The Difference between Job Satisfaction and Employee Engagement is critical to the long-term success of an organization.  

Organizations with high job satisfaction have a workforce that is satisfied with their pay, benefits, and working conditions.  These are companies that have people that generally are “satisfied” with their role.  They may or may not enjoy their work, but most generally strive to be good associates.  In organizations with high satisfaction, you will also have highly engaged performers.  Those are the “A” players or “10s” as we label them.  They are the ones that are internally motivated and usually are the ones that rise within a company.

Employee Engagement, however, is an entirely different animal.  High engagement has a work force that feels acknowledged, valued, and heard.  Engaged employees align with the company’s values and mission.  They don’t simply follow leadership, they become leadership.  Leadership of their teams, their duties, their widgets.   They have a personal cost to ensuring that their role and the role of everyone around them is never less than their best efforts. 

Focusing on engagement has a longer term cost to a company

Unfortunately, many organizations envision as just this, a cost center.   A pay raise is a quick fix for job satisfaction and a smaller potential impact on net margin. However, the investment in actual employee self development and growth which will create higher employee engagement is actually larger with a longer time to see a valued return and therefore can be seen as prohibitive to the bottom line.   However, studies have shown that organizations with higher engagement have long term higher efficiency, lower turnover, and diminished absenteeism.  Countless studies, in the last 10-15 years, have shown a 30-50% improvement in efficiency in engaged employees, 15% less turnover, and on average 3.5 days less in PTO usage.  Therefore, while the cost of engaging in employees may cost more in expense and time, the long-term benefit and sustainability of an organization should be considered as a very justifiable ROI.

An organization with High Satisfaction obviously will have a more stable workforce than one with lower satisfaction; however, it can be a false sense of security. A satisfied but disengaged workforce is at risk for attrition due to competition pay, policy change unfavorable to the associate, or simply a newer more interesting company down the street.   In short, highly satisfied employees are a great goal, but without Engagement is a brittle goal at best.

Engagement should exist at all levels within an organization

A common problem in engagement is that it often focused on a hierarchy of an organization.   The real role, I would argue, the responsibility of an organization should be to improve engagement by investing in all levels of the organization.  From the Housekeeper to the General Manager, both should be an investment for engagement.   The CNA to the CEO should have equal access to personal development and coaching.  In fact, it is the front line, entry level worker of any and every organization that will make the organization a success.  This can be done through satisfaction tactics in the short term but to build a sustainable culture and legacy… you need to invest in engagement.

To think of these concepts in another way we can look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.   Within Maslow’s model an associate can not move to higher level need until the lower-level needs are met.   Also, within Maslow’s model, as you ascend the hierarchy, the more you see experiential commitment and buy-in to the company’s mission, and personal growth.

The goal of an organization should be to move their associates up each level from Satisfaction to Engagement.  

However, each level toward self-actualization and true life balance shifts the focus to the associate as opposed to the operating metric or corporate culture.   This in term takes more time to identify with and provide the associate with what they need to feel engaged, therefore it truly must become a disciplined investment of an organization to truly put “their people first”.

Take for example the mid-level of Belonging, there is a movement afoot to focus on diversity and inclusion in the workplace.   There are daily job listings looking for Diversity Directors.   This has no measurable key operating metric, but it has an indirect benefit to each metric if your workforce feels they are a inclusive demographic with a key voice in your organization. 

As we move up the needs to Esteem, leadership often confuses this recognition as a form of employee engagement such as “gifts:” Employee of the Quarter, Award Ceremonies, etc.  This is in fact recognition that correlates more with a lower level such as safety.  It provides the associate with a confirmation they are doing a good job for your organization, but it fails to recognize why  THEY are important.  Recognition at the Esteem level is the act of identifying what is important to the associate and how that benefits the shared value of the associate with the organization.   This level of recognition is the level where the associates see and feel the contribution they have made for the whole of the organization, and in doing so they feel more valued and important.

The top level of the pyramid is where organizations must aspire to emulate.  This LITERALLY is the pinnacle of Employee Engagement.   It is the level where every associate feels valued.  They feel supported in their personal goals.  They believe their employer is their safety net to be innovative and creative… not only in work…but in life.

This level of engagement takes time.  It takes dedication to the workforce both temporally and financially.   However, imagine your organization investing in your greatest resource to help them find self-fulfillment, life balance, personal goals, and individuality.   Imagine an organization that becomes a workforce of all “A Players” or “10”s.   Every associate has the potential to be just that if only an organization believes they have an obligation to support and create that potential.

