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What Employee Satisfaction Really Means and Why It’s So Important to Your Business

Improve Employee Experience

When it comes to gauging the health of your company’s culture, rating employee satisfaction is one of the most effective metrics to use. 

From motivating employees and building confidence in company leadership, to achieving goals as an organization, employee satisfaction is the bedrock of morale. Without it, workplace experiences lack meaning, performance becomes lackluster, and overall commitment slumps. 

Fortunately, there’s a bevy of proven strategies to combat what we might call “the Jagger Factor” — so named for the Rolling Stones frontman who “Can’t get no satisfaction.” 

As much as companies have expectations of their employees in terms of performance and productivity, employees likewise expect more from their companies. These employees wish to align their work with their personal values and priorities

Employee satisfaction is an internal bellwether of your company’s future. Happy employees mean happy stakeholders. And that’s good business.

Exploring Job Satisfaction Definitions 

For many, being employed goes deeper than a career opportunity, it’s part of a larger puzzle of self-definition. When employee satisfaction is low a vital piece goes missing. Many employees define job satisfaction as producing work that has meaning and is driven by a sense of purpose. They want to be engaged and empowered

Some employees may regard a good challenge paired with the opportunity for positive change as a defining aspect of their job satisfaction. Others may rate their workplace satisfaction in terms of their professional development or ability to see a clear pathway for career advancement.

We know what the benefits of employee satisfaction are, but this still leads us to one very important question. . . 

How Do You Measure Employee Satisfaction?

Before your company can make any meaningful attempt at improving the employee experience, you need a baseline measurement of your organization’s current level of employee satisfaction. One of the proven tools for making such an assessment is an employee satisfaction survey. 

Granted, the term “employee satisfaction survey” isn’t the most compelling phrase in the English language, but if properly executed, it can have tremendous and exciting implications for your company and the overall happiness of your workforce. 

How to Make Your Employee Satisfaction Survey Successful?

A successful employee satisfaction survey starts with the questionnaire. What you ask and how you ask it can produce illuminating results about your workforce if properly framed. 

For example, if your survey consists of questions that can be answered in a manner that produces numerical values, versus essay-like questions that require idiosyncratic, text-based answers that are hard to measure, your results can’t be quantified to reveal useful insights. 

What Are Employee Satisfaction Questions?

The most elemental version of this approach is creating a list of Yes or No questions. 

Employee satisfaction questions to ask may include:

  1. Do you understand the expectations of management?
  2. Are directives, performance issues and affirmations of good work properly communicated? 
  3. Do you feel empowered?

Another approach is to ask your employees to assign numerical values to their experience along a spectrum. 

For example:  

On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being poor and 5 being excellent), how would you rate your relationships with your colleagues?

You can augment the scale as necessary for the issue you’re addressing:

1 being low and 5 being high, how do you rate your stress level?

Do you find your assignments fulfilling? 

  1. Not very fulfilling, 2. Moderately fulfilling. 3. Very fulfilling.

Naturally, the questions on your company’s employee satisfaction survey will be unique to the experience and needs of your organization. Conducting a survey at regular intervals throughout a designated span of time will eventually produce enough data that the rate of satisfaction can be graphed, creating an informative, visual depiction of how your employee satisfaction is trending.

The Five Components of Job Satisfaction

Here, the adage that “There is no ‘I’ in ‘team,’ is useful only as a spelling lesson. The fact is, teams are composed entirely of I’s, real people, who require dignity and respect and who must be empowered to produce meaningful work. 

A veritable guru in the employee satisfaction arena is Kathleen Hogan, otherwise known as Microsoft’s Chief People Officer. A couple of years ago, Hogan posted a blog on LinkedIn aptly titled the “5Ps of Employee Fulfillment.”

As she writes, the five components of job satisfaction are “Purpose combined with Pay, Perks, People and Pride.”

For her inspiration, Hogan credits psychologist Abraham Maslow who is most noted for describing the hierarchy of human needs from the physiological to the transcendent. 

Like Maslow’s paradigm, Hogan’s iteration functions as a chorus of concepts rather than a single note and breakdown as follows: 

  1. Pay is foundational and anchors the bottom of the pyramid. In our present economy, one’s pay is necessary to address our basic existential needs, including food, shelter and clothing.
  2. Perks follow. These would include benefits like health insurance and paid parental leave. 
  3. People represent the next step in Hogan’s hierarchy. We spend an undue amount of time with the people with whom we work, let’s hope they’re at least cool, right? As Hogan writes, “Deep connections with one another, combined with a sense of inclusion and belonging (and fun!) is a force multiplier for the first 2 Ps.”
  4. Pride is the penultimate factor of employee satisfaction in this model and perhaps one that is often overlooked. Whether it’s a name brand company or an independent enterprise set on saving the world, having a sense of pride not just in one’s work but for whom one works is paramount.
  5. Purpose tops Hogan’s list and is similar to Maslow’s own topper in the hierarchy of needs, which is self-actualization. Doing meaningful work that makes a real impact is perhaps more important to employees today than ever before. 

With all that’s happening in the world, people want their endeavors to help manifest the solutions we need right now. An employer that is aligned with this need to contribute will see their employee satisfaction soar.

How Can Organizations Improve Employee Satisfaction?

There is a very useful French idiom that is sometimes used when speaking about group dynamics  — esprit de corps. The phrase (literally “group spirit” speaks to the notion of enthusiasm and a common spirit that is inspired within a group. 

Esprit de corps can lead to magic moments within a team when the impossible becomes possible and the entire ensemble proves more powerful than the sum of its parts. 

To achieve this group ethos, however, organizations must first empower employees to pursue their own sense of satisfaction. 

They must both feel valued and be doing work of value. This will organically enhance the experience of employee satisfaction and ultimately the overall health of your organization.

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