Facts About Employee Satisfaction Every Boss Should Know

Find out what makes staff members want to stick around.
Making sure your employees are happy is crucial to your success. (Photo: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock)

Happy employees stay in their jobs longer. This is crucially important for small business owners who want to avoid the costs and time drain associated with high turnover rates. To replace a worker earning less than $50,000, you may need to spend 20 percent of their salary.

Happier people also get 12 percent more done than unhappy people and complete more work in less time, with fewer errors, according to a study from the department of economics at the University of Warwick.

You know you need to keep your most valuable workers happy. But do you know what makes them happy?

Many employers actually don’t. Here, then, are a few pointers.

R-E-S-P-E-C-T: Find out what it means to them

Employees value respect in the workplace even more than they do money. In a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey, 67 percent of employees named “respectful treatment of all employees at all levels” the most significant factor for job satisfaction, compared with only 63 percent who called compensation the most important factor.

“Feeling appreciated for their time and efforts creates a bond between employees, management and their organization,” the survey noted.

In addition to showing basic respect, J.T. O’Donnell, author and career coach at Careerealism, recommended employers check in regularly with employees to show they care, celebrate little victories with a team lunch or leaving early on a Friday and give specific, sincere compliments about jobs well done.

Leave room for growth


Author and coach Careerealism, J.T. O’Donnell stresses the importance of leaving room for growth in your business. (Photo: J.T. O’Donnell)

Forty-five percent of workers told SHRM they were likely or very likely to look for jobs outside their current organization in the next year, which correlated to their satisfaction at work.

What could you do to make your employees happier? O’Donnell said she often hears from her job-hunting clients three things that would have made them happy enough to stay at their previous jobs. Opportunities for growth is one of them.

“If they don’t see ways they can do that at your company, they will look elsewhere for places they have the potential for upward mobility,” said O’Donnell.

Pay special attention if you have millennials working for you. The report noted, “Millennials placed more importance on job-speci­fic training, career development opportunities and career advancement opportunities contributing to their job satisfaction compared with older generations.”

Your vision: can they see it?

Among O’Donnell’s clients’ other must-haves include a leader they can trust. O’Donnell explained that employees want to follow a leader who’s in control and conveys “a vision that will keep the business thriving.”
In SHRM’s survey, “trust between employees and senior management” ranked number five among the most important factors for job satisfaction.

Culture club

Workplace culture is also essential to morale and employee retention. An enjoyable work environment was the third factor O’Donell’s clients report as critical.

Having a friend at work helps. Gallup found that close work friendships boost employee satisfaction by 50 percent. (Another reason to ask employees for referrals when it comes time to hire.)

8 signs of an unhappy employee

Unless you’ve outsourced your HR, you probably double as the HR department. Considering everything you need to do in a day, it’s easy to just assume that unless an employee complains, he or she is satisfied, even happy, with the job.

But O’Donnell said business owners should watch for employees who exhibit these characteristics that indicate dissatisfaction:

  • Calling in sick more frequently
  • Showing up late
  • Not speaking up in meetings
  • Tense body language. (i.e. arms crossed, never smiles)
  • Not participating in casual conversations with other employees
  • Doing only what is expected of them
  • Taking a lot of phone calls during work
  • Not volunteering for any new projects

If an employee shows signs of dissatisfaction, touch base sooner rather than later and see what’s going on.

Having regular job performance reviews can give you a chance to connect more formally and discuss not only performance but job satisfaction and goals.

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