I Can’t Get No…

…Satisfaction.

Is there a plausible reason why the role of satisfaction in engagement is so widely misunderstood? I’ll even accept an intelligent guess, because I just read yet another article that warns “satisfaction does not equal engagement”. This one even tricked me…pretty decent stuff then went right back into that rut toward the end of the article. Really not fair!

I didn’t realize there was that much confusion over the relationship satisfaction has with engagement, but apparently there’s a good deal of confusion because people keep writing about it. Are these cruise ship event coordinators and ex-cheerleaders who decided to give the engagement field a go or what?

“Satisfaction” is an important driver of engagement. But it is no more than a tactic to achieve a goal not a goal itself, and it is certainly not synonymous with engagement. Tactic: “Analyze factors contributing to satisfaction and dissatisfaction, and improve levels of satisfaction.” Which is the more sensible goal that particular tactic would support?
Goal #1: improve engagement levels; or
Goal #2: improve retention and morale (measure: attrition).

No doubt, you can be somewhat satisfied but still not engaged-it’s called “I’m happy as he%# because I’m getting paid all this money for doing nothing.” But that kind of “happy” is an instant-gratification, short-term fix. Thankfully the really, really happy low performer cannot last. For one, they should either get coached up or weeded out. But there’s an intrinsic reason too.

Level of contribution is also important in creating an environment conducive to engagement. “I’m contributing at a high level toward the company achieving its top goals and man, do I feel good about it!” Most of us have a deep need to contribute—to feel our work and our existence are both meaningful. Without that need being met we can only be somewhat satisfied. And we’ll certainly not be anywhere close to engaged without the contribution satisfier being met.

So, isn’t contribution a powerful driver of satisfaction level? (If / then)… contribution is a “bigger” factor in engagement than satisfaction is. So it should stand to reason that ensuring people are willing and able to fully contribute is more important than making sure they are “satisfied”. Conclusion: engagement is more about results than it is feel-good?

Satisfaction and contribution level are not different sides of a coin, they are two elements that, forged together, form a highly attractive yet extremely durable alloy called engagement.

We just need to understand the factors that produce the right conditions for forging those two elements together. We also need to understand the proper ratio between the two elements. And we’ve gone to a whole lot of effort to reach that understanding. Because this is certainly worth a whole lot of coin.

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