Find what makes your people “tick”. Why do they want to work for you, and then provide them with the canvas to create a vision of the organization that you all have dreamed of.  Create a workforce of Engagement, not just Satisfaction, and create an organization of sustainability and a destination employer for transformational change.

This is a scary time, but you control just how scary it is…

This is a scary time, but you control just how scary it is…

To say the last few weeks, feel like some type of weird sci fi drama would be an understatement.  Walking through the grocery store last night with aisle upon aisle of empty shelves, almost generated a weird sense of panic.  Panic that if we don’t buy what groceries remain, we will not have any food to eat.  We will literally starve to death, if we don’t but that last can of split pea soup or the really gray looking pot roast.   In that moment, you could almost see the key scene in the movie where all the remaining survivors in the post apocalyptic COVID-19 world hovered around the last remaining food at the grocery store… the granola.  I will mention that I did point out to Panda, there appeared to be plenty of bacon left, so the world really wasn’t coming to an end.

However, in today’s world, where we are really do need to be isolated from each other (at least for a few weeks) and where the news has a running counter on the number of infections and deaths, it is very easy for that fear to set in.  It is very easy to get stuck in this moment, where a cough in public could result in a stoning.  It is a world right now, where the bravest of us all, the healthcare workers get yelled at for walking in public while wearing scrubs.   Instead of a “thank you for being there, when the rest of us are scared out of our minds”, it is “how dare you expose all of us, you are a terrible person.”    The logic and common sense of the world has been surpassed by fear of something beyond our control. 

And…standing in the grocery store, looking at aisle upon aisle of empty shelves, that is all very understandable.   I worry, though, because this level of fear, the dose of skepticism, this measure of anxiety is not good, ironically, for our health.  Stress, worry, and toilet paper doomsday prepping are not good for our overall well being and health.  This is not to say that we should not be worried, that we should not be practicing social isolation.  It is to say that we have lost focus on the wheel of life, we have disproportionately made this historical moment in time too much of our focus.  In doing so, we place too much importance and pressure on this moment.  Being focused too such a measurable imbalance in our lives is one of the very things that can bring about illness or at the very least weakness in our bodies that then invite illness. 

When we stress in a disproportionate manner, our wellness gets out of alignment.  Just like the spokes on a wheel, when we have balance and purpose in all dimensions of life, our life rolls smooth.  A well balanced life doesn’t have a place where worry, fear, and illness can settle in.  So in this truly historical moment in history, while you are frantically searching for more 2-ply, take a moment to take inventory on your personal wellness wheel.  Look at the six areas of wellness and make sure you have balance, making time for all of those areas, not just the one that is driving the need to stock up on cases and cases of water (by the way you do all remember the days when water only came in a faucet and it was delicious, right?).

Take a moment today and look at these areas, spend time attending to each dimension and work on getting back in balance:

PurposeThis dimension is where we feel like we are contributing to our calling.  Being focused on our passions, be it career, helping others or finding this downtime at home to work on our creative passions keep us from being distracted by the onslaught of hourly pandemic news.

EmotionalThis dimension is where we experience feeling and connection to events.  Ensuring that we open to discussing our concerns, frustrations and minimizing the risk for negativity can alleviate a lot of anxiety.

PhysicalThis dimension is focused on our physical health and fitness.  Make time to get in exercise, get enough sleep, focus on doing something active, which helps endorphins and anxiety levels.  And make sure you wash your hands…

Spiritual: This dimension focuses on not just religious but spiritual wellness.  With limitations on attending religious services, make time to read, listen to blogs, watch services.  Make time to meditate or just find quiet time to turn off your mind and allow the universe to help you with the “next steps”.

SocialThis dimension focuses on our time with others and our environment.  This dimension is the most interrupted in our wellness right now.  Our daily routines are extremely disrupted and our social network is fragmented.  Reach out to your social circles, phone, video chat, social networking, make the effort to connect in the virtual space at least until you can resume daily activities.

Intellectual: This dimension focuses on stretching our “mental muscle”.  Learning a new skill, reading a book anything that allows us to think in a more critical manner will help with the distraction of being limited by our day to day activities and the fear of the unknown.

Look at each of these areas and on a level of 1 to 10, rate yourself on how much time you have spent in each area and how “fulfilled” do you feel in each area.  Spend time focusing on each one of these areas everyday.  If you are feeling overwhelmed by the “illness ticker”, turn off the news and look where you have rated yourself the lowest…put your energy into activities that will boost that score and round that wheel.  If you have one area that is disproportionately higher than all the others right now, Emotional might be an educated guess, find a way to turn off whatever is triggering that high level, i.e. news reports, FB posts, negative comments from society. 

