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How to achieve more job satisfaction

One of the first questions we ask when meeting someone new is ‘What do you do?’ and this is hardly surprising when you realise that we spend the majority of our waking hours at work.

The work we do also has a huge influence outside of work hours, as our work can play a significant part of our identity and offers insight in to what is truly important to us.

These days, job satisfaction is a hot topic and retaining staff who are motivated and satisfied at work is a huge focus of organisations and businesses.

Job satisfaction factors range from measurable ones such as a competitive pay rate, to more subjective factors such as whether or not employees believe their work is meaningful.

Contributors of Job Satisfaction

While business owners and leaders constantly try to balance budget limitations with employee incentives, and bonuses, employees generally want possibilities to grow within their companies, bosses who value them, and to feel a sense of purpose in what they do.

Job satisfaction survey results indicate the following as the top five contributors to job satisfaction:

1. Ability to use skills and capability within the role – employees want to feel useful and play to their strengths. They want to add value to the organisation.

2. Job security – having impending redundancies or being unsure of whether your job will be around in 6 months does nothing to raise satisfaction levels on the job.

3. Compensation – yes, being fairly compensated for what we do can raise levels of satisfaction.

4. Good communication between employees and management – clear, positive communication can make all the difference.

5. Good relationships with your immediate manager, team leader or supervisors.

Unsurprisingly, pay and benefits are a huge part of what keeps people at a company year after year, however a work-life balance must be struck for employees to feel happy no matter how much they are paid.

We have all heard the anecdotes of professionals who are compensated well in monetary terms however lack the time to establish relationships with family and friends because they virtually live at the office. And then there are the chronically underpaid professions and no matter how much ‘meaning’ you get from the work you do, the shortage of pay is enough to create major dissatisfaction in terms of career.

It’s more than just pay and ‘balance’

Author Malcolm Gladwell in his best-selling book “Outliers” investigated the psychology of success and found that people commit to and enjoy their work when it has three distinct qualities:

- complexity

- autonomy

- a clear relationship between effort and reward.

So, for example, working for a controlling manager in a role where giving your best effort goes unrecognised is undoubtedly going to result in low job satisfaction.

On the other hand, doing stimulating work that challenges you at just the right level and provides ownership over the outcome will help reap the rewards of success and create meaning, thereby increasing satisfaction at work.

The cost of an unsatisfied workforce

Even if employees are satisfied just enough to stay on a company’s payroll, unhappy or disengaged employees are less productive. Furthermore, disgruntled workers will voice their frustrations to their peers, and perhaps even publicly via channels such as social media.

Disengagement takes a huge toll on productivity, costing billions of dollars every year.

The relationship and communication between a manager and their staff is another crucial factor in job satisfaction. The way in which an employee perceives a supervisor’s behaviour can positively or negatively influence overall satisfaction in the workplace. Communication behaviour such as facial expressions, eye contact, vocal expressions and body movement and other non-verbal messages all play a crucial role in interpersonal interactions.

Job satisfaction is important for managers too

There is no universal formula to calculate the cost of staff turnover however common sense dictates that employees must stay with a company in order to help grow it into a success. Growing within a company is exactly what many employees want to do and managers that make clear career pathways transparent to employees at all levels are more likely to keep talent for longer.

Job satisfaction theory and models

A well-known job satisfaction theory is the Dispositional Theory, suggests that people have innate dispositions that cause them to have tendencies towards a certain level of satisfaction, regardless of the job they hold. It’s important to note here as an example that millennials value different things to baby boomers.

Research shows that Emerging Adults or Generation Z will change jobs seven times by their late 20s in an effort to figure out what they like, what they’re good at and where they can fit and stand out.

In retaining Emerging Adults (EA's), organisations need to ensure that they are providing continuous learning, building companies that care about their employees and their communities, provide their staff with regular feedback and compensate adequately. EA’s want jobs that help them acquire career capital (skills, knowledge and experience that gives them leverage in the job market) and managers that are able to listen, inspire and motivate others.

Managers may need to manage their own expectations.

Today’s twenty-somethings are working with a different playbook than previous generations. For all employees, and perhaps Gen Z and Gen Y (millenials) in particular, having comprehensive onboarding systems, offering coaching and mentoring programmes and opportunities for growth and internal mobility within a company are also considered a high determinant of overall satisfaction.

Considering job satisfaction at the outset

Before you apply for a role, it is important to reflect and assess your suitability for a role by considering your strengths, skills and experience and whether there is a good fit.

Is your thinking style appropriate to the role and its requirements?

Are your occupational interests a match for those of the role? For example, if you enjoy technical and creative aspects of a job, then your satisfaction levels will be higher in roles that cater for these interests?

Is your personality/behaviour aligned to the position and business you want to work within?

What particular tasks and activities keep you engaged and energised? Is it likely that you will find these types of tasks in your new job?

Both employer and employee need to use the interview process to assess alignment.

Strategies to Improve Job Satisfaction

There are many ways to increase job satisfaction. Firstly, employers need to pay attention to the key drivers of staff satisfaction and motivation and employees need to take personal responsibility to choose a vocation that is good fit for them in terms of their skills and interests.

Multiple studies have proven that employees are happiest when they are treated as valuable members of their workplaces. This value is demonstrated in a couple of ways – through their pay check as well as through verbal recognition, praise and a harmonious and respectful atmosphere at work.

Regular appraisals allow employers time to sit down with their team members and discuss positives and negatives and improving engagement throughout all levels of the company.

Many managers are now undergoing training in order to have coaching style conversations with their team members, providing employees with a forum to speak openly and without any negative repercussion.

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