Why Employee Satisfaction Matters (And How To Successfully Use Surveys)
Gone are the days when many people would take a job just to pay the bills. By and large, the happiest and most productive employees tend to be those who take pride in their work and are motivated by their organisation’s goals and mission. They’re also the ones most likely to stick around when the going gets tough, and they’ll act as free advertising for your organisation.
In this guide, we’ll take you through some of the primary factors that influence employee satisfaction, and how it can be measured and improved upon through the implementation of a leading learning management system (LMS).
What is employee satisfaction?
Employee satisfaction refers to the feeling of accomplishment that your company’s employees derive from fulfilling the tasks and responsibilities of their role.
Unlike employee engagement, employee satisfaction is not generally concerned with the overall objectives and culture of an organisation—though it’s worth noting higher rates of employee satisfaction tend to be correlated with an individual’s connection to company values and mission.
Why workplace satisfaction matters
The short answer is retention and cost of turnover. The long answer covers the value you offer employees in exchange for their time and effort at your organisation. Let us lay it out.
Large pay packets can often get you top talent, but it won’t help you keep them if you’re not keeping them engaged. Culture also becomes more important with higher incomes. Left unchecked, stress, anxiety, and toxicity all root themselves in your workplace culture until that’s the status quo.
Dissatisfied employees are more likely to leave a company on bad terms, or exit abruptly, creating sudden gaps in your talent pipeline. That only worsens the culture problem, and develops a poor candidate reputation for your organisation.
It can then take eight to 26 weeks for a new employee to reach full productivity, without factoring in the time and costs to replenish lost capability. A satisfied employee is 12% more productive, but their unhappy counterpart decreases their productivity levels by 10%. Engaged employees are more likely to strive for growth within your organisation (given you offer it, but more on that later), which only serves to bolster organisational capability.
All in all, neglecting employee satisfaction puts you on a one-way track to losing what’s powering your execution engine: Your people.
The factors influencing employee satisfaction
Job satisfaction is multi-layered. It’s impacted by:
- Culture. That’s in both an employee’s team and the greater workforce. Positive interpersonal relationships and atmosphere can be make or break.
- Work/life balance. There are less excuses than ever to not offer employees professional flexibility in order to manage personal commitments.
- Compensation and benefits. Base salary matters, but you also need to consider insurance, vacation time, salary sacrifice arrangements and even retirement plans.
- Development. Employees want growth, they want learning opportunities, and they want to know you’re going to invest in their capabilities.
- Leadership. Managers still have one of the biggest impacts on employee sentiment—and yes, employees will still leave bad managers.
- Job design. Unreasonable workloads and poorly designed jobs can waste talent and even lead to burnout.
- Environment. If you’re one of those organisations still working in an office, the space itself will impact employees’ physical and mental health. But you still have to consider remote workers, and what you provide them to do their jobs from home.
- Job security. Constant layoffs or uncertain futures only make for an anxious and disengaged workforce. Demonstrating stability goes a long way to creating loyalty.
- Recognition. It’s only human to want a little validation that you’re doing a good job. That’s not just verbal praise, but also perfomance-based bonuses.
The common thread? You have control over all of these.
How to measure employee satisfaction
At a high level, there are a few ways employee satisfaction can be measured.
- On an individual employee level
- Within a team or a department
- Across an entire company.
What methods and tools you use to gauge sentiment is up to you. However, don’t look at anything in isolation. It’s easy to skew data and results without context, so we recommend combining a few methods for the most holistic view of employee satisfaction.
It all starts with the humble satisfaction survey.
This is the main way to understand job satisfaction, so forgive us the detail. You want to have a clear idea of what you’re measuring before you start, as this will determine the employee satisfaction survey questions you use. Some universal ideas to get your started: salary expectations, team spirit, learning opportunities, and level of job responsibilities.
However, generally speaking, there are three core facets of the employee experience that need to be included for any employee satisfaction survey to be a worthwhile endeavour.
- Workplace culture
- The job itself.
In order to effectively gauge employee satisfaction, it’s good to know which elements of the current organisational culture they respond positively to, and which ones they are less than impressed by. Encourage employees to be totally honest, as getting ahead of negative sentiment can stop a small problem from becoming bigger later.
Employees that clearly understand what the company culture is and how they fit into it are more likely to buy into the company’s values and overall vision.
The level of guidance and support employees receive from their bosses will directly impact their feelings about work. So, incorporating questions such as “Do you feel valued at work?” and “How often do you receive recognition from your manager?” can really help with understanding an employee’s attitude towards existing management.
