Worker Satisfaction Is Overrated

 
 
By Deb Perelman  |  Posted 2007-08-22
 
 
 

What's the difference between a satisfied and an engaged employee? Only everything, argues Globoforce, a Westborough, Mass., work force solutions company.

The crux of the difference between the two is discretionary effect, or in laymen's terms, the likelihood that an employee will go the extra mile to get a job done. A satisfied worker probably will not, but an engaged one doesn't think twice before pulling out all of the stops.

"It's amazing how engagement has come out of nowhere to become one of the biggest buzzwords in the HR industry. ... We've all worked at companies where employees had a spring in their step and enjoyed their work--those employees are engaged, and are willing to work above and beyond the call of duty," Eric Mosley, CEO of Globoforce told eWEEK.

It's not that satisfied workers don't want to do their job; on the contrary, by labeling themselves as satisfied with their jobs, they're saying that they are fairly content with the status quo. But it doesn't mean that they'd be willing to go out of their way to do better, because they're not sure that there is any reason to bother.

"Satisfaction is a measurement of the past; engagement is more future-looking," said Mosley.

A recent study by the Corporate Leadership Council, a human resources research company, found that increased engagement could be the "tipping point" in retaining employees; in fact, increased engagement was found to lead to a 57 percent improvement in discretionary effort.

Furthermore, increased discretionary effort improved performance by 20 percent and reduced attrition by 87 percent. Highly engaged organizations grew profits three times faster than their competitors.

Still, the concept of engagement is often overlooked by managers because many erroneously believed that it was a personality type issue, in which some workers were predisposed to be engaged and others were not.

"Employees were saying that they weren't engaged because they felt underappreciated. They felt like they could work much harder, but nobody would notice. As soon as workers feel that way, it's over, and you'll never really get anything extra out of them," said Mosley.

Beyond a lack of recognition, unclear demands had a significant impact on the engagement of employees.

"Factors that related to confusion of work specifications, roles and what they are to do on a daily basis radically reduces productivity and happiness in employees. Workers with confused roles can easily blame others when things go wrong because they feel that vacuum and apathy sets in," said Mosley.

Nowadays, bosses are being encouraged to consider engagement something that can be won in employees through good management.

"We've all been there; we've all been disengaged, or have become disengaged due to poor management or a lack of recognition of our accomplishments. It's up to the manager to recover this discretionary work enthusiasm," said Mosley.

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