If you are managing a team of workers or are a member of a Human Resources department, job satisfaction is a big part of your job – and if it isn’t, it should be.
That’s because employee job satisfaction can have a huge impact on your company’s staffing, productivity, corporate culture, and even the company’s bottom line. It can also take an individual toll on workers—as studies have found that work-related stress can impact health. Ultimately, all these issues can affect your own job satisfaction. In other words, if your staff is not happy and healthy, it can make you unhappy and unhealthy, as well.
A 2015 study by The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) surveyed 600 employees about job satisfaction factors. Respondents were asked to rate various aspects of their work experience in terms of importance to their overall job satisfaction.
10 Most Important Employee Satisfaction Factors:
- Respectful treatment of all employees (67%)
- Compensation (63%)
- Benefits (60%)
- Job security (58%)
- Opportunities to use skills and abilities (55%)
- Trust between employees and senior management (55%)
- Organization’s financial stability (53%)
- Relationship with immediate supervisor (53%)
- Feeling safe in your work environment (e.g., physical safety, and measures to prevent violence in the workplace) (50%)
- Immediate supervisor’s respect for your ideas (49%)
Consistency Is The Key To Job Satisfaction
The results are remarkably consistent when compared to 13 previous surveys by the SHRM. Compensation and job security have been ranked in the Top 5 Concerns every year since 2002. And except for one year, 2012—the year before the Affordable Care Act sign-ups went into effect—benefits have been crucial, as well.
This suggests that paying generous salaries and offering robust benefits packages are the primary factors in job satisfaction.
But if you look at the runner-up categories, another trend surfaces. 53% of respondents said the company’s financial stability is essential to their satisfaction and 48% stated feeling safe in the work environment was very important. These aspects align with job security concerns. Stability—knowing a job will continue without anything threatening it—is clearly something employees value and spend time thinking about.
Managerial Influence Affects Employee Satisfaction
Managers can influence job satisfaction—but sometimes only to a limited extent. That’s because most managers can’t unilaterally give some a raise, increase vacation days or order a new dental plan for employees. Despite those realities, they can still push to make a staffer’s job more satisfying in the long and short term.
A good manager can agitate on behalf of employees without ruffling feathers of their superiors. Writing a gushing, complimentary employee evaluation is a great first step to getting an employee a raise. So is raising concern that the company risks losing a great employee without somehow boosting compensation.
Frequently budgets lock managers and employees into tight spots. There is just no budget line to boost a paycheck. But some companies have spot bonuses. Others may offer comp time for employees who are working long hours above and beyond the call of duty.
Another morale-boosting device is initiating a title change or giving an employee added responsibility. While providing an employee more work without a corresponding raise may seem like an abusive practice—the employee now has more work for the same pay—it doesn’t always play out that way. Employees want respect. They also want challenging work—it’s #11 on the list of essential factors. So improving the actual type of work and sending a message that you appreciate an employee’s talents are likely to increase job satisfaction.
And if you can tie this job change to a salary increase in the not-to-distant future—something you should get in writing from HR before you mention it to your employee— there’s a good chance the recipient of this new assignment will be whistling while they work.
As with all compensation issues, it is important to consult with your HR department or keep them in the loop when these challenges arise.
Other Employee Satisfaction Factors
Close behind the top-rated issues in the SHMR survey were concerns about the work itself—is it exciting and engaging—management’s recognition of employees, communication between employees and management and career advancement opportunities.
Two of these runner-up concerns—management recognition and communication are also notable because they tie into the category deemed most important in the survey: Respect.
Managers may not have the power to influence compensation unilaterally, but they have plenty of ways to communicate respect for employees. In fact, this important facet of the work experience is the lowest hanging fruit. Respect doesn’t cost much beyond time, empathy, mindfulness and clear communication. Sometimes, especially in high-pressure work environments, these behaviors can get lost in the shuffle, so here’s a checklist for being a respectful boss.
- Treat others as you would like to be treated—with courtesy, politeness, and kindness.