Instead of hoarding shopping or compulsively disinfecting, take a moment to work on the spokes of your wheel.  This is not to say that this moment in time isn’t serious.  It is fundamentally and absolutely something people will read about in history books 100 years from now, it is very serious.  However, how well you not only survive this moment in time, but actually thrive in this moment in time will be based on how well you make your wheel roll.  Spend the investment in yourself, not in toiletries… that is the best thing you can do for all of us and for this viral outbreak.  In the long run, you become stronger and IT becomes weaker. 

And then… wash your damn hands… 🙂

A Christmas Gift

A Christmas Gift

 “It’s about whether you are working the plan, instead of trying to make a plan work.”  I am sitting on a plane this New Year’s Day.  Not returning from vacation during the holidays, but heading out to be “on the job” first thing on January 2nd.  For me, the Holiday season ends today, we have endured countless hours of Christmas shopping, Christmas music and Christmas food.  I have always gauged how well I manage Christmas by how much I spend and how much weight I gain.  In the past the latter was always the one where I fell apart, often gaining 10-15 pounds during the holidays.  Recently, with lifestyle changes, now I just feel the additional pressure in the pocket book. This year was a “big pocket book” Christmas.  We went home to Colorado for the first time in nearly 3 years for the holiday.  It is always a time to rush through seeing all the immediate family members.  A time to finalize Christmas shopping, wrap remaining presents.   Preparing food for the traditional Christmas Eve chili and Christmas Day ham and turkey.  We typically spend 4-5 days in Colorado and it goes in a blur. This year was no different, with the exception that my daughter’s boyfriend was with us.  First of all, it is a weird place in life when your children have a “+1” that joins the family traditions.  Really confirms that while I act like a 12 year old, I am actually quite a bit older.  Second because we had a new comer to the Colorado Christmas, we of course had to find things that were unique to Denver since it was his first time in the Mile High City. The big day to experience some of the uniqueness of Denver was the Sunday before Christmas.  The big plan: 1) Eat at White Fence Farm (a Denver staple, that was closing on the 31st), 2) Ice Skating at Belmar (a tradition with family friends), 3) Red Rocks, 4) Dinner at Casa Bonita (if you’ve been to Denver, you know why you go there…its not for the food), then, 5) Christmas lights at the Court House. At least that was the plan, until the universe stepped in to “correct” our plan.  You see, while this was our plan, this was not what the Universe wanted to give us for our Christmas present.  It started with a 2.5 hour wait at White Fence Farm, apparently everyone else in Denver suddenly was going to miss the place so much that they had to eat there on the 23rd also.  To be clear, it is good, but there is no fried chicken worth a 2.5 hour wait.  Plus, that would kill the rest of the plans.  So, we scrapped White Fence Farm and went to Buffalo Wild Wings where we could eat quick and watch football…or so we thought.  Ironically we ended up waiting for a table and food at B- Dubs almost 2 hours!   So we scrapped Red Rocks as we were pushing back Ice Skating. Move ahead to Ice Skating, where we encounter a 25 minute wait to buy tickets, where it will be a 40 minute wait after tickets to skate…for one hour.  On top of that about an hour prior, the family friends had to cancel on skating as well.  So, I am not a math wizard by any stretch but even I know a 65 minute wait to do a 60 minute activity where you freeze for the last 30 minutes (by ourselves) was a deal breaker.  So now we are 0 for 3 on the big Colorado “tourist tradition” day.  We grab some Hot Chocolate and decide since it is near dark, to head downtown and see the Christmas lights early and then head to Casa Bonita for a late dinner. Until the universe decided again to correct us. We get downtown, it is dark…but the Christmas lights are still not on.  We are driving two cars and trying to figure out where we can park as we wait. Panda and I, in our separate cars, decide on a parking garage attached to a mall downtown, where we can at least use the bathroom.  We park, we go up to the mall, we get off the elevator to see the mall has closed and it is all office space.   There is something about needing the bathroom and not having one around that makes the urgency all the more worse.   So, we search out the second bathroom in the old mall area…it is locked. Across the street is a Starbucks.  Panda says “Lets just go over there”, I am stubborn and insist we can find one on our side of the street.  Across the pedestrian bridge is a Westin hotel, we have used that lobby bathroom several times when running around downtown in our younger days.  We trek over to the hotel only to find…yep, it is locked, you need a card key to use it.  We step outside to explore our options, Panda says again, “Let’s just go to Starbucks”.  Having just grabbed chocolate and a late lunch, I relent thinking we are going to have to buy something but agree to go ahead and run across the street. This, my friends, is where the universe wanted us to go.  As we walk in, at this point in a near panic to find a restroom, I hear someone speaking loud in the crowded coffee shop.  