Why you should discuss job satisfaction with your employees

Maximising employee happiness has become an ever more prevalent topic in today’s workforce. Many companies are placing greater focus on ways to improve workplace culture, such as flexible working hours and team building, in the hope that they will create happy and productive workers

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Robert Half 

Studies conducted by GallupTowers Watson and PwC have all found a positive link between job satisfaction and productivity. Happiness also has a significant effect on staff turnover. While it’s difficult to accurately calculate the cost of having to replace an employee, estimates according to Inc.com suggest it can be as high as 150% of their annual salary to cover the associated recruitment, training and lost productivity costs. 

It is also worth considering the fact that the Chartered Institute of Personal Development found that job satisfaction is at a two-year low in the UK. Almost one-in-four workers were looking to leave their jobs because of the failure of managers to engage and retain staff. 

Looking at another study, published in the Journal of Management, found that people’s satisfaction in a job gradually declines over the years and moving to a new organisation can provide a boost until the cycle starts again, and their job satisfaction begins to decline once more. 

Dr Shoshana Dobrow Riza, assistant professor of management at LSE, and one of the authors of the report, explains that all hope isn’t lost. “Individuals and managers can be proactive in helping ward off declining satisfaction by finding ways to redesign work to make it more motivating and meaningful.”

How can you improve employee satisfaction?

First and foremost, it’s important to find out whether employees actually find their jobs fulfilling – and what should be changed if they don’t. This can be done during their annual performance reviews, as part of impromptu ‘catch up’ meetings, or by getting employees to fill out a questionnaire. Questions could include:

Do you find your job interesting and meaningful?

Employees are more actively engaged in their work when it tests the limits of their skills and they can see its value in the bigger picture. This is a good opportunity to find out whether the employee might benefit from being in a more challenging project, job rotation, or being assigned more responsibility.

Do you feel your work is being recognised, and you are receiving enough training?

Most people want to continuously grow their careers. If you can ensure they are appreciated for their good work, and support them in their personal development goals (and provide the career opportunities they desire), there’s a greater likelihood that they will remain loyal to your company in the long term. Ask, ‘Does your manager provide the training and mentoring you need?’

How would you rate your workplace relationships?

A big part of job satisfaction relates to how well people work together, so it’s important that you ask employees how they view their team’s performance. Does every member take on a fair share of the team’s tasks? How well do team members collaborate on tasks? Do they feel that team communication is always open and honest?

Do you believe there is a level of fairness between management and employees?

There is a direct relationship between an organisation’s management style and the day-to-day satisfaction of its employees. ‘Does your team leader act when alert to inequality in the workplace?’ is the type of questions that can be asked by HR or as part of the employee performance review process.

Do you feel stressed, or empowered?

Studies have proven the link between chronic workplace stress and absenteeism, lower job performance, and even serious health issues such as depression. Sometimes stress is unavoidable, but asking this question can help you avoid ‘one size fits all’ solutions that may work for some employees, but not others – and instead empower all your employees.

For example, some people can feel stressed by a lack of job stability and would benefit from having a long-term career plan; others may prefer the flexibility of being able to ‘hop’ between roles until they find one that they can resonate with to achieve job satisfaction. Empowering your staff to drive their own careers means they are less likely to experience a gathering of challenges and can, instead, build confidence in their career.

Implementing an employee’s ,happiness plan’

Sitting with your employee to conduct a ‘happiness assessment’ is the first step toward improving their job satisfaction. Your next step should involve making sure that the discussion is turned into action. This can entail:

  • Recognising, and rewarding, the employee’s contributions, and pinpointing how that success contributed to the wider organisation.
  • Regularly updating the employee’s career development and/or training plan to remind them of what they are contributing to the company, and reaffirming they are the right fit.
  • Agreeing on a flexible work schedule that takes advantage of those times of day when the employee is most productive and engaged.
  • Calling a team meeting and sorting out any team-related problems.
  • Agreeing on a date for their next job satisfaction review.

The happiest employees feel supported by both peers and managers, are passionate about their work and have the tools and resources they need to be effective; open and honest discussions with your employees is an important first step towards making this a reality.

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