- Engage with your staff: ask them to share opinions and ideas.
- Listen to your coworkers. Don’t cut them off or speak over them.
- Don’t disparage those ideas or opinions if you don’t agree with them. Thank them for their insight. Tell them you will think about what they have said.
- When you like an idea, say so! Sincere compliments make recipients feel good.
- Try to avoid out-and-out negative criticism, which can be toxic.
- If you have work or performance issues that need to be addressed, arrange for a private meeting to discuss them.
- When meeting in private, remember to provide constructive criticism. Badgering someone can have an adverse effect. In fact, a study of workers who were negatively criticized found employees often responded by doing a worse job as an act of vengeance.
- Be aware! Do you yell, roll your eyes or shrug when you interact with an employee? That’s not just disrespectful behavior, it can be downright rude and insulting. Nobody likes a boss who behaves like a bully and a jerk.
- Be inclusive! If you are having a meeting or training session make sure you’ve invited everyone on your team. Marginalizing or excluding a staffer sends a toxic message: they aren’t needed, they don’t matter, and you don’t care about their feelings.
2-4-6-8, Your Job Is: Communicate!
Many of the employee satisfaction factors on the top 10 list above can be addressed not only by respectful interaction but through meaningful communication. While being polite and courteous convey respectfulness, working closely on projects—collaborating—can be very satisfying. Managers who actively, passionately, enthusiastically engage staff can help add to job satisfaction.
As with respect, engaging in meaningful collaboration isn’t rocket science. Conducting brainstorming meetings, asking for comments and criticism while working on a project, consulting on delivery timelines are all ways to engage staff in meaningful ways. When you share problem solving and responsibilities, employees become invested in the work. They may take pride in their abilities and their input. Knowing you have made a significant contribution to a project is—in and of itself— satisfying.
Be aware there is a fine-line between engaged management—scheduling regular meetings, checking in for updates, asking for feedback and new ideas—and micro-managing. Micro-managing is the opposite of collaboration. It is also disrespectful, as it implies you don’t believe your staff is capable of executing the work.
Bear in mind that communication and collaboration are two-way streets. And you should consider asking your staff how they think you can do your job better. Or how you can better help them or help the team. Just be open to feedback. Everyone has blind spots. Even you.
You are the Master of Ceremonies
Celebrating a successful project launch or the long-running stability of a project or a staffer’s birthday are other ways to build a healthy, satisfying work environment. Ordering pizza for the staff or a birthday cake or taking everyone out for ice cream are gestures of kindness that workers will appreciate. Sending out memos that describe vital contributions of your staff is another way to create a positive, respectful work environment.
For managers of remote employee teams, many of the solutions here are harder to realize. With employees who work in different locations and in different time zones, just organizing a video or telephone conference can feel like you are herding cats.
So establishing a regularly scheduled bi-weekly conference can be a great way to keep your team in touch. Using group chat functions on collaborative work platforms is another way to interact on a daily basis. Beware, however, that group chat is not for everyone—and if someone misses a day of work and doesn’t scroll back through an entire stream of posts, they may miss something. That’s why essential messages should be sent via email or text. Or, even better, schedule a phone call.
Job Satisfaction Is Communicable
Don’t underestimate the importance of employee satisfaction on your own well-being. The average employee spends more than half of his or her waking hours working. If that time is stressful or unfulfilling, your mental and physical health may suffer as a result. This can set up a dangerous spiraling effect so that your health then impacts your job performance—which then causes more deterioration.
This is a dangerous scenario. So don’t be afraid to be proactive when it comes to helping increase employee satisfaction. Remember to communicate and collaborate with your staff in a respectful manner, and agitate for them when the time is right. It will pay dividends.
Not only will your employees remain with the company, resulting in a stable, expert team, but having an engaged, motivated staff that feels well compensated and appreciated will likely translate into team-wide success. Your bosses will notice. Clients will notice. The HR department will notice. Call it the trickle-up theory of job satisfaction. When it happens, you’ll feel good about your job, too.