Intro to employee satisfaction

As the quest for productivity continues, businesses are increasingly tuned in to the wellbeing of employees. Many are implementing policies to measure and improve employee retention and engagement.

However, employee satisfaction – a concept that predates both employee retention and engagement – is often forgotten, or conflated with engagement. This is counterproductive, as the seemingly simple goal of happy staff actually has a complex relationship with staff performance.

In this guide, read a short definition of employee satisfaction, learn how to measure workplace satisfaction and find out how it relates to success. Businesses looking for things to improve employee dissatisfaction will find key strategies to achieve this.

What does employee satisfaction mean?

Employee satisfaction is the extent to which employees feel that their desires are being met in their jobs. It’s closely linked to fulfilment and happiness and, like this latter measure, can vary significantly depending on individual employees.

The concept is intuitive – what employer wouldn’t want happy staff? – and it’s not known exactly when it originated. However, there are records of some companies organising a staff satisfaction survey back in the 1930s – ninety years ago!

 

A tip: Staff satisfaction is sometimes considered as part of engagement, but the two measures are distinct.

The importance of job satisfaction

There are many benefits associated with satisfied employees. Let’s look at retention, performance, and external relationships.

  • Employee satisfaction has a direct impact on employee retention: happy staff are more likely to stay with their current company, while dissatisfied workers will go elsewhere. Businesses with low employee satisfaction risk incurring significant rehiring and retraining expenses.
  • Dissatisfied employees are less productive. Low satisfaction levels result in low motivation, which damages performance and costs money. If businesses wait until things hit crisis level, dissatisfied employees are likely to require significant training, support and assistance to get back on track, which has implications for managerial workloads as well as budgets. The cost of unhappy workers in the US has been estimated at $450-$500 billion each year.
  • The implications of low workplace satisfaction can be particularly acute for businesses where employees are customer-facing or work frequently with clients. Just as a happy employee is likely to make a positive impression and achieve targets – satisfied employees have 13% more sales than their dissatisfied counterparts – staff frustrations may be communicated through sub-par interactions. Dissatisfied employees could damage public image.

Getting the right balance

The consequences of low satisfaction can be serious. However, it’s important to strike a balance with employee satisfaction rather than aiming for the highest possible rate. This is because an extremely satisfied workforce could actually inhibit company performance.

Satisfaction alone may result in a happy employee, but it doesn’t necessarily benefit businesses. This is because some turnover is healthy. Policies which result in high workplace satisfaction may retain disengaged employees, while driving away those who are motivated and ambitious employees – and always on the lookout for their next challenge. Luckily, the strategies for improving employee satisfaction that we outline in this guide are designed to benefit all employees, including highly motivated ones.

 

A tip: To ensure the best results, implement them alongside our methods for employee engagement.

 

A tip: Companies struggling to motivate satisfied employees should consider using professional development tools, such as CoachHub’s digital coaching, as a positive and productive way to encourage staff to develop their skills and show initiative.

How to measure workplace satisfaction

One of the simplest and best ways to check satisfaction is with a staff satisfaction survey.

The survey should be anonymous to ensure employees feel they can be candid, and it should feature questions addressing different aspects of work.

It should aim to find out:

  • How employees feel about their own tasks
  • How connected they feel to their colleagues
  • How they view the company culture

For example, specific questions could ask about:

  • Stress levels
  • Perceptions of the company
  • Effectiveness of internal communication
  • Interest in future opportunities within the company

Questions that require employees to rate aspects using number ranges enable a comparative approach. Employers can see how employees across different departments experience the work environment, and track the staff satisfaction rate over time.

Open-ended questions allow employees the chance to explain their experiences and outline the issues that matter to them. These are also important for gaining insight into workplace satisfaction. An effective staff satisfaction survey will feature a mixture of both.

There’s no hard and fast rule about how frequently these surveys should be circulated, but twice a year is an achievable target to aim for.

 

A tip: If surveys are used, ensure that the data collected is acted upon. If employees feel that their opinions have little influence on management, dissatisfaction is likely to increase and employees are less likely to engage productively with feedback processes in future.

Another useful way to measure satisfaction is to use exit interviews. Some employees may be leaving for new opportunities, but other departures may be the result of dissatisfaction. Engage and listen, and it will become clearer which strategies to improve employee satisfaction should be prioritised.

 

A tip: Face-to-face discussions are illuminating for both sides, and shouldn’t only be held when someone is leaving. Consider hosting a ‘stay interview’ with loyal employees – checking whether they’re satisfied with the company, and finding out why. It may also identify employees who, as described above, are satisfied without being engaged. If this is the case, progress can be made – read our employee engagement guide for information on how to increase engagement. Businesses which already have a high level of workplace satisfaction may wish to focus on ensuring that high achievers stay motivated and engaged at their company. For this, our employee retention guide will be useful.

Improving employee satisfaction

Happy staff don’t become so overnight. Their attitude is influenced by a wide range of factors. Luckily, there are actions employers can take that have a big impact.

This section will outline why

  • Autonomy and empowerment
  • Simplicity and efficiency
  • Positive relationships
  • Effective management
  • Company ethos and growth potential

are important, and outline how employers can use them to achieve job satisfaction and motivation.

