I have been concerned about employee job satisfaction and engagement and their effects on the business results for a while, likewise, many other HR and non-HR practitioners. Going into the details of these two topics and measuring the status of employee job satisfaction and engagement in an organization has always been the role of consulting houses, at most. Nowadays, this is changing as many businesses are starting to realize that such information is only valuable as it accumulates throughout the years. When such information builds up, trends will appear and conclusions becomes easier to draw, which will later help designing HR programs and schemes.
Although employee job satisfaction and engagement seems to be one topic, research suggests they are not. In this article, I will explore some of the differences between them, offer some ways to measure them, and discuss the results of recently published reports.
According to Locke (1968), job satisfaction is defined as the gratifying feelings that come from achievement. Many published papers found that job satisfaction is related to turnover, and many other workforce issues including job-performance. In other words, the lower the job satisfaction rate is, the higher the turnover. When an employee job satisfaction rate is high, the employee is more likely to come to work from 8 to 5, or whatever the business hours are in an organization. However, this is not an indication of commitment and whether or not the employee is welling to walk the extra mile. If the business situation requires an employee to work overtime the higher rate of his or her job satisfaction, is not a guarantee that this employee will work overtime without being asked to. Nonetheless, it might be sufficient to retain the employee for quite some time without hearing him or her complaining.
One way to measure job satisfaction is by using questionnaires. The Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire (MSQ) is known as one of the most popular measuring devices. The short form of questionnaire consists of twenty questions related to the following aspects of job satisfaction:
- Ability utilization
- Company policies and practices
- Moral values
- Social service
- Social status
- Supervision human related
- Supervision technical
- Working conditions
In a recent data that I have gathered from 97 banking employees in Saudi Arabia (Link), and using a customized version of The MSQ, I have found that advancement, security, and sense of accomplishment are the top three predictors of job satisfaction.
The challenge today is not just retaining talented people, but fully engaging them, capturing their minds and hearts at each stage of their work lives.
Kaye, B., & Jordan-Evans, S. (2003).
Employee engagement is defined by some researchers as the commitment an employee has to the organization. In early published papers, we find that job satisfaction and organizational commitment are paired at most of the times.
A positive attitude held by the employee towards the organisation and its values. An engaged employee is aware of the business context, and works with colleagues to improve performance within the job for the benefit of the organisation. The organisation must work to develop and nurture engagement, which requires a two-way relationship between employee and employer.
The Institute of Employment Studies
Now that I have said earlier that job satisfaction is not what pushes the employee to walk the extra mile, employee engagement does. Not only that but also, a report published by the Corporate Leadership Council in 2004 shows that high employee engagement may lead in as much as 87% reduction in the desire to leave an organization (intent to leave). More interestingly, in their article, The Relationship of Engagement, Job Satisfaction and Turnover Intentions, Alarcon & Edwards presents the results of their research, which “indicated that engagement was a significant predictor of job satisfaction,…”. In short, I can say that satisfied employees are not necessarily engaged; however, engaged employees most likely are!
Measuring employee engagement
As with job satisfaction, employee engagement could be measured using questionnaires. Gallup’s Q12 appear to be the most popular engagement questionnaire. However, SHRM uses a different methodology in assessing the state of employee engagement. In their recently published report, Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: The Road to Economic Recovery, SHRM evaluated some 34 aspects of employee engagement categorized under eight categories:
- Career development
- Relationship with management
- Work environment
- Conditions for engagements
- Engagement opinion
- Engagement behaviors
Recent job-satisfaction/employee engagement reports
Gallup’s reports, usually, shows the status of employee engagement while SHRM’s shows both employee job satisfaction and engagement. I won’t discuss that into details, however, I will try to put the numbers closer and leave it to you, the reader, to look behind the scene!
SHRM’s 2013 report indicates that “81% of U.S. employees reported overall satisfaction with their current job, unchanged from 2012.” The same report indicated that engagement conditions, and behaviors and opinions reported a rate between 66-79%. On the other hand, Gallup’s engagement report of 2013 shows an engagement rate of 30% in the United States, 13% worldwide. These variations make me wonder, should organizations follow the methodology of Gallup, SHRM, others, or even develop their own?
In conclusion, measuring the employee job satisfaction and engagement is no longer outsourced by many organizations. Jobs are being created around it, which is a sign that organizations are starting to realize the importance of data accumulation in this regards. Employee job satisfaction and engagement are two close topics, yet they are different. Both employee job satisfaction and engagement are correlated with turnover and job-performance. Unlike employee engagement, job satisfaction can only keep talents for a short period. Whatever measuring devices and methodologies an organization decides to use, Gallup’s Q12, SHRM’s, The Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire or others, consistency is what brings valuable data. We have seen above the differences, which could be very large! It is interesting to see monetary compensation jumps to the top of SHRM’s reports, yet, advancement, security, and achievement appears to be of importance at all times!