Employee Engagement: Is Being Satisfied Enough?

by | Customer Experience, Employee Engagement, Growing Business


The Chairman and CEO of Gallup, Jim Clifton, wrote an interesting article in 2014 titled, “Employee Satisfaction Doesn’t Matter“. The title alone may cause some to cringe and gasp, especially if one doesn’t read the article in its entirety.

I won’t dwell on the comments he makes on employee satisfaction as a measure of company culture, except to say Clifton disputes the value of ’employee satisfaction’ metric. (Take the time to read his short article to get a sense of what he is saying.)

In the article, Clifton points out that what people are looking for is “meaningful, fulfilling work.” He says that what employees want/dream is to have a job where they:

  • Work for a great manager or boss who cares about our development
  • Work for a company that focuses on and develops our strengths
  • Have the opportunity to use their “God-given strengthens every single day.”

Employees Want To Be Engaged

He goes on to say, Employees don’t want to be “satisfied” as much as they want to be engaged.”

And what does engagement look like? How about …

  • the opportunity to have a positive impact on the work I do and the company I work for;
  • being a valued partner in the organization, not simply one cog in a very large (or very small) wheel;
  • having a sense of ownership for the work I do and the company I work for, even if I’m not an owner;
  • being listened to and knowing my input is not only heard but also wanted and valued;
  • trusting me to do the right thing, and extending grace when a mistake occurs, assuming they’re infrequent;
  • accountability for my behaviour, and coaching to help me grow and develop;
  • appreciation for my position and my contribution, whether I’m a janitor, a sales clerk or a team leader.

Employees Don’t Want To Be Satisfied?

Clifton sums it up well when he says, “Employees don’t want to be “satisfied” as much as they want to be engaged. What they want most is a great boss who cares about their development, and a company that focuses on and develops their strengths.”

The late Peter Drucker said ““Effective leadership is not about making speeches or being liked; leadership is defined by results not attributes.”

I believe Drucker is right and that those best able to achieve superior results are those who know how to empower and engage those they lead and to develop and grow their strengths, far beyond the strengths and abilities they may have themselves.

But, this isn’t simply a strategy, it’s a mindset. Leaders who really get this, or who really want to get it and work at it, will tap into a wealth of ideas, resources and productivity that will benefit themselves, those who report to them and their organizations.

In fact, Kevin Kruse wrote in the Forbes article Employee Engagement: The Wonder Drug For Customer Satisfaction:

“I’ve tracked over 30 studies that show how engagement correlates to decreases in absenteeism, turnover, accidents, and defects, while it also correlates to increases customer service, productivity, sales, and profits. The suggested causality is that engagement—the emotional commitment one has to their organization and its goals—drives higher levels of discretionary effort.”