Employees who have a high level of job satisfaction are unlikely to be looking for another position. With an average cost-per-hire of $3,479 in 2011, few companies would argue against ensuring that their staff are happy in their jobs and intending to stay. Job satisfaction goes hand-in-hand with morale. Happy, positive workers create a positive atmosphere that is conducive to hard work. It can also contribute to (though it is not the same as) engagement, which is about how far employees identify with the company. Keeping employees happy is not about paying them large salaries with enormous benefits. It is about understanding what motivates people, and a good initial guide is Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
Few people are motivated entirely by money, but being paid a reasonable salary ensures that some of Maslow's basic needs (such as food, drink and shelter) are being met. If people are under-paid, worries about making the rent or feeding their children are going to lessen their morale. If they are paid at the market rate, or slightly above, it shows that their employer values their skills and hard work. This starts to answer needs for respect and recognition, which are higher up the hierarchy, and improve satisfaction levels.
Although being paid a fair salary is important, job satisfaction does not increase in direct proportion to the amount of money staff receive at the end of the month. Once their basic needs are met, people derive more satisfaction from feeling that they have contributed something and that the work they are doing is making a difference. Companies can increase job satisfaction by focusing staff communications on the company's purpose rather than on its financial performance. Corporate social responsibility programs also help staff to feel that their work is doing some good in the world.
Morale is low when staff feel that they have no control over their lives in the workplace. No one likes being told what to and when to do it. Wherever possible, companies should ensure that staff can make choices over how they achieve their objectives and, if practical, the hours they work. If managers work with staff to set targets together, and then trust the employees to achieve the objectives, job satisfaction and morale will both rise.
Everyone responds well to praise and likes to be recognized for their achievements. In companies with low morale, it is often observed that people only come into contact with senior management when there is a problem. To counter this, make sure that your company gives praise wherever it is due. Lavish rewards are not necessary: A handwritten note of thanks can sometimes be all it takes.
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