It may be obvious, but asking how employees feel about their specific job is the easiest way to understand individual level. Think:
- Workload. Is it reasonable or overbearing?
- Salary. Do they feel fairly compensated compared to peers?
- Progression. Is there room for them to grow?
- Resources. Have you provided them with all the tools they need to do their job?
- Autonomy. Is this important to them, and do they have it in their role?
Seek to understand how your employees feel in their current position, as well as their future intentions, as this will provide a clearer picture of whether or not your organisation is likely to retain staff in the long term.
Just remember, it’s not a definitive idea of retention. Accurate views of individual levels of satisfaction can be very difficult due to subjectivity concerns as well as personal and recency biases, and so it’s generally better to get data from a larger cross-section of the organisation.
Now we come to the more quantitative side of measuring employee satisfaction. Absenteeism gives managers the cues to begin surveys or interviews. It’s best to look at individual sentiment in the context of the team environment. One disengaged employee may have personal issues impacting their productivity at work, but a whole team’s worth of high absenteeism is more of a sign of environmental influences.
You can measure the rate of absence by dividing the number of absent days for a given period by the number of workdays, and then multiplying by 100 to get a percentage.
Another metric you’re likely already tracking, but perhaps haven’t fully incorporated into an employee engagement strategy.
As with absenteeism, it’s not just about the calculated rate. You want to understand what it’s telling you. Some turnover is normal, but high rates in short periods of time are usually a sign of ill cultural health.
So, look to use:
- Exit interviews. Go for the same format as you do for satisfaction surveys (i.e. digital, like through an LMS) for easier data collection. These should be implemented ASAP, given you can get insight into issues that are impacting satisfaction right now.
- Manager one-on-ones to address issues as they arise. For example, it could be that an individual is looking for career development that their manager can arrange.
- Onboarding. Setting employees up for success early can help reduce time to proficiency down the line, as well as set the scene for their relationship with your organisation.
3 effective ways to improve employee satisfaction
Knowledge is only as valuable as what it’s used for. So, after you’ve gauged sentiment through employee satisfaction surveys, you need to consider how you can act on what you’ve learned.
There are many initiatives you can use, but start with strategies that are fairly easily implemented like:
- Continual feedback loops
- Employee wellbeing initiatives
- Personalised capability development plans.
We all need feedback. It serves a few purposes other than to assess performance. Immediate feedback:
- Sets expectations and benchmarks against company standards
- Provides incremental nudges and course corrections
- Validates high performance
- Helps develop self-assessment skills.
Incorporate feedback into the workflow. As mentioned, encourage managers to have regular one-on-ones with their team members. (This helps open the door for feedback from employees to their managers, too.) Moderated roundtables also work because everyone feels like their contribution matters, and it fosters engagement for company-wide matters.
Work-life balance impacts satisfaction and employee engagement in a couple of ways.
First, a clear delineation between their work and personal environments diminishes distractions for employees. Second, it shows that you care about your workforce beyond just the work they do—which brings us back to our point about satisfied employees staying with a company longer.
- Invoking something similar to a 60% rule. As in, 60% of the work week has to be in the office, but the other 40% employees can work from home.
- Along the same lines, flexible work hours. Let employees choose the hours when they’re most productive.
- Offering subsidised gym memberships and health programs.
- Ensuring overtime is not a cultural thing. Work conditions should respect that employees have personal lives and a limit on daily productivity.
Capability development plans
Consider this a shared vision for employees’ future with your organisation.
Getting the right people in the right seats ensures your organisation has enough capabilities where and when they’re needed. Personalised development plans visually map career progression for employees (by showing the gaps in their skillsets between where they are now to where they want to be). Give them partial autonomy to develop capabilities they’re interested in alongside those necessary to their job. When these interest capabilities are selected from a pool of organisational capabilities, you can still be sure that you’re deriving business value from L&D.
This increases job satisfaction on two fronts: Showing employees the links between their work and company objectives, and giving employees freedom to learn when they can.
To improve employees’ job satisfaction over time, you need to be able to implement changes to address problem areas. Understanding where these problem areas exist requires careful analysis of employee satisfaction over time.
This is one of the main advantages of technology you may already have, like an LMS, as the access to people and learning data will allow you to make better, more informed decisions that reflect the needs of your employees. Once off the ground, any initiatives for improvement will need to be monitored for effectiveness.
Regardless of whether these changes have the desired outcome or not, employees should have a say in the steps you take to improve their job satisfaction. After all, how employees feel about your organisation, its processes and the culture is the foundation of satisfaction in the first place. Why not crowdsource the information necessary to boosting it?
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