The Important Difference Between Employee Satisfaction and Employee Engagement

April 10, 2018

For years, healthcare organizations have dedicated time and resources to improve employee satisfaction. And, for good reason – according to a recent report by The Conference Board, less than half of people in the U.S. workforce are satisfied with their jobs. Poor employee satisfaction can cause low workplace morale – and, it can result in decreased employee engagement.

There is much debate about the difference between employee satisfaction and employee engagement. Employee engagement is a newer term that has been adopted by human resources professionals over the last several years – but how does it differ from employee satisfaction? How are they linked? Is one more important than another?
According to an ADP white paper, employee satisfaction is defined as, “a measurement of an employee’s ‘happiness’ with current job and conditions; it does not measure how much effort the employee is willing to expend.” Satisfaction could pertain to an employee’s feelings about their specific role, organizational management, compensation, benefits and more.

The same white paper defines employee engagement as, “a measurement of an employee’s emotional commitment to an organization; it takes into account the amount of discretionary effort an employee expends on behalf of the organization.” Engaged employees are willing to go above and beyond to improve productivity and exceed business objectives.

ADP notes that satisfaction and engagement are different but related measurements – which is important to keep in mind, especially for healthcare organizations. Both low satisfaction and low engagement can impact morale and result in costly high turnover. But, it is low engagement that can most severely impact a healthcare organization’s bottom line and the safety of its staff and patients.

Strategies to Improve Satisfaction
A deflated workplace culture as a result of poor employee satisfaction will almost always end in turnover. A high turnover rate in any organization is not only inconvenient, but can be a significant expenditure. The Center for American Progress estimates that replacing a single employee costs approximately 20 percent of their annual salary. In addition, organizations will need to bear the costs associated with the recruitment and training of their replacement and will face a loss in knowledge and expertise that will take time to remedy.
To help ensure that satisfaction remains high, human resources professionals must look beyond standard compensation increases. Consider reviewing benefits packages – do the benefits offered make sense for the workforce? Perhaps additional benefits such as retirement savings plans or student loan repayment options will make employees feel more valued. Planned offsite events can also help to improve employee relations and create a positive work environment. Further, organizations can implement company-wide professional development initiatives or offer leadership training opportunities to prove to employees that they are investing in their future and want to see them grow within the organization.

Engagement and the Bottom Line
When it comes to engagement, the potential negative impact is even greater. The Queen’s School of Business and the Gallup Organization estimate that disengaged workers have 37 percent higher absenteeism and 18 percent lower productivity. Disengagement can also put a business at risk for a higher rate of workplace incidents. Organizations that reported low employee engagement experienced 49 percent more accidents and 60 percent more errors. Disengaged workforces contributed to their companies experiencing 16 percent lower profitability and 65 percent lower share price over time.

To help increase the level of employee engagement, human resources professionals should work directly with company leadership to implement strategies that help to create a positive atmosphere and an environment conducive to retaining employees. For example, morale tends to be lower when employees feel like their work isn’t recognized or appreciated. Praising employees for their hard work, providing constructive feedback and appropriately compensating people for their efforts can go a long way.

In addition, ensuring that healthcare industry workers receive the right training can positively impact engagement. Employees who take training seriously and prioritize safety are the ones who are most invested in the future success of the organization. For example, a Gallup study found that employees who understand their role and what is expected of them experience 10 to 20 percent fewer safety incidents.

It is clear that in order to be successful, healthcare companies need to not only prioritize employee satisfaction, but employee engagement, as well. In the end, a satisfied and engaged workforce can help to improve clinical outcomes by lowering the risk of expensive complications and reducing the cost of insurance premiums.

Carl Bloomfield, AAI
Managing Director, Vice President
The Graham Building
Philadelphia, PA, 19102

Bette McNee, RN, NHA
Senior Clinical Risk Management Consultant
The Graham Building
Philadelphia, PA, 19102




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