Your old HR barometer measures everything but engagement

Employee engagement is a hot topic but how to measure it ? While there’s not a single week without alarming numbers about employee engagement and since the impact of engagement on the “return on salary” is proven, nearly every business is starting initiatives to (re)engage employees.

Since it’s difficult to plan anything and measure the progress made without knowing where one started from, programs aiming at measuring engagement are very popular. Sadly, in most cases they miss the point.

Engagement is not satisfaction

In most cases, businesses start with a well-known tool : their (good) old satisfaction HR survey. It exists so why not use it and give it a new value. But tis tool raises a real issue : it measures satisfaction, not engagement. Yet employees can be satisfied without being engaged. “My job is not that passionating or fulfilling but my manager is nice, there’s not much pressure, I’m not at risk, the pay is good…it’s ok”. It’s the typical case of a satisfied but not engaged employee. “I gave my best but the company didn’t make anything of it, nobody sees what I do…but perseverance will pay”. This one is engaged but not satisfied at all.

In short you can have a barometer saying “all indicators are green” but, in fact, you have an army of purring employees that won’t take you very far and will even make you backslide. You can also have highly engaged but unsatisfied employees. In this case, confusing one with the other may have a devastating impact : they’re engaged and won’t accept to hear that you think they aren’t.

Fortunately, new solutions to measure engagement are coming to tackle this new need. And most of times…they look like satisfaction surveys.

Engagement is more about motivation than satisfaction

Engagement is more about “why do I get up every morning, do more than expected”. And it’s harder to measure. Let’s take the example of salaries. An employee can say that he’s not happy with his salary but a raise will increase his satisfaction, not his engagement. Some employees need recognition, some need a challenging work environment, others need to travel…

Knowing how they rate things in a pre-established list have no value when it comes to understand what they’re looking for. With regards to engagement and contrary to satisfaction , businesses do not only need a situational analysis. They need to identify individual levers, what is a radically different approach. It’s about identifying personality profiles what requires a solid base of studies and researches on a significant number of cases to correlate elements and have a reliable solution.

Satisfaction surveys see things from the enterprise perspective, engagement is about other things and must consider things from the employee perspective.

Meanwhile you can keep measuring satisfaction but it won’t tell you if employees love their company and how engaged they are.


Image credit : Employee Satisfaction by lassedesignen via Shutterstock


Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of People and Business Delivery @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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