Managing Job Satisfaction
Increasing job satisfaction is important for its humanitarian value and for its financial benefit (due to its effect on employee behavior). As early as 1918, Edward Thorndike explored the relationship between work and satisfaction in the Journal of Applied Psychology.
NBRI typically includes measures of job satisfaction in all our employee surveys. Clear patterns have emerged.
Employees with higher job satisfaction:
- believe that the organization will be satisfying in the long run,
- care about the quality of their work,
- are more committed to the organization,
- have higher retention rates, and
- are more productive.
Define Your Terms
Be precise. Vague terms like “morale” often include elements of satisfaction, commitment, desire to quit, communication, etc. A major business magazine quoted a CEO who consistently confused job satisfaction with complacency. A lack of conceptual clarity makes it difficult to learn anything useful or precise.
A single construct or multiple dimensions. One area of disagreement is whether job satisfaction has multiple dimensions. Researchers like Porter and Lawler define job satisfaction as a unidimensional construct; that is, you are generally satisfied or dissatisfied with your job. In contrast, Smith, Kendall, and Hulin argue that job satisfaction is multidimensional; that is, you may be more or less satisfied with your job, your supervisor, your pay, your workplace, etc.
Related Employee Surveys
Employee Satisfaction Survey – A properly designed and executed employee satisfaction survey will provide upper management with the necessary information to implement strategies to improve job satisfaction, productivity, and loyalty.
View all Employee Surveys by NBRI.
For the purposes of our employee survey work, we follow Porter & Lawler and define job satisfaction as people’s affective (emotional) response to their current job conditions. We also carefully distinguish job satisfaction from its consequents. Desire to stay with an organization is not a symptom of job satisfaction, it is a consequence of job satisfaction. As an independent factor, desire to stay is also affected by other factors such as employees’ job security, expectations about their future success in the organization, etc.
Sources of Confusion
Negative is stronger than positive. Dissatisfaction seems to be more motivating than satisfaction. In a similar way, people often react more immediately and visibly to pain than to a pleasant stimulus.
Diminishing returns. Frequently, there is not a simple relationship between satisfaction and its consequents. For example: the greater the dissatisfaction, the greater the motivation to quit. Once people are basically satisfied, they are no longer motivated to quit. How will their behavior be different if they are wildly satisfied with their jobs? They will still not be motivated to quit. Thus, once employees are satisfied with their jobs, being wildly satisfied may not produce significantly different behavior. This effect can cause managers to underestimate just how motivating job satisfaction really is.
What are the statistically significant factors that affect job satisfaction?