagement to flourish. 

Engaged employees are also satisfied with their jobs yet also demonstrate an additional commitment and enthusiasm for their work and the company overall. Organizational development expert Dr. Paul Marciano points out that “engaged employees are in the game for the sake of the game; they believe in the cause of the organization.” They aren’t just there to get paid (though that’s a big part of it). Instead, they’re eager to contribute above and beyond the call of duty. 

Generally, engaged employees are inspired and feel a deep emotional connection to the job. They have at least one close friendship. They feel motivated to contribute, and their contributions are appreciated. They understand their job expectations and choose to exceed these expectations through dedicated work. Their verve for work is contagious. They are aware that their work is valuable and linked to a greater purpose. They contribute their skills, knowledge, and talent with passion, eager to thrive in their role, help others, and elevate the company. 

Employee engagement is integral to driving business success

Satisfied employees get the job done. Engaged employees demonstrate the high performance and innovation that can only come from enthusiasm for their work. As a result, engagement drives retention and productivity and ultimately greater customer satisfaction and company profit as well.

How can companies upgrade from satisfaction to engagement? 

Each employee’s level of engagement depends on their personality and aspirations and external factors, such as the surrounding societal culture and values. However, companies can do their part to support employees in climbing the rungs from job satisfaction to employee engagement with these practices:

  • Make a positive first impression. The hiring and onboarding processes enable employers to start on the right foot. HR professionals can use the onboarding period to leverage new hires’ initial excitement and enthusiasm by encouraging new ideas, creating networking opportunities, and outlining how their role connects to larger company objectives. This will build a positive relationship with employees and establish a foundation for growth and high performance.
  • Measure satisfaction and engagement over time. HR professionals can gauge satisfaction by measuring the eNPS (Employee net promoter score) to determine how eager employees are to recommend their company to their friends. To measure engagement, companies can use a survey like Gallup’s Q12 survey to help HR leaders understand what deters or drives performance. HR can also employ a third party to guide small focus groups, enabling employees to discuss their engagement with a neutral group leader. 
  • Encourage employee autonomy. People thrive when they have the freedom to exercise independence. Treating employees as essential stakeholders of the company and giving them responsibility allows them to become valuable contributors.  
  • Offer learning and development opportunities. Constantly expanding their repertoire allows employees to feel stimulated and connected to their work. According to Deloitte’s 2019 Human Capital Trends Survey, people consider the “opportunity to learn” one of the main reasons for accepting a job. 
  • Recognize employee achievements. Showing recognition for employees’ hard work, whether publicly or leaving a handwritten note on their desk, can make a powerful impression. Thanking employees shows them that they are appreciated and valued. Remember the last time someone said a heartfelt “thank you” to you? These simple words enter the heart and can strengthen employee motivation, sometimes even for years.   

Job satisfaction is a necessary first step for developing employee engagement. Yet if leadership does not level up from satisfaction to engagement, the employee experience can become stagnant. Nurturing employee engagement enables employees to actualize their potential, elevate their performance, and contribute to their business success.


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From Annie Lubin

Annie grew up in Brooklyn, New York. On a Saturday afternoon, you'll likely find her curled up with her cats reading a magazine profile about ordinary people doing extraordinary things.