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Employee Engagement: Is Being Satisfied Enough?

The Chairman and CEO of Gallup, Jim Clifton, wrote an interesting article recently 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 this metric. (You really should take the time to read his short article fully to get a sense of what he is saying.)

In the article he points out that what people are "looking for (is) meaningful, fulfilling work" and that our dream is to have a job where we:

  • 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 our God-given strengthens every single day."

Clifton notes, "Employees don’t want to be “satisfied” as much as they want to be engaged."

And engagement, in my book, means:

  • 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 though I'm not technically an owner;
  • being listened to and knowing my input is wanted, valued and matters, even if it doesn't always result in things going the way I'd like;
  • trusting me to do the right thing, and extending grace when I screw up, assuming it's an infrequent occurrence;
  • 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.

I think 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."

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