 

Autonomy and empowerment

Jobs are a central part of our lives, and it’s important for employees to feel that they have some autonomy and control during their time in the workplace. Of course, different roles will have different levels of responsibility, but this isn’t necessarily about tasks – autonomy can be achieved in various areas.

Employers can increase job satisfaction by increasing the control employees have over their goals, work environment and schedule. If flexible working hours are possible, employers should encourage employees to tailor their schedules to their own rhythms of productivity.

Remote working can have a highly positive impact. This is partly due to commuting being a significant drain on staff satisfaction.

 

A tip: Ideally, workplaces would combine in-person working that promotes team relationships, and remote working, which the majority of employees want as an option.

 

A tip: If being onsite is essential for work tasks, enable employees to customise their desks or workstations; personal décor and equipment can both lift mood and increase general wellbeing.

The purpose of autonomy isn’t just to give employees more comfortable environments – it’s to empower them to make decisions and take control of their work. Make goal-setting a collaborative process between employees and managers. Ensure that goals are discussed and the employee’s own ideas and opinions are taken into account. This will make employees more committed, and increase their feeling of accomplishment when they hit targets.

 

A tip: For employees who could benefit from developing their confidence or skills, consider opportunities such as flexible digital coaching.

Simplicity and effciency

Time pressure and stress lead to job dissatisfaction. However, they’re also inevitable in many fields. What managers can do to help create happy staff is enable employees to use their hours more effectively. They can do this by freeing up time and simplifying processes.

 

A tip: Managers should consider whether meetings are necessary to address smaller topics, and consider formats such as stand-ups to limit the time discussions take up.

Organisation and processes should also be considered. Are things running as smoothly as possible, or do employees have to wait around before they can complete tasks? What can be done to streamline workflows?

 

A tip: If there is an abundance of low-priority tasks that staff do not have the time to attend to, they are likely to feel overwhelmed. Unnecessary duties should be removed to allow employees a clearer focus.

Just as goals are set collaboratively, priorities and key tasks should be clearly communicated to employees to avoid wasted time.

Positive relationships

Socialisation is important for happy employees. One of the things to improve employee dissatisfaction that can have a lasting impact is fostering positive working relationships between staff.  Employers often take a ‘hands-off’ approach, but in doing so they lose the chance to support strong interpersonal bonds which link employees with the company. Organisations should work to strengthen relationships and enable employees to get to know each other beyond cursory greetings.

A tip: If a fast-paced work environment doesn’t leave time for staff to get to know each other, schedule team-building activities. These won’t only help your employees build supportive relationships that increase their job satisfaction and motivation – they’ll also help participants use their initiative, grow their confidence, and become more innovative.

Effective management

Management is absolutely central to employee satisfaction. Someone who feels micromanaged and constrained will not be a happy employee. Therefore, strategies to improve employee satisfaction must consider managerial approaches.

Make constructive feedback a core tenet. Studies show that employees respond best when managers take time to focus on what they have done right, as well as their mistakes. Acknowledging success while also identifying areas for improvement helps employees to feel confident about their capabilities, and more able to tackle future challenges.

It’s also worth ensuring that managers have a full understanding of staff duties and workloads. One survey investigating employee motivation showed that the main desire of staff was for managers to show a “full appreciation of work being done”.

 

A tip: Managerial skills aren’t always easy to acquire, and many leaders could benefit from further training. Consider investing in online leadership development coaching, to improve job satisfaction for a whole team.

Company ethos and growth potential

One of the biggest contributors to job satisfaction is whether employees want to forge a future with their company. Are they committed to its mission, and do they feel part of its journey? These questions examine employee perceptions, but it’s important to consider the role of leadership here. Is the company’s ethos well-defined, reflected in its everyday practises, and directly communicated to staff? This will increase workplace satisfaction.

A tip: Businesses wishing to benefit from expert advice on defining their ethos and developing growth strategies should explore CoachHub’s executive coaching options.

The other important consideration is how employees see themselves fitting into the company. Are they eager to grow and learn new skills as part of it? Are they encouraged to do so by management?  Talent development has numerous rewards for businesses, and employees who progress within a company tend to be highly satisfied and loyal.

At tip: Effective ways of encouraging skills development include employee mentoring programmes, encouraged participation in leadership schemes, targeted training, or talent management coaching.

Improving employee satisfaction can have a lasting impact, and when these strategies are implemented alongside policies to strengthen employee engagement and retention, they result in resilient and successful companies. CoachHub supports businesses and employees to achieve their full potential through our coaching platform.

Author:

Rosie Evans
Behavioural Scientist at CoachHub.io

Rosie is a behavioural scientist at CoachHub, where she applies insights from positive psychology, neuroscience and behavioural science directly into digital coaching programmes and an approach that drives individual and organisational transformation. She works as part of the in-house research and development team, the Coaching Lab, and contributes to the advancement of the science of coaching and behaviour change; in addition to working both internally with in-house researchers and with world-class external academic teams to design and execute groundbreaking studies.

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