Posts tagged startup
Engagement versus Satisfaction: Tips for Startups

I recently went to a presentation about focusing on Employee Engagement instead of Employee Satisfaction. Employee Satisfaction is taking a pretty hard hit in the media these days, because if you are merely measuring satisfaction, you’re already behind. Satisfaction is essentially how “okay” a person is with his/her job daily; whereas engagement is the buy-in piece you’re searching for from an employee who is truly leaning into his or her work from an overall buy-in. You have to do more than Net Promoter Score.

For more information, one great summarized source is Gallup’s employee engagement management model, which is divided into four different areas of entitlement, contributions, community, & growth (


  • Entitlement: Do you know what’s expected and do you have the tools to achieve your expectations?

  • Contributions: Can employees contribute daily, in a meaningful way? Are the recognized for this? And can they see how this helps someone (the business? A key client? The world?)

  • Community: Do you have a best friend at work and a voice that’s heard?

  • Growth: Do professional development opportunities exist, in addition to growing within a role?

For startups and growing companies, there needs to be a contrived strategy to address these four areas, on regular timing and intervals; beyond the typical pitfall of “What’s expected of me? Anything and everything to get the job done. Tools to do it? I have to figure that out on my own. We’re a startup, that’s just how startups are.” Creation and delivery of this starts and ends with a leadership team dedicated to it, then empowering the employees to live it with their own voice, speaking up if they are lacking in support in an area.

The true driver to employee engagement is employee buy-in. If employees feel both invested in all four areas, and supported in all four areas, they will be engaged. Daily they will have satisfaction, which will increase productivity. So...what have you done to help engagement of your people today? Pick an area, look at it critically, and ask...but be prepared to act and make it better if it needs improvement. Then tackle the next area. It really is that simple. Start by looking at each area, and be prepared to pivot and identify your organization’s needs. Also be prepared to invest in your people so they have what they need at each step above. The startup journey can be harrowing, you need your employees engaged every step of the way.

Job Expectations in Startup Mode

If you asked your employees today,

would they be able to say “Yes!” and answer with confidence, if you ask them, “Do you know what is expected of you in your job?”.

Do they know? If you asked your employees today, would they be able to say “Yes!” and answer with confidence, if you ask them, “Do you know what is expected of you in your job?”. Gallup ( contends that this is the first fundamental building block in having engaged employees. 

People who know what is expected of them have a sense of purpose and feel like they are both an active contributor to the company’s success, and feel they are part of something greater than themselves. But I would take that one step further with a startup environment: 

“Do you know what is expected of you in your job? And are you able to work toward that end on a regular basis?” I’m going to pose something radical here - Startups are different work environments altogether. And many times, putting out the fire in front of you is what the people making startups successful have to do all day, every day. Which is okay...sometimes. For a while. But how long until fire fighting becomes the modus operandi? And is it acceptable to expect your employees to firefight as their main job expectation? Or, at some point, does that begin to wear on an employee? Are your employees ever able to get to what they were hired to do before 5:45 pm on a Thursday?

What did you hire him/her for to begin with? If you hired him/her with the expectation of “You’ll be putting out fires for me on the daily.”, and he/she said, “Awesome! That’s what I’ve always wanted to do! And that’s the best use of my education and experience!”, then you’re likely in good shape. However, if you hired someone for a specific skill set, how often is that person able to use that skill set in their daily job purpose? Can they ever walk into work and be working toward that end before noon on a given day?

Make sure you’re looking critically at what you hired people to do, versus what their roles have become as time has progressed. Is that the best use of their talents, and therefore the best use of your money? Are they satisfied with what their role has become? And if not, how can you resolve it for them? Don’t settle with assuming your employees know what’s expected of them because they’re busy all day, every day. And don’t assume if they know their job is firefighting that it is an acceptable use of their time and your company’s cash to pay them for it. Ask the hard questions to determine if their assets are being used towards the optimal tasks for the maximum benefit of your company - And if not, devote the resources to adjusting it so your employees are engaged and your startup can continue down a path of success.