School Climate & Safety Opinion

Do You Prefer Satisfied, Engaged, or Loyal Staff?

By Emily Douglas-McNab — March 17, 2012 3 min read
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As a talent manager, what type of staff would you prefer?

A. Satisfied

B. Engaged

C. Loyal

I would choose “D. All of the Above.” Here’s why.

The majority of employee satisfaction surveys and programs look to measure a person’s happiness with their job. Essentially, are the expectations of employees being met? While engaged staff are people who feel invested in their work and look to grow themselves or others.

It was once thought that employee satisfaction was the goal. Then, organizations began to realize that even though an employee is satisfied with their job, it does not automatically translate into engagement. To use an example: Bart says he is satisfied with his job because he makes a lot of money and can get away with not doing much ‘real’ work. He may be satisfied, but he is not engaged.

With that in mind, organizations began to focus on making sure employees felt included and engaged. But, they eventually realized that just because a person is engaged at work (busy and involved) does not necessarily mean they are satisfied with what they’re doing. For example, Sally is not satisfied with her job because she would like to make more money and is frustrated that her boss always takes credit for her work. At the same time, her salary is enough to get by and she feels like she is making a difference, so she remains highly engaged.

As more research was done, it became evident that while high satisfaction and engagement were great goals, satisfaction and engagement did not always correlate with performance. So what came next? Loyalty.

What is loyalty? Loyal employees, customers, and stakeholders are satisfied and engaged individuals who are faithful, devoted, or attached to a product, service, or organization. Loyal people help to promote your brand, vision, and culture. This could include employees, customers, or other stakeholders. Loyal people are more persuasive than any media or advertising campaign as they provide real feelings and a real story.

For example, I’m a “loyal” Apple customer. I retweet Apple announcements. I bought Steve Job’s book. I’ve probably convinced 50 people to purchase iPhones and another 30 to buy an iPad. I love their products, service, and overall customer experience, and share these feelings with anyone who will listen. I’m a walking Apple advertisement. (I’m so loyal I even put it in this blog... get it?)

Think about what all this means for a school district.

Parents could be satisfied with their child’s education, but are not engaged and never show up to a concert or volunteer for school activities. At the same time, a parent could be highly engaged but dissatisfied with how the school or classroom operates. Loyal parents, on the other hand, might say, “We are satisfied with our child’s education, and the teachers work to keep us informed and engaged about what’s happening in the classroom. I think you should definitely consider sending your children to our district.” Those words are powerful!

A veteran educator might say they are satisfied with their job because they have access to excellent health insurance, retirement, and have a great work environment. Yet, they have become burned out and disengaged. A loyal educator is both satisfied and engaged in their work. They might share stories about how great the district is to parents at the grocery store or during community events. Additionally, when a friend or family member in the community is looking for a job, loyal employees say, you should consider working for my district because x, y, z. No recruiting flyer, billboard, or Facebook post holds that kind of power.

Highly performing organizations look at satisfaction, engagement, AND loyalty... but in comparison to employee performance. Asking the question, “If a low performing employee (that we have supported and worked with to improve with no success) is not satisfied, do we care?” Different organizations and types of talent managers will provide different responses to that question. While others use the response as a reflection on the organization’s ability to make decisions, provide feedback, manage difficult situations, etc. The last thing talent managers want to see are the highest performing employees responding that they’re not satisfied, engaged, or loyal... as we know this means they’re on their way out the door. Remember, A’s have options!

Image: Master Isolated Images / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

So, what would type of staff would you rather have?

Do you currently measure staff satisfaction, engagement, or loyalty? If so, what tools are you using?

The opinions expressed in K-12 Talent Manager are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.