In our blog, “Are Your Employees Engaged or Just Satisfied,” we reviewed some of the differences between employee engagement and employee satisfaction. Satisfied employees operate under a transactional relationship—“Because the company gives me X, I am willing to give X worth of effort.” As Herzberg would say, these elements are “hygiene factors”—they must be present, but do not necessarily result in engagement. Such elements include appropriate compensation, safety, basic recognition, and appropriate working conditions, to name just a few.
On the other hand, engaged employees go beyond a transactional exchange and are willing to give discretionary effort. They bring their hearts, hands, and minds into their jobs. The term “discretionary” implies that there is additional effort available on the part of the employee that he or she can CHOOSE to apply. However, the choice to apply this effort is something not stated in the satisfaction contract; it’s up to the employee.
What do employees need from a job to be engaged?
Based on over two decades of research and a database of over 50 million employee survey responses related to the employee experience, we’ve identified five keys of employee engagement. We have grouped these under the acronym “MAGIC” to make them simple to remember:
Your work has purpose beyond the work itself. What I do must have some significance to me; it must mean something to me personally, and on more than just a surface level. To me, my work is something of value, something of worth. If I focus only on a paycheck, I am willing to put in as much work as is commensurate with the paycheck. However, when my work has meaning to me, what I do has greater purpose.
The power to shape your work and environment in ways that allow you to perform at your best. Do I have the freedom and empowerment to perform my job in a way that I do best? While Autonomy is not anarchy (we must still operate within acceptable boundaries), it does involve a degree of self-governance. It allows me, as an individual, to create or shape my role and environment in a way that is best for me and for the organization.
Being stretched and challenged in ways that result in personal and professional growth. There was a time years ago when one could maintain a base set of skills or level of development, and that base could carry that individual throughout his or her career. However, our internal speed of change and growth must match (or exceed) the external rate of change. Particularly with rising generations, the ability to develop, grow, and progress in a job provides challenge and excitement that benefit not only the individual but also the company.
Seeing positive, effective, and worthwhile outcomes and results from your work. Have you ever worked for an organization where employees give their all, only to face each fiscal quarter with a dismal report of their business performance? The adage “nothing breeds success like success” holds true here. When employees give their all, yet have little impact on the organization’s or team’s success, engagement is difficult to cultivate. On the other hand, if what I am doing is making an impact (on the company, the world, students, patients, etc.), I am often willing to go through tough times if I hope to make an impact. This is also where recognition and feedback fit in. I need to understand what kind of impact I am having; feedback from a customer, peer, boss, etc., will help me understand that level of impact.
The sense of belonging to something beyond yourself. This factor is clear throughout many of our employee engagement surveys. Quite often, one of the highest-scoring questions on the engagement survey is related to a version of the following question: “I like the people I work with.” Employees need to feel a connection to those around them. Similarly, my connection to the organization—whether or not I feel a part of the organization—will often dictate my level of commitment.
Notice that the above “ENGAGEMENT MAGIC®” is not something tied to adding more expense. Employee engagement is not based on a transactional relationship. While both the employee and the employer have a role in engagement, it is not dependent upon a number of transactions; it involves discretionary effort—a choice—not an obligation or debt repayment.
So, next time your organization embarks on another “Employee Engagement initiative,” ask yourselves this question: “Are we really addressing employee engagement, or just depositing more money into the employee satisfaction account?”
Related Book: ENGAGEMENT MAGIC: Five Keys for Engaging People, Leaders, and Organizations
Related Post: When Engagement Replaces Satisfaction
Related Post: Why Employee Satisfaction Does Not Always Result in Employee Engagement
Related Post: Why Perks Don’t Result in Employee Engagement