Dear Workforce: How Important Is An Overall
Measure Of Employee Satisfaction?
It can be a useful measure, but satisfied employees aren’t necessarily productive. You should focus on questions that predict performance.
The designers of our employee-satisfaction survey include a final question about overall satisfaction. We aggregate the responses to all other questions relating to satisfaction, and compare the response against this final question. For example, we can compare how satisfied a person is with their work/life balance to their overall job satisfaction. Is it really necessary to include a final question asking staff about overall satisfaction?
-- Needing a yardstick, corporate HR, Singapore.
I think the overall measure is one that provides value, and given that it consists of only one question, the cost of adding it is minimal. However, I wonder what components of satisfaction you are asking about in your other questions. I would be more interested in evaluating the value of some of those questions rather than the overall satisfaction question.
To complicate my answer even further, I would question the use of satisfaction. In my own research, I find that satisfaction is not related to performance. In fact, I argue that working towards the improvement of overall satisfaction may actually result in negative effects on your company’s performance. Why? Satisfied employees are not necessarily productive employees.
Satisfied employees will not necessarily be willing to change when your company needs them to change. Satisfied employees can be very mediocre. We know from a variety of research that some level of "dissatisfaction" is needed in order to encourage people to change and to "move forward."
I would strongly suggest you ask questions that predict performance. My recommendation is adding questions about motivation, challenge, and energy (the degree to which employees are energized by their jobs). I also recommend asking open-ended comment questions. Employees have a wealth of information about your business that you do not have; why not use your survey process to tap into that knowledge base? Measurement can turn into a very useful intervention if you do the following:
1. Ask questions that can lead to action; provide managers with information that will
be compelling and that will allow them to take action to improve performance. I
find that open-ended comments that ask for suggestions to improve performance
work very well.
2. Make sure the survey data is provided back to managers in a timely way. You
can’t expect a manager to take action if they receive their reports months after a
survey was taken.
3. Increase the frequency of your surveys. You could ask very short surveys on a
weekly basis, with all managers receiving their own reports weekly.
4. Hold managers accountable for action; find out what they are doing with their
data and share best practices.
5. Change your survey questions to reflect what’s important in your business today.
Worry less about benchmarking and focus more on helping your management
team by giving them actionable data.
SOURCE: Dr. Theresa Welbourne, eePulse, Ann Arbor, Michigan, September 24, 2002.
The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.
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