As I walk past the guy sitting on stool he yells my name.   I turn.  I look.   There in front of me sits, “Casey”.   Casey is like a big brother, Casey has been a family friend for 20+ years.  Casey has a huge heart and a somewhat troubled soul. When we moved to Tennessee 10 years earlier and Casey and his wife were our best friends.  Shortly after we moved fortune turned for Casey and his wife.  They ran into the housing bubble problem everyone experienced.  They had layoffs, they had financial trouble.  Casey ended up with medical issues and eventually Casey and his wife separated.  I knew this as I had stayed in touch with him.  Until about a year and a half ago, when his cell phone was shut off.   I have often worried about my “brother” and hoped he was OK.   Our last conversation was less than ideal, based on a misunderstanding.  Before we could resolve the issue, his phone was shut off. This my friends was my Christmas gift.  The universe plotted to move us to the small, overcrowded coffee shop at just that exact time on the 23rd.  We had no intention of being in that part of Denver, had no inclination for a late afternoon coffee, no intention of doing anything but drive past some lights on the City Courthouse.  But the Universe knew exactly what, myself, Panda, my family AND Casey needed.  You see… it wasn’t coincidence.  Casey doesn’t live downtown and wasn’t finishing up last minute shopping. You see, Casey is homeless. Down on his luck, he lives on the street now and as he stated after the tearful reunion in that coffee shop, he had given up hope of seeing anyone he loved this Christmas.  He felt like life was pretty meaningless and questioned why he was still around.  Then, God, the Universe, brought us into Starbucks in search of a “biobreak”. We spent over an hour catching up (I never did use the bathroom, LOL).  He has a new number, we committed to talking again after the first of the year (which we have talked twice briefly since).  We talked about how we can continue to try to help him, while we are so far away.  Casey stated that he now felt like he had a purpose and talked about how he was lining up an apartment after the first of the year.  To be clear, this isn’t a Hollywood movie type of ending, where Casey suddenly turns his life around by the end of the film.  Casey has issues and guilt for a lot of things that have happened in his life.  The turn around, if it happens, will take months if not years. What this is though is a confirmation that there are no coincidences in life.   What it is, is an affirmation that even a smile, a hug and 60 minutes of small talk can be a great present.  It can be an inspiration to be better, be kinder, be more appreciative of our place in life.   What it is is proof that we are all connected.  Those we touch and those that touch us will always be a part of our story.  We chose to support those in our story or ignore those in our story and support (no matter how great or small) always feels better than dismissal. We gave what cash we had on hand to Casey…we promised to stay in touch.  We took pictures, he gave hugs, I gave kisses.  We all gave love.  Close to 90 minutes later we headed out to the final stop of the night, Casa Bonita.  We arrived 45 minutes before close and wouldn’t you know we stood in line for 30 minutes.  We talked a lot about our friend.  At one point in the conversation, we discussed how wonderful the day had turned out, exactly NOT how we had planned it out. It was then that it occurred to me, as I shared with the kids.  “Today was an example of being open to where life will take you.  Today we worked the plan, instead of making the plan work.”  We could have forced all of our plans to go exactly as we wanted and forced ourselves to do all the things we need to “get done”, or we could have done exactly as we did and simply keep working on the plan. When something didn’t go as we thought it would, we simply made adjustments.  We followed our intuition and took the next step for the day.  We didn’t bemoan all the things we thought we were missing out on, we simply kept an eye on moving forward and making the most of the plan we had set forth.  At the end, the universe gave us more than we had planned at the beginning of the day. So my message to all of you, understand that there is a bigger plan for all of us.  When we try to make our original plan work, when we force things to work in our vision and we meet roadblock after roadblock, it is God, the Universe, whatever you want to call it…correcting our plan.  Be open to the correction and be like a 5 year old on Christmas morning, hardly being able to wait to see what the next step in the plan will reveal.  Adjust the plan, step forward with anticipation and continue to work the plan that has been laid out in front of you. For me, it gave me the best Christmas present I could have hoped for receiving.  Don’t get me wrong, the custom CrossFit shoes and tactical weight vest are awesome.  Just not quite as rewarding.  For my family, it gave them a valuable life lesson both in how fragile life can be and how rewarding it can be when you work from intuition and faith.   For Casey, I hope it gave him a greater sense of purpose, a mission to continue to work on himself and forgive himself for all the guilt he carries.  For all of us, it brought our family back together, hopefully on a more permanent basis. BY the way, we did drive by the Christmas lights at the Courthouse after the coffee shop…they were especially bright and beautiful for some reason this year…