According to the Oxford dictionary, the meaning of ‘satisfied’ is

Contented / Pleased

On the other hand, engaged (apart from the kind that happens between two people in lurve) means

Busy / Occupied.

When we consider the distinction between employees who are engaged and those who are satisfied, the difference between them is much bigger and more important than suggested by the dictionary definition. A truly engaged employee is someone who is considerably more than simply a busy worker.

And whilst both satisfied and engaged employees will triumph over unhappy or dissatisfied teams every day of the week, in order to have a winning workplace culture, you need to be shooting for engagement not just satisfaction.

What is the difference?

There are several crucial differences between the two groups of employees.

Satisfied employees may or may not be productive vs Engaged employees work with passion

Satisfied employees put time, but not necessarily energy into doing their job vs Engaged employees perform at a consistently high level

Satisfied employees adopt a “wait and see what happens” attitude vs Engaged employees are innovative and help move the business forward [source: adapted from Gallup]

Ok I get the difference – now how about you tell me why it matters.

Working to ensure your employees are happy and satisfied is an important step towards building a good workplace culture.

However, if you want to have the kind of workplace culture that attracts and retains top talent, which in turn helps drive your bottom line, and if you want to turn a good culture into great, then you need to focus on making sure your people are engaged.

Having engaged employees is a crucial  step in providing a top employee experience which in turn leads to a great workplace culture and ultimately business success.

Engaged employees go the extra mile because they have a strong emotional connection to the company.


Any tips for us on how to increase engagement?

Given that this is my bag, the stuff that I am passionate about,  then yes actually, I have a whole suite of tips and ideas on how SMEs can improve engagement.

Which ideas would work best for your business however,  depend on what stage you are at in your workplace culture journey.

For example, are you just at the stage of finding out what kind of culture you have? [If you want a quick way to discover this, then take this super quick quiz].

Or have you already completed some kind of cultural survey and now are at the vital action implementation stage?

Different solutions would work best for each particular circumstance.

Here though are three suggestions that are important at every stage of the journey.

  1. Make role expectations clear

  • Give your team direction by showing them what is expected of them
  • Help them understand what success looks like in their job, and to be clear on priorities
  • Ensure they understand how their contributions impact the team and the wider organisation
  • Regularly review both individual and team performance and provide feedback post review.
  1. Recognise good work

  • Regularly praise positive efforts of individuals and the team
  • Be aware people like receiving praise in different ways – the extroverts in your team no doubt love posts about them on the intranet or your internal social media; but the introverts may dread this and prefer face:face individualised feedback
  • Know that praise from our teammates is also valuable, so find ways and encourage your team to feel free to recognise each other’s efforts.
  1. Make people feel like they are heard

  • By asking for and listening to your team’s input, people feel valued
  • Valued employees are more likely to remain with your business longer as they feel they have a vested interest in the success of your business
  • Remember you don’t know everything about every job – and the people actually doing the job may have great ideas for improvement that you haven’t considered
  • Be responsive to the opinions you have received – if you can’t do what has been suggested, or in the way proposed, that’s fine but make sure you thank them for their opinions and explain why you won’t be implementing their ideas at this stage.

Let’s say I was convinced that engaged employees matters. How do I find out if and how engaged my people are?

There are a number of ways to find out if your employees are actively engaged, not engaged or disengaged.

There are a plethora of online engagement survey providers such as Culture Amp and Gallup (I mention those two not to plug them – no promotional deals here!- but because I am very familiar with them), or you could design your own version via survey monkey.

Or alternatively you can engage the services of a specialist consulting service such as Workology Co. Our Cultural Health Checks are conducted via face to face interviews with all, or a broad cross section of your people; or we can facilitate Focus Groups either as the next step after Cultural Health Checks or as a stand alone option.

If you want to chat about how you can move your workplace culture towards great by having engaged instead of just satisfied employees, then open the link and let’s book a time to chat.


Credit where credit is due: This  blog was inspired by my recent participation in and materials received from the Gallup Engagement Champions course.