Employee Satisfaction: What They Really Think about Their Jobs and You

Ignorance is bliss.

Oh, really? For whom?

How is being ignorant better than knowing? A business associate used to say, “you may not like where you are, but you better always at least know where you are.”

That may not roll off your tongue like, “ignorance is bliss,” but it’s a heckuva lot smarter and will probably actually let you sleep better in the long run.

That said, if you want to be half in the dark all the time regarding your personal life and that makes you, uh…blissful, then the more power to you. You probably have a resting pulse rate of around 56, and might live to be about 95.

On the other hand, for the good of your company, its investors, its customers, and other stakeholders, you need to know as much as you can about the state of your business. And that’s not just about crunching numbers – it’s about getting in synch with what your employees are thinking.

That’s trouble already, because people are much more complicated than spreadsheets.

Your Employees: What the Surveys Say

One effective way of “knowing where you are” is to see what the numbers say. And some of the general data, at least from a national perspective, shows a sort of mixed bag when it comes to overall satisfaction.

In a nutshell, just under half of workers surveyed are completely satisfied with most of the aspects of work. That’s according to a Gallup poll published late last year. But when you look at the poll’s 13 categories, it’s actually a mixed bag.

The Good: Clear majorities of workers, 73% and 69%, respectively, are satisfied with the safety of their workplaces and their relations with their co-workers.

The Bad: Only 30% are satisfied with the amount of money they earn, and only 29% feel that their level of on-the-job stress is about right.

And there’s more good news – statistically speaking – for you, as the owner or boss. Fifty-four percent of workers say they’re completely satisfied with you as a boss or supervisor. Of course, that mean 46% feel a little differently…but you’ve got to like the odds.

It should be mentioned that the data was derived from polling more than a thousand workers, nationwide, in numerous industries and career paths. Your individual results – like they say in the infomercials – will vary.

For example, a recent Salary.com survey showed unusually high job dissatisfaction in younger workers and workers in the financial services industry. So if you have lots of 20-somethings around, or if you’re in the money business, expect more than your fair share of personnel trouble.

Avoiding Employee Turnover

There are practical reasons why you should be concerned with employee job satisfaction. Most notably, happy employees tend to stay with you…unhappy employees move on, and that means worker turnover. High employee turnover can hurt your productivity and your bottom line. It can sometimes cost up to twice an employee’s salary to find and train a replacement.

So what’s a high rate of turnover? According to Compensation Force, an information outlet for human resources professionals, voluntary turnover across all industries in the U.S. averaged 9.8% in 2012. Utilities (4.9% turnover) and manufacturing companies (7.6%) were at the low end, while the hospitality business (23.4%) experienced the highest rate of turnover.

Some quick tips for reducing employee turnover:

  • Make the right hire to begin with. Chemistry and an ability to fit into your company’s culture are nearly as important as having the right skill set.
  • Check your compensation and benefits packages at least once a year to make sure you’re competitive in the marketplace.
  • Try to provide a positive work environment. Recognition, awards, and public praise can go a long way to improving morale.

Asking for Employee Feedback

But back to employee satisfaction. Probably the most effective way to determine if your troops are happy is to just ask them.

Of course, it’s trickier than that. Employee surveys, especially if they’re conducted and analyzed by you, the owner or boss, are easily manipulated by workers who are afraid of rocking the boat. This could leave you with the impression that employee satisfaction is better than is truly accurate.

But with the right questions, you can still get a fairly good picture. Consider asking about compensation (I am paid fairly for the work I do: Yes or No.), resources (I have the right equipment and work environment to do my job well: Yes or No.), feedback (Employee performance evaluations are fair: Yes or No.), and workplace communication (Open, candid communication is encouraged: Yes or No.).

You could consider having your employees take the survey as part of an annual performance review.

If you’re convinced that you’re not getting honest feedback, consider contracting with a human resources consultant, who can conduct the surveys in a way that would guarantee employee privacy and anonymity. Most accredited business schools have faculty specializing in personnel work or organizational behavior. Or check with the local chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management for a referral.

One more thing. Remember that communication goes both ways. Always make sure your employees know exactly what you expect from them. You might be surprised at what they’re assuming. Read more about sharing your expectations with employees here.

Invoice factoring is a proven solution to all kinds of cash flow problems in many industries. Let MP Star Financial help you get a better handle on your company’s cash flow management. Call for more information. (800) 833-3765, extension 150.

Image: The Scream by Edvard Munch is in the public domain in the United States

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