Defining Employee Satisfaction and Why it Matters

by Ty Collins on April 19, 2020 in Articles, Employee Engagement, Employee Loyalty

There is a strong correlation between employee satisfaction and workforce productivity. When your employees are content at work and they are engaged, they are more likely to feel motivated to work hard to achieve a high level of output. Likewise, employees who are dissatisfied tend to do the minimum, and highly dissatisfied employees may eventually quit on bad terms. To get the most out of your workforce, therefore, you need to implement measures to increase the level of satisfaction that your best employees feel in their work environment.

What Is Employee Satisfaction?

“Employee satisfaction” describes employee perceptions of whether their desires are being met in the workplace. In many cases, perceptions of overall happiness are the main drivers of whether an employee feels satisfied. If an employee feels happy on an hourly basis throughout the day, they are likely to feel content with their job overall. Employees who are only happy for part of the day may feel happy as well if they have had negative experiences with other employers.

Satisfaction can be measured aggregately throughout an organization, within a department, or even within a single team. Attempts to measure the satisfaction of an individual employee are usually infeasible due to high subjectivity and bias. Consequently, employers should generally focus on group efforts to improve satisfaction in the workplace.

Why Satisfaction in the Workplace Matters

People have a remarkable ability to adapt to difficult circumstances. If your employees do not feel satisfied, they are likely looking for new jobs. In extreme cases, some employees may also adapt by sabotaging your progress or even by committing fraud. When large groups of employees are dissatisfied, they could form a labor union or quit simultaneously to start their own company.

Although extreme actions taken in response to extraordinary dissatisfaction are rare, your company could face significant losses as a consequence of even moderate levels of unhappiness. Employees who are not satisfied at work will put less effort into their responsibilities. Most importantly, dissatisfied employees almost never come forward with innovative ideas. When all members of your company are happy, on the other hand, they will feel motivated to give back by going the extra mile.

Factors Influencing Satisfaction

There are a broad range of factors that can determine the level of satisfaction that your employees experience. One of the most important determinants of satisfaction is whether employees perceive that they are treated with respect. Employees feel respected when they are recognized for their achievements and when their level of compensation matches their performance.

Many companies that work to improve the satisfaction of their employees focus on workforce empowerment. Although it is necessary for management to make most decisions, employees will feel better about their job when they have an appropriate degree of autonomy. Company activities, opportunities for advancement, and a positive approach to management are additional factors that can enhance satisfaction in the work environment.

How to Measure Satisfaction

Businesses that wish to improve satisfaction first have to establish metrics to understand where they currently stand. There are a wide variety of approaches that can be used to assess satisfaction, but research generally shows that surveys are highly effective. With a survey, you can get a glimpse of how employees feel about your company. Giving out surveys on a consistent basis over time can enable you to monitor your performance while testing the effectiveness of new management strategies.

Using Satisfaction Surveys

Before giving out surveys, you should first understand what areas you want to measure. In general, you should focus on factors that you believe you can control. Some of the topics that you could cover in a satisfaction survey include:

  • management expectations
  • coworker relations
  • perceptions of empowerment
  • communication quality
  • level of stress

There are no factors that should be covered by all companies, so you will need to consider issues that have been prevalent in your organization to determine what factors you should cover.

Creating a Satisfaction Survey

Once you have compiled a list of factors, you should compose a survey that is appropriate for your organization. You should take your time when creating a survey since you will want to use the same questions over a period of several years to profile your performance. You can print out copies of your survey, but digital channels are often best in today’s world. There are a broad range of inexpensive tools that you can use to email surveys to all of your employees at the same time. Emailed surveys are more convenient, and they enable you to easily compile data without having to manually input data from paper sheets.

Improving the Results of Satisfaction Surveys

You will want to take a careful look at your results as your employees fill out your initial satisfaction survey. Use the initial period to remove questions that generated confusion, and consider adding new questions that you determine to be relevant through employee feedback. In rare cases, you may want to reissue your survey if you find that significant mistakes were made.

The best results are usually obtained from surveys when you focus on questions that can be answered with numbers or “yes or no” responses. As long as your surveys generate numbers, you can use these figures to easily quantify your performance. If you conduct surveys on a regular basis, you can visualize on a graph changes in the level of satisfaction that your employees experience. You could even consider giving your management team bonuses based on performance in key metrics of satisfaction.

Making Use of Survey Data

Once you know where you stand, you can start to implement changes in the areas that need improvement. In many cases, it is advisable to hold a meeting with your staff members to discuss the findings of your survey. Some employees will volunteer an explanation regarding why people rated certain areas positively or negatively. If people fail to provide a clear explanation, you could consider announcing that you will place an anonymous suggestion box outside of your office where employees can state areas that need improvement without facing the possibility of retribution. Of course, appropriate changes should be implemented once you understand the issues that are leading to dissatisfaction.

Achieving Improvement Over Time

The improvements that you implement will need to be monitored over time to ensure that they have been effective. You will also need to periodically review the satisfaction of your workforce to discover new pain points that come up. In many cases, you may want to schedule a quarterly or annual meeting with your staff to discuss issues related to job satisfaction.

Most importantly, employees should understand that satisfaction is a responsibility all members of your company must share. When employees feel empowered to improve their own satisfaction and the satisfaction of other people in your company, they will naturally feel more motivated and happier about their jobs.