by Shayne Thomas
30 May 2019
Workplace Satisfaction 101
3 areas that every HR manager should focus on to boost employee engagement
One of the biggest challenges—and opportunities—for any HR manager is ensuring employee happiness. A lot of that comes down to job satisfaction. What makes this task difficult, however, is that workplace satisfaction isn’t one-size-fits-all; what makes one employee happy might not move the needle for another whatsoever.
This has a lot to do with the fact that every workplace is a truly complex environment. It’s a hotbed of different pressures, possibilities, and personalities, all of which either get employees excited to get out of bed every day or make them count down the days, hours, and minutes until the weekend rolls around again—as well as everything in between.
But this doesn’t mean that employee engagement lives in a vacuum either. There are a lot of things HR managers can do to help companies create the best employee experience possible. In fact, the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) annual survey sheds light on a number of common workplace characteristics that employees find most important for creating a sense of job satisfaction, most notably:
- 100% — Opportunity to use skills and abilities
- 96% — Relationship with direct supervisor
- 87% — Organization’s financial stability
- 87% — Relationship with co-workers
- 85% — Communication between employees and senior management
- 81% — Meaningfulness of job
- 78% — Management’s recognition of employee job performance
- 77% — Overall corporate culture
- 75% — Job-specific training
- 75% — Organization’s commitment to professional development
- 69% — Career advancement
Now, if you’re a savvy HR manager—and we assume you are since you’re reading this blog—you’ve likely spotted a few trends in the needs noted above: culture, communication, career development, and stability. This should come as no surprise because these are all intrinsic characteristics that define humans as interpersonal beings. In other words, our happiness stems from our ability to communicate clearly and be understood, to have positive relationships with the people around us, to grow and thrive in our lives—beyond just our careers—and to feel as though we’re a part of something bigger than ourselves.
When you look at it this way, the workplace is really nothing more than a microcosm of the broader human experience. The steps you would take achieve your own personal happiness are, in many ways, the same steps you would take to nurture workplace satisfaction and drive employee engagement. The only curveball here is: humans are incredibly complex beings, too.
This means there’s honestly no right or wrong way to boost job satisfaction among employees, especially as it relates to the needs, challenges, and opportunities associated with your specific business. There are, however, some common trends and best practices—relevant to practically any business of any size–that are worth noting. That’s why we’ve created this quick “cheat sheet” to help guide you through the evolution of your own employee engagement program.
1. Communication and Feedback
Relationships with managers can make or break the workplace experience. In fact, a “bad boss” has been noted time and time again as the number one reason why employees quit their jobs and look elsewhere. Therefore, one of the easiest ways to improve your employees’ overall job satisfaction is to streamline the way they communicate with each other. To do this effectively, both managers and employees need access to performance tools that can allow them to engage in conversations openly and regularly—most importantly, around performance feedback (which, as we’ve mentioned before, should happen more than a once-per-year). By creating a workplace environment that prioritizes ongoing, two-way communication between employees at all levels, your company will be better positioned to breakdown communication barriers while also ensuring that all employees feel seen, appreciated, and valued as contributors to the organization’s overall objectives at all times.
2. Skills and Opportunity
Learning and development shouldn’t be something you just check off the compliance to-do list when onboarding new employees, and then never revisit again. It honestly needs to be baked into your company’s day-to-day culture and supported—better yet, encouraged—at all levels of the organization. Your employees don’t just come to work to do their jobs; they are eager to hone their skills or learn new skills that can help them do their jobs better, more efficiently, and more effectively. You’ve got to think of the workplace as essentially a skills training ground. Employees come to work to learn the skills that can propel them in their careers. And the companies that support their continued learning and development are those that, not surprisingly, see greater levels of workplace satisfaction, employee engagement, and retention.
Let’s take Cornerstone as an example (after all, if we’re going to talk the talk, we might as well walk the walk, right?). Every quarter, we hold something called “Development Day.” Employees get to host learning sessions, on the topics of their choice, and outside speakers are invited to share their knowledge and insights with us. It’s a fun—and pretty easy—way to make learning and development an interactive, community-building experience across the company. Adding to that, we’ve got a pretty incredible 24/7 learning platform that employees can log-in at any time to take a wide array of micro-courses on interesting, job-relevant topics. As you can see, we’ve made it a priority for learning to be an organic part of our employee experience.
3. Relationships and Culture
You spend a lot of time at the office, surrounded by your fellow coworkers. You might even spend more time with them than you do your own family and friends. That’s why it’s so important for the relationships between employees to be as strong as possible and for companies to create new and ongoing opportunities to foster a greater team dynamic company-wide. Otherwise, it becomes all too easy for employees to feel like they’re simply cogs in a machine or numbers on a spreadsheet. Sure, everyone comes to work to do the job they were hired to do, but that doesn’t mean, as they go about daily work life, that they can’t get to know each other as “human beings,” too. After all, happy employees tend to be more productive overall, which is a win-win for any business. Remember, employees are humans and humans are interpersonal beings—all who crave healthy relationships with each other. Make this a core part of your company’s culture, and you’ll see employee engagement skyrocket, fast.
This is certainly not an exhaustive list of all the areas you can focus on to improve workplace satisfaction and employee engagement, but it is the proverbial low-hanging fruit—the research told us so! So, as you can see, by making even the smallest changes around communication, learning, and teamwork across your organization, HR managers like yourself can start to shape company culture, one that puts a spotlight on job satisfaction, in a truly positive and impactful way for years to come.
Building a great company culture takes more than a "can-do" attitude. You need the right tools to set you up for success (and generally make your life easier). Chat with a Cornerstone expert about how we can help you get there.