What is the link between Employee Engagement, Commitment and Job Satisfaction?
Employee Engagement

What is the link between Employee Engagement, Commitment and Job Satisfaction?
Make targeted strategies at the organisational, team and individual level


The concept of employee engagement has been headlining the employee performance discussion since it first appeared as a concept in management theory in the 1990s__¹__. To some degree it displaced previous descriptors such as employee commitment and job satisfaction, partly because the definition of engagement included the use of “discretionary effort” on the part of the employee.

This discretionary effort – something extra the employee can contribute, above and beyond the “usual” effort – became the focus of employers attempting to unleash the potential of their workforce.

Commitment vs. engagement vs. satisfaction

It’s easy to see why employee engagement displaced job satisfaction – satisfied employees may put in a solid effort but leave the discretionary part in the bank. Likewise, 'committed' sounds stronger than 'satisfied' but doesn’t quite have the appeal of engaged.

Another factor that has driven employee engagement to the top of the list is the observation that the vast majority of new generation professionals in the workforce have a higher propensity to be distracted and disengaged at work. A recent survey suggests that an overwhelming number of enterprise organisations (74.24%) were planning to improve employee experience in 2018__²__.

The business and organisational psychology literature abounds with definitions that attempt to describe these factors and, although there is general agreement, the differences are such that there is no universal agreement as to what differentiates job satisfaction from employee engagement and commitment.

We’ll come to definitions later, but for now it is worth considering the context in which these three factors operate – their 'spheres of influence' if you wish.
In general terms:

  • Job Satisfaction relates to the actual job or role of the employee and is therefore driven largely by job specifications and the actual activities and tasks undertaken by the individual on a day-to-day basis – employees are satisfied (or not) with their roles
  • Engagement is somewhat broader and relates not only to the role, but increasingly to local factors such as the team one works in and the characteristics of the team leader – employees engage at team level
  • Commitment tends to be to the organisation, they are the ones that pay you and provide the cultural backdrop on which you work – employees are committed to companies


The models and their application

The people science behind these concepts is not perfect and there is a degree of overlap – low job satisfaction in a menial role can and does impact engagement, and poorly engaged employees tend to be less committed to their company compared to fully engaged ones.

Nonetheless, the models help us to identify issues that drive employee performance at every level. This provides deep insight in relation to the intervention points that help companies to create the ideal working environment for their employees through a range of factors, from the micro (role related) to the macro (cultural) elements of a business.

Certain work situations capitalise on these issues to varying degrees. If I were a devout environmentalist working for Greenpeace, it’s easy to imagine I would be fully committed to the organisation, even if my role was menial and my manager was verbally abusive. My commitment might have transcended these issues… for a time.

This situation would be, therefore, one of high commitment (to the company) with low job satisfaction and poor engagement. It is reasonably clear what would need to be done – a new manager and a role review to provide some variety.

Alternatively, I may have worked for a fantastic manager who would support me and my professional development in a role I loved… with a tobacco company. I may have found it hard to be committed to an organisation with such a dark history, but if my role was enjoyable and my manager was engaging, I would still perform pretty well.

Of course, we’d all love Greenpeace level commitment regardless of the industry we’re in and this is what companies attempt to do through their brand and culture.

Commitment doesn’t have to be driven by globally important and ethically compelling issues. If I love fashion, I can achieve the Greenpeace effect by working at Gucci, Prada or Burberry. A sporty person at Nike or an IT nerd at Apple might go a long way towards Greenpeace level commitment.

Relevance to SHAPE

The SHAPE Survey assesses Employee Commitment, Employee Engagement, and Job Satisfaction by looking at specific factors that relate to the organisation, the team/manager and the actual role respectively. This is in addition to the in-depth analysis of 33 aspects of Corporate Culture. A good corporate culture provides a strong foundation for employee commitment and engagement.

Each of the three aspects, together with a working definition and the key drivers are provided in the table below.


__¹__Kahn, William A. 1990. Academy of Management Journal. 33 (4): 692–724.

__²__Staff Connect – Employee Engagement Survey. 2018.

Employee Engagement