Job Satisfaction and Employee Engagement – A Case Study

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Shyam was interviewed a year ago for a job with the Finance team. During the interview, he came across as a bright, eager and talented person. His first 6 months performance review was also excellent. However, now Shyam shows little interest or initiative at work. He just about does what is expected of him and leaves for the day. During his performance review, he said he liked his job but didn’t enjoy coming to work anymore.

Why do employees do what they do? What is it that drives their behavior?  What should the Employee Engagement Manager of the company do to keep Shyam happy and engaged at work?  Can employee engagement and job satisfaction complement each other or do they both work in different tangents?

If you ask most employees what they think employee engagement is, most will automatically talk about picnics, birthday celebrations, sports day and many more “fun activities” at work. Every good Employee engagement professional knows that these are just a few tools that can be used to engage employees with their Company and work.  From no angle do these activities define employee engagement.  Yet most EE professionals spend most of their time and energy planning engagement calendars, budgets and manpower focused solely on such activities.

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy celebrating with employees. But once the euphoria around an event dies down and employees go back to their desk, that’s where my interest lies. Were these diversions enough to keep them excited about their jobs for the next month or more?  Will an office picnic or a party retain my employees and help them deliver top performance?

The answer is, maybe not. That is where the fine line between fun at work and job satisfaction is blurred by employee engagement.  An employee engagement professional will look beyond the fun and games to solve issues leading to increasing attrition and decreasing job performance.

If we continue with the example of Shyam, why does Shyam not enjoy coming to work anymore? Are there small frustrations between department processes? Does he have differences with his Manager or colleagues? Are there personal problems that are spilling over into his work? Is he getting enough support and training to do his job well? Is there sufficient recognition for work well done?

There are many more aspects that should be explored before initiating the right engagement interventions to keep Shyam excited about coming to work.  Psychologists have conducted multiple experiments and extensive studies to find answers to this seemingly simple question on what motivates people.

In the myriad of answers lie two words that repeatedly pop up. Intrinsic Motivation and Extrinsic Motivation. By the words itself, you can easily guess what they mean. When people enjoy what they do and want to learn more and get better at their work just because they like it so much, you can safely assume such individuals are intrinsically motivated. When people learn more and want to improve at their work for praise, recognition, higher salaries and promotions, they are extrinsically motivated.

Job satisfaction for each person varies on a scale from the extremely intrinsically motivated individuals who just want to be given trust and freedom to do their job efficiently, to the employees who thrive and prosper under the beams of praise and recognition. An employee engagement calendar would need to include events that focus on the pain areas for each of the individuals who fall within the entire Intrinsic to Extrinsic scale range. The interventions need to specifically target the pain areas that prevent employees from doing the best job they can do.

  • Maybe Shyam has a problem working with an uncooperative analytics department and an engagement activity that allows departments to honestly give feedback to each other and work towards a mutually agreed solution would make him happy at work.
  • Maybe giving an opportunity to all employees to give their suggestions to the Management would make him happy as his voice is finally being heard by the Company’s leadership team.
  • It could something as simple as introducing flexi hours that would give him the freedom to balance office and house work more efficiently.

This is just the tip of the iceberg. Solutions to engage people at work are as many as there are types of people in this world.

A key takeaway for all engagement professionals is to know that applying a one size fits all approach to creating an engaged work force is detrimental to the Organization and its employees. Social media pictures of an office party may look good, but it is probably the less glamorous open house session that would be more meaningful for the employees. Employee engagement can only be successful when there is a lasting impact on the performance of an employee.

Job satisfaction and employee engagement are not two separate things. They are both a part of a circle, dependent on each other to move the wheel forward.

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Ina D’Souza, Head of Organization Development at deGustibus Hospitality Pvt Ltd. Ina holds 2 MBA degrees including one in HR from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. She started her career in global news and finance organizations such as Bloomberg, Reuters and Dow Jones. She is an avid naturalist, and has been featured in leading publications for her work in home-based composting, organic cosmetics, candle-making, travelling and more. She is deeply passionate about the welfare of animals, and supports local NGOs.

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