employee engagement vs. employee satisfaction

There’s not an employer out there who doesn’t dream of a team that shows up every day motivated to drive the company forward. Imagine: employees arrive brimming with ideas about how goals might be better met and services improved. Imagine: those same employees never hesitate to give one another a hand and are more than willing to stay the extra time needed to get their work done. Imagine: rivers flow with salted caramel dark chocolate and your body stops aging at 25. Okay, we’ll be honest…we can’t help with that last thing, and learning to distinguish employee engagement from employee satisfaction won’t get you to workforce Nirvana, but it’ll get you a LOT closer.

The difference between satisfaction and engagement is that satisfied employees show up, do the things they’re supposed and, well, that’s it. Engaged employees, on the other hand, arrive game face on, demonstrate initiative, and expend extra discretionary effort. They take successes (and failures) personally, work to streamline processes, and are driven. But where, you ask, do these unicorns graze? The answer, according to Gallup’s Q12 Engagement Measurement Model is at companies which offer the following:

• Entitlements, or clear knowledge of what the job plus the right tools on hand to accomplish it.

• Contributions, or the privilege of working on engaging projects coupled with praise for work well done. In addition, this category includes a sense that one’s supervisor is invested in the employee’s professional development.

• Community, or recognition that one’s opinion matters, their job carries value, and coworkers share in a commitment to do good work. The presence of genuine friendships in the office also belongs to this category.

• Growth, or the sense that one’s job offers upward mobility and opportunities for advances in skills and responsibilities.

So, just deliver on all that and you’re set. Next stop, Nirvana…right?

Ok, ok. In real, practical terms, improving employee engagement is tricky business, requiring a constant finger on the company pulse. Luckily, a few general principles exist which should get you started:

1. Give praise!
When an employee hits something out of the park, let them know. Don’t overdo it or be dishonest, but be sure to give praise where praise is due. Carefully dosed positive reinforcement goes far in nurturing engagement.

2. Play the long game.
Providing employees with development opportunities shows them you care about their professional wellbeing. Compare current competencies with those needed for future assignments and design growth opportunities to fill the gaps. Our Team Empowerment Academy is a personalized, powerful virtual training and development program for law firm leaders and their teams, designed to equip team members with the tools they need to excel at their jobs…and to step up and be leaders!

3. Encourage pet projects.
Nobody’s heart races at the thought of doing the same thing day in and day out. Whenever possible, shake up an employee’s routine and put them on a project you know they’ll love.

4. Plan exciting team building activities.
Skip the escape room and take your employees out rock climbing. If that’s not your office’s thing, invite everyone over for a potluck. Friends make better coworkers and friendships aren’t formed at the water cooler. (Pro-tip: swap the water cooler for a legit espresso machine).

5. Go flexible and remote
Everyone dreams of having the flexibility to travel when and wherever they want. Give employees at least a taste of that freedom—just a little bit of the flexibility they crave—by allowing them to work on their own schedule and from wherever they want (at least sometimes).

6. Trust your team
Adults like to feel like adults (go figure). Entrusting your employees to work autonomously and do the job they were hired for instils a sense of responsibility that fosters engagement. Driven team members thrive when given the chance to prove their worth.

No shoe fits all feet, though. The above is a sketch; if you really want to take your company to the next level, download our free e-Book, Intrapreneurs in an Entrepreneurs World: How to Empower Your Employees to Step Up & Lead and say goodbye to dropped balls, office drama, hiring and training woes, and lacking skillsets.


Now is the time to create a future of possibilities, opportunities, and empowerment to keep the learning and growing evolving at your firm!

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