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Jan 24, 2012

Why employees are satisfied but not engaged

Study offers insights on gaps that could be eroding commitment

By Claudine Kapel

High levels of job satisfaction don’t necessarily translate into an engaged workforce.

That’s the key finding from research by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), which found U.S. employees are generally satisfied with their jobs, but only moderately engaged.

For example, while 83 per cent of survey respondents reported overall satisfaction with their current jobs, only 68 per cent felt passion and excitement about their work, and only 52 per cent felt completely plugged in at work.

Those focused on driving organizational performance may be tempted to throw up their hands and ask how this can be the case.

But the survey results offer valuable insights that can help organizations identify gaps in their employment proposition. The results show that, overall, employees are fairly satisfied with key attributes of their jobs, including:

  • Relationships with co-workers (76 per cent).
  • The work itself (76 per cent).
  • Opportunities to use skills and abilities (74 per cent).
  • Relationship with immediate supervisor (73 per cent).

But other aspects of the work experience were seen as falling short, and had considerably fewer respondents reporting satisfaction. These included:

  • Career advancement opportunities (42 per cent).
  • Career development opportunities (48 per cent).
  • Communication between employees and senior management (54 per cent).
  • Job-specific training (55 per cent).
  • Management recognition of employee job performance (57 per cent).

SHRM observes that although job satisfaction levels have declined slightly since 2009, the percentage of satisfied employees hasn’t changed significantly in the last 10 years. “In general, people find ways to be satisfied at work.”

SHRM cautions, however, that the areas of discontent could pose a challenge for employers, especially as the economy improves. “As we come out of the recession, the war for talent will be back on. When that happens, there is the potential for turnover, given the dissatisfaction that employees seem to have with the real or perceived lack of advancement opportunities.”

In essence, the survey results suggest many employees are comfortable, but not inspired. They are content with their jobs and immediate work environments, but don’t feel especially connected to their organizations and corporate objectives.

To achieve high levels of organizational performance, however, you need employees who think and act like owners, who are proactive, and who consistently deliver their very best.

But to inspire such commitment, organizations need to deliver more than a steady pay cheque. High levels of engagement require clear objectives, open communication, visible leadership and effective rewards and recognition. Employees are also more willing to support company growth when they themselves have opportunities to grow and develop.

So while job satisfaction is needed to play, employee engagement is needed to win. That’s why human resource and total rewards strategies that focus on engaging hearts and minds will ultimately deliver the most value.

Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a Toronto-based human resources and communications consulting firm specializing in the design and implementation of compensation and total rewards programs. For more information, visit

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Dare 2 Dream
Thursday, March 15, 2012 10:52:00 PM by Sibi Henry
we need to improve lots in employee satisfaction level
the numbers quoted are high I think
Thursday, February 09, 2012 10:38:00 AM
I would think these numbers are kind of high. The North Florida workplace numbers would be much lower.