Within the business community you will find many different viewpoints on employee satisfaction. Those who take ashort sighted view think that it is immaterial as long as tasks are completed. More enlightened managers can go to the other extreme and think that it is the only important factor. Neither of these points of view are correct. To truly succeed a company must have employees that are satisfied and engaged.
Employee satisfaction is best viewed as how happy an employee is in their job situation. When an employee is not satisfied, they perform at less than peak efficiency. Engagement as a metric for job satisfaction is much more relevant than if an employee is happy. Engagement is how much an employee feels connected to their tasks and the company. Satisfaction in a workplace is important and is a piece of engagement.
Engagement is something that creates a sense of responsibility, not entitlement. Daycares and casual Fridays may not lead to an employee having a sense of responsibility in the company. To create this level of engagement takes both satisfaction in the working environment, and inclusion in decision making opportunities for the employee.
Satisfaction is often obtained by making the workplace as nice as possible. This includes the physical environment of the actual workspace, and the employees own uniform, and other tangible items. Satisfaction is also created by intangibles, things such as short work schedules, flexible working arrangements, bonus systems, and employee recognition programs. All of these can create a greater feel of satisfaction working at a company.
There are five main elements in employee satisfaction; these are recognition, reward, culture, purpose, and autonomy. Each one is important and paying attention to them will lead to increases in employee satisfaction. Ignoring these elements results in employee dissatisfaction and decreases in performance, eventually leading to high turnover rates and the costs they cause.
Employee recognition is often as simple as creating an employee of the month program. By taking the time to recognize an employee for performance, a company demonstrates that they recognize achievement. When achievement is recognized, other employees are encouraged to do the same level of work in order to stand out from their peers.
The ability of a company to provide meaningful rewards for good performance is also an important element of satisfaction. These rewards should follow extra effort on behalf of an employee. The small percentage of profits given to this endeavor are repaid by the increase of productivity from employees. Rewards can be monetary, or non-monetary in nature.
A positive culture within a company increases satisfaction. When employees feel that the company is interested in their lives, they are more satisfied. A positive culture within a company is one where mistakes are not seen as terrible, but as learning opportunities. The company that can develop a culture of positive reinforcement is able to keep employees longer, and have them work harder. A negative environment creates a situation where employees work just hard enough to not get yelled at or disciplined.
Giving your employees a defined role and purpose increases job satisfaction. People like to know that what they do matters. No matter if their job is putting a cap on a jar, or entering in data, if they feel that it has meaning they will do it to the best of their ability. Educating employees in the “big picture” of the company can keep them from feeling like what they do is meaningless.
Granting employees the ability to manage themselves, giving them more autonomy, increases satisfaction. Most employees would rather be given a set goal, task, or quota. Once they are given this information, if they are allowed to determine how best to accomplish it they are more satisfied with the work. This is not always something a company can do, or even do with every employee and there may need to be clear cut procedures in order to accomplish this.
Satisfaction alone is not enough, however, to get peak performance out of employees. The maxim of “a happy employee is a productive employee” is not always the case. An employee can be fully satisfied in their workplace, and give only the minimum effort needed to stay there. When an employee doesn’t feel engaged in their work, they do not give the maximum amount of effort.
Some elements of job satisfaction relate to engagement. A sense of purpose and autonomy can directly relate to engagement. In engagement, an employee sees themselves as more than just another mindless drone in a hive of activity. An engaged employee feels responsible for not just their own small piece, but for the success of the company as a whole. More than job satisfaction, job engagement is a company’s true goal.
Businesses with engaged employees perform better. Profits are greater as employees give greater results. Turnover is lower resulting in lower human resource costs. Safety is increased giving fewer missed work days, and fewer workers compensation claims. Overall companies that manage to create engaged employees have a greater profit margin than those who do not.
The lower turnover rate for satisfied and engaged employees is something that is often not taken into consideration. Each time an unsatisfied employee leaves causes significant costs to a company. There is the cost of recruitment, and training a replacement. Additionally, there is a loss of productivity that occurs as the new employee settles into their tasks. Keeping employees longer improves morale and creates a more cohesive work place.
By keeping employees through ensuring they are satisfied and engaged, an employer also creates specialists. When an employee can be retained long enough, they have the ability to be cross-trained, making them even more valuable. Ideally, a company that manages to create the right operating environment is able to have flexibility, as many employees are capable of doing many jobs. This sort of flexibility is near priceless, as it allows for employee absences without a loss in productivity.
When considering engagement the main goal needs to be making an employee feel connected. A connected employee is one who is satisfied in their situation, and that feels they contribute to the greater goals of the company. Connecting an employee requires a consistent effort to show that each employee matters to the overall goals of the company.
An employee who is connected and engaged feels as if they are a steward of the company’s success. As a steward, and not an employee, they feel a responsibility towards the company. Instead of the company being something that they work for, the company is something they work with. When this is accomplished an employee will work longer, harder, and with fewer mistakes.
Stewardship brings a new level of trust within a company. Employees who feel this stewardship help police their own. Often employees who have found this level of commitment to the company are the best enforcers of company policy. The employee steward will watch those around them, and in a company with positive culture, help them learn to do things the right way.
Companies should do their utmost to accomplish both employee satisfaction and employee engagement. It is often impossible to accomplish the latter without first addressing satisfaction. An employee who is unsatisfied can rarely be induced to feel engaged with their employer. The effort towards both may seem like it is wasted for a company that has never attempted either. The results are proven however, and the effort is one that will result in a strong company.