How To Measure & Boost Employee Satisfaction

As a leader or manager, you want satisfied employees: people who are excited to come to work, motivated to do a good job, and open to changes and collaboration.

Employees who are satisfied tend to be:

  • Happier, more content, and more motivated at work.
  • More productive.
  • Absent fewer days.
  • Better able to collaborate and network with colleagues.
  • More likely to positively spread the word about your organization as brand advocates.
  • More likely to stay at your organization for a long time, reducing employee churn.

Ultimately, satisfied employees give back to your company, making it grow into the best place it can be.

But how do you measure employee satisfaction? How do you know if the critiques that comes from your employees are serious signs they’re dissatisfied, or if they’re standard run-of-the-mill suggestions?

And once you’ve figured out how you’re doing, how can you make improvements? You not only want to ensure your employees are satisfied, but you want to improve their experiences at your company as time goes by.

In this post, you’ll find how you can measure employee satisfaction, as well as how you can improve it.

How to Measure Employee Satisfaction

You can’t understand where to improve if you don’t know what areas you’re lacking! Here are some ways you can measure employee satisfaction:

Have One-on-One Conversations

Imagine you work for an organization with 40 people. It’s unrealistic to expect that you’ll get one-on-one time with them naturally. So, schedule one-on-one conversations. Many companies have these types of conversations on a weekly, monthly, or quarterly basis. Be clear about the goals of these sessions. Ultimately, you want to find out about how satisfied the employee is with their roles and the company as a whole.

When you enter into one of these conversations, don’t go with an agenda. Come up with a series of questions to ask the employees, then listen to their answers. Here are some good questions to ask employees in a one-on-one meeting:

  • What are some things you think we’re doing well?
  • What aren’t we doing well?
  • If you could change one aspect of your job, what would it be?
  • What do you wish you were doing more of?
  • Do you think the team is successful at working together? Why or why not?
  • Do you see yourself here in five years? Why or why not?

Record what they say. You can ask employees to clarify what they mean, but don’t get defensive if they say something you don’t agree with.

Conduct Surveys

Sometimes it’s difficult for employees to express themselves to their leader or manager, especially if they are concerned about how the other party will take it. That’s why surveys, especially anonymous ones, can be helpful tools. Surveys also help you get quantitative data, rather than just a bunch of ideas and suggestions.

For example, if you ask employees if they feel generally satisfied with their job, you’ll get a percentage who say they are, and a percentage who’ll say they aren’t. These percentages will help you gage how you’re doing instantly.

To conduct a survey, use SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, TinyPulse, 15Five, or any survey tool and send it to everyone in the company. Make sure you can make the surveys anonymous, so that employees will be as honest as possible about their feelings.

Read Between the Lines

Sometimes, the satisfaction of your employees won’t be completely obvious, so it’s your job to read between the lines. Even if you have the best intentions, one-on-one conversations might go no where. Employees might be intimidated by your position of leadership.

Do some research and learn about salaries in your area to see if what you’re offering is competitive. If you’re paying below market rate, your employees know that. They’re probably not satisfied with their pay, and could be looking for new opportunities, or simply feeling bad.

Talk to friends outside the office and ask them what they’re biggest issues at their jobs are, to see if you’re having any similar issues at your own offices. Talk to other leaders at your company to see what they think– are their employees satisfied? What could be done to improve?

How to Improve Employee Satisfaction

Once you’ve measured the current level of contentment at your company, the real work begins. You can improve employee satisfaction by trying these tips:

Team Building at Work

You’ve all heard about wild team building exercises—ropes courses, paintball, boating, camping—whatever they are.  Sounds like a great idea, but if you’re a small business operating on a tight budget, it’s just not going to happen.

Fortunately, you can see the same benefits with a reasonable price tag by hosting fun events in-house! Try this epic list of team building games to get your coworkers laughing and working together.

Encourage Traditions and Volunteering

You could opt for the familiar Fourth of July barbecue, but why not get a little more creative?  Enlist your employees to help with local charity events or organizations. Get them involved in civic events in town, build a relationship with the community through your business and at the same time you’ll be strengthening your own work “family.”

When people do good for others, they feel good too. And don’t forget – happiness in the workplace directly impacts business growth.

Feed Them

Everyone loves free food.  Pick a day and make it special.  That’s what Daniel Meltz, marketing specialist at PCMA does.  “While Friday itself is a morale boost, we crank ours up a little more with Breakfast Club. Every Friday a different employee brings in breakfast for the staff who wish to participate. It is delicious and doesn’t cost the company a dime.”

Implement Flex Hours

Meltz also points out that unless your employee really needs to be at work on the dot, say for customer coverage needs, there’s no reason that you can’t let them tweak their schedule a little bit.  Rigid work hours are becoming a thing of the past—just make sure your scheduling doesn’t get too lax.

Host an Annual Awards Ceremony

This isn’t the most budget-friendly of the bunch, but it can be very effective. By treating your best employees to a yearly bash on the boss’s dime, you’ll encourage good will, inspire improved performance, and incite in your employees a little competitive rivalry.

Help Fulfill Their Goals

Media mogul, entrepreneur, daredevil, and all-around interesting man Richard Branson says that once you have a great employee, keeping them can be difficult if your goals don’t mesh well with theirs.

