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In our blog, “Are Your Employees Engaged or Just Satisfied,” we reviewed some of the differences between employee engagement and employee satisfaction. In short, satisfied employees operate under a transactional relationship—“Because the company gives me X, I am willing to give X worth of effort.”  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.

So, what do employees need from a job to be engaged? 

Based on our nearly two decades of research and a database of over 12 million employee survey responses, we’ve identified five keys of employee engagement, which we’ve grouped under the acronym “MAGIC” to make them easy to remember:

MeaningWhat 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’m only focused 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.

AutonomyDo I have the freedom and empowerment to perform my job in a way that I do best?  Autonomy involves 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.

GrowthThere 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.

ImpactHave you ever worked for a company 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 an employee puts in his or her all, yet has 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, patients, etc.), I am often willing to go through tough times if I have hope of making 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.

ConnectionThis 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 connectedness 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 “MAGIC” is not something tied to adding more expense.    As we discuss in our previous blog on satisfaction, 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 White Paper: MAGIC: The Five Keys of Employee Engagement

Related Webinar: Employee Engagement MAGIC Training Preview

Related Content: Engagement MAGIC

Related Blog Post: Employee Satisfaction vs. Motivation and Employee Engagement

Related Webinar: The Role of Satisfaction in Employee Engagement

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

About Tracy Maylett

Tracy is the Chief Executive Officer and President of DecisionWise, and is responsible for guiding the overall strategy of DecisionWise, as well as leading large-scale change efforts for clients throughout the globe. View Bio

9 comments — View
  • To know where to start and to know on which of these five elements to focus, it might be easy to start measuring employee engagement or employee satisfaction in the first place.

  • The “AHA” moment for me was Impact being included in the list of core ingredients for an “Engagement Cake”. Meaning, Connection, Growth, Autonomy have been written about extensively without mention of Impact. I am excited about exploring this concept even further with our organisation!

  • I also agree with the “IMPACT” piece. A concern with most engagement models or ideas is that they fail to consider that one could be fully engaged and yet belong to a failing group. That engagement level can only go so far.

  • You have done a great job outlining engagement factors, but commitment and loyalty come from a different source. Pay employees what they are worth, and then some. What you’ll get is an opportunity to make your great employees absolutely unbelievable. I’m so tired of management diatribes that ignore the role that compensation plays in job satisfaction.

    • We completely agree with you! Compensation is a vital part of the employee satisfaction process. I think you’d enjoy two of our earlier blogs, both of which touch on satisfaction a little more than this one:

    • If you don’t start from the premise of offering fair compensation for what the employee is worth you will never get the engagement, satisfaction or commitment needed to maximize the employee’s potential. The suggestions offered without this basic premise first will only work with entry level employees.

      • Agreed. I think the premise of this blog is that after you have met the basic satisfaction elements (compensation being one of them), these additional factors influence how engaged employees will be.

  • Very good thoughts . Employee engagement to me is the most critical aspect of business management employers should be engaged on . Some of my thoughts in supplementation :
    – For a strong , sustainable relationship an employer needs to build a ” Value Proposition ” for an employee — which is a multidimensional offering , beyond just money . For those organisations who fail to do this , by default ‘ money ‘ becomes the ( only ) reason to work , which is no ‘ proposition ‘ & hence very surfacial
    – EVP ( Employee Value Proposition ) also provides a strong ‘ reason ‘ for the employee to look forward to going to work , every morning
    – While both ( Employer , Employee ) are key ingredients to engagement , I feel Employer has a larger obligation to drive the process . The engagement process has roots in Organisation’s philosophy towards work & employees , since this is the source reservoir which guides employer’s initiatives for engagement

  • Very good article. Thanks for sharing such a great information!
    A quick point – I think over all wellbeing is also a very important factor for an employee to be engaged. It may include safety, emotional well being, stress free environment etc.

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