“Before you make a prospect a job offer, be sure to consider how his plans for his career fit with your company’s. If there’s a real mismatch, it’s unlikely you’ll be able to work together long.”  So, whenever you can, help your employees reach their own personal goals within the framework of your company.

Let Employees Own Achievements

A sense of achievement can be a real shot in the arm.  Branson also espouses giving your employees the freedom to really own their job.  “You need to give your people the freedom to get creative, to come up with their own ideas and run with them. If someone comes to you with an idea for a business, why not ask that person to launch a startup?”

Let Employees Vent

Amy Balliett, of Killer Infographics, points out that not every employee is comfortable speaking up.  That’s why she uses software called TinyPulse which lets her employees let her know when things are off, anonymously.  “It keeps it from something that will fester.  Festering makes an angry employee who will leave.”

Acknowledge Personal Accomplishments

Sure, just about every office has a list of birthdays tacked up on the corkboard but how many offices actually do something about it?  A cake really doesn’t cost that much and letting your employees celebrate just a little during the day isn’t going to destroy productivity.  But think beyond birthdays: Anniversaries, children’s graduations, sporting events, and milestones are all opportunities to connect.

Get a Mascot

A lighthearted mood-booster can be adopting an office mascot.  Whether it’s a goldfish, a stuffed animal, a concrete gargoyle, or even a poster of David Hasslehoff, having something iconic that can roam around from department to department is a way to keep spirits up and create a little healthy rivalry.

Give Out Cold Hard Cash

While you probably can’t afford to drop lump-sum awards at the end of a good financial season, you can shell out a few bucks for gas cards, coffee, or even just a small “bonus” check.  If you figure it right, you can probably make up the cost in office supplies or some other non-essential expense.

Offer Corporate Discounts

Even small companies have enough buying power to earn a discount from local businesses.  There are also many national chains, like AT&T and Verizon, that offer considerable discounts as well.  Use your pull to get your employees a good deal on something they’ll use—vacations, cellphone coverage, even groceries—and you’ll see and extra pep in their step.

Broadcast Names

It’s great when the boss comes up and says “good job” for a deed well done.  It’s even better when the boss writes up a blurb and sends it to the company enewsletter or even the local newspaper. Make your employees feel like stars for their work.

Allow Time Off

Who doesn’t like an extra day or two off?  If you have an individual, or even a team, that’s been putting in the hours to get the job done, let them cool it on company time.  Sometimes just an afternoon on the boss is all it takes.

Give Personalized Gifts

Take a moment to find out what the individual is “into.”  It could be cars, wine/beer, music—anything really.  Then tailor a reward just for them.  A bottle of the best, tickets to a local concert, or even just the next book in the trilogy they’re reading. When it’s personalized, it goes a long way.

Grant Attendance at Industry Functions

If your business is involved in tradeshows, conferences, or conventions, letting your elites tag along might be just the reward they’ve been looking for.  Not only does it get them out of the office, it opens them up to skillset advancement and growth opportunities they might not otherwise see.

Attack the Real Issues

A satisfied employee is happy with their workplace as a whole, so you won’t get anywhere if you solve the problems with bandaids like pizza parties or office pool tables. 

Instead, you need to attack the real issues your employees are having, even though they’re probably hard to fix. If employees feel overworked, you have to find a way to create a more balanced workload. If employees feel underpaid, you have to figure out a plan to increase salaries.

If Necessary, Make Big Changes

Imagine you’re a writer working at an organization that paid you pennies to write thousands upon thousands of words per day. Your satisfaction isn’t going to be solved by a small raise or a minor cut in word count. In order for this kind of organization to thrive, leaders would have to make large changes in how they conduct business. They might bring in a business consultant to set them on the right path, and change the way they structured jobs.

Employees can get on fine without snacks and parties, but they suffer when they feel they are undervalued, underpaid, and overworked. You may need to make large changes to improve employee satisfaction. Don’t be afraid to take risks to make it happen.

Bring in a Consultant

You’re a leader, not a mind reader, and you’re so wrapped up in your organization that it can be difficult for you to see how you can improve. Organizational psychologists and executive coaches can see things you can’t– that’s why it’s worth calling them up.

These psychologists and coaches can lead workshops and sessions, take surveys, and help you come up with a plan for improvement. Coaches can come with a price tag– a Harvard Business Review survey of coaches said the average hourly rate is $500– but many coaches are satisfied with the results.

Harvard Business Review also offers advice on what to look for in a coach, based on what those who’ve hired coaches say. Sixty-five percent recommend hiring a coach or psychologist that has experience coaching in a similar setting.

Keep Feedback Light

No one likes to feel like they’re in trouble. Just because you’re trying to improve a big issue like satisfaction doesn’t mean you need to make it heavy and confrontational. Sometimes, when you ask employees tough questions, they can get defensive and worry that their jobs are in danger.

Remind your employees that you’re doing this so you can create a better place to work, and that their honesty and participation will make the process easier, and ultimately result in a better work environment for them. For more advice, try these tips on how to conduct effective employee reviews

Employee Satisfaction Builds a Great Company

How can you build a great, profitable organization if your employees don’t like coming to work? As a leader and manager, it’s on you to work to improve employee satisfaction. If you’re able to do so, you’ll create a more productive workplace, reduce employee churn, and ultimately build a better, stronger company.

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