Job Satisfaction: It's Not About Pay and Benefits Anymore

Posted by Derek L McIntyre on Aug 1, 2019 5:13:58 PM
Derek L McIntyre


Gone are the days of workers toiling away for a check at the end of the week – just thankful to have a job. With the advent of the internet and broad, real-time access to social media networks and job boards, employers are no longer in the driver’s seat. Employees today expect fair pay for a fair day’s work along with a host of other requirements. 

According to the Society of Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: The Doors of Opportunity are Open research, employees identified five factors as the leading contributors to job satisfaction; respectful treatment of all employees at all levels, compensation/pay, trust between employees and senior management, job security, and opportunities to use their skills and abilities at work. Based on these and other findings, organizations should place a greater focus on providing continuous, structured management training centered on factors that nurture motivation and promote employee retention. Some key organizational concepts which should be included in manager trainings are the role of fit, the role of diversity, and the role of motivation.

The Role of Fit

Person-job fit relates to the degree a person’s abilities match that of their job. Most hiring managers deeply understand the roles they are hiring for and typically have some measure for work performance, making person-job fit easier to manage than the equally important person-organization fit. Person-organization fit can be characterized as the personality, goals, and values that match the culture of an organization and is harder to measure than an employee’s performance. The challenge facing many companies is that senior leaders have a different idea of what the culture is or should be.

Historically, employees were expected to assimilate to the workplace and adopt the culture of the organization, but as social media and the sharing of information has increased exponentially, the ideas and expectations of a new generation require employers to be the ones who evolve to retain talent. The continuous influx of millennials into the workforce has created a wave of changes across companies both large and small. Employees expect greater levels of transparency, more opportunity for collaboration, and have a greater awareness of societal trends. Employees whose values, personality, and goals match those of the company tend to have a high level of person-organization fit and are more likely to stay with the organization. Therefore it is imperative that companies monitor the pulse of their workforce to ensure policies and practices are adapted to meet the expectations of their employees.

The Role of Diversity

Diversity is not only expected from employees today, but it’s also good business. While Human Resources may lead diversity initiatives, ultimately it is the managers who are responsible for promoting a diverse, inclusive workforce. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and other legislation prevent most types of overt discrimination but do little to eliminate less explicit discrimination like stereotyping in the interview process or overlooking women for promotions. 

Some managers view a focus on diversity as unimportant and simply hire “the best candidate”, but all too often their preconceptions lead them to hire candidates that simply fit their mental image of the right candidate which isn’t always the best candidate. This may be explained by the similarity-attraction phenomenon where there is a tendency for individuals to be attracted, even during hiring, to similar individuals. Research shows that individuals communicate less frequently with those who are perceived as different from themselves. They are also more likely to experience emotional conflict with people who differ with respect to race, age, and gender. However, neglecting diversity or refusing to acknowledge a possible bias is a big mistake since a host of benefits exist within diverse teams. Benefits include higher creativity in decision making; a better understanding of customers; a more satisfied workforce where employees feel they are fairly treated; and greater company performance. Yet some companies who understand these benefits still have trouble consistently executing their diversity initiatives.

Most of the stories that come out of Google and Microsoft are tales of innovation and progressive workplaces, but recent news shows that even companies with great reputations and a wealth of resources can lose track of their social responsibilities. In November 2018, Dave Lee of BBC News reported that Google staff in Singapore, Zurich, London, Tokyo, Berlin, and New York were taking part in a walkout instigated by a New York report that Andy Rubin, a well-known executive, had been paid $90 million upon resigning in the wake of a credible allegation of sexual misconduct. More recently, Nitasha Tiku of Wired magazine reported that a group of women appeared at a meeting of 100-150 employees with CEO Satya Nadella to protest discrimination against women in promotions and advancements. Nadella himself emigrated from India and rose through the ranks of Microsoft to become CEO, and while he expressed his sadness and vowed to investigate, this shows that even the most attuned business leaders can lose sight of social responsibilities through practical drift – further validating the need for continuous management training to prevent practical drift and recalibration management teams.

The Role of Motivation

The recent rise of gamification in the workplace and other means of recognizing employees for completing challenging work has highlighted a topic that’s been debated for over a century. In the early 1900’s, the Ford Motor Company perfected the assembly line through scientific management and job specialization. In the years to come, scientific management spread across industries while being picked apart by researchers looking at the decline of employee motivation. Today Frederick Taylor’s scientific management is viewed as antiquated and it’s been proven that specialized, yet boring, repetitive tasks decrease motivation and create negative outcomes. While some of Taylor’s principles are still being successfully utilized by managers, it’s important that business leaders are trained on new theories that increase productivity through motivation rather than pure efficiency. 

A study by Renee Weisman published by recently found that 100% of people who said they loved their job cited challenging work and personal growth as the greatest factors. Rounding out the top five reasons for loving their job were a manager who promoted growth, great colleagues, meaningful work, and compensation. These statistics show what many managers already sense; that today’s workforce is looking for more than just a check. Going back to the earlier point of social media, employees are sharing their life experiences with the world and those experiences are extending into the workplace. Employees now expect their jobs to provide life experiences that are meaningful and worthy of sharing and it’s important that managers be trained to recognize the changing nature of motivation. Gone are the days of putting in a hard day’s work for a fair wage. Organizations that excel today employ job rotation, job enrichment, and the job characteristics model to craft roles that are challenging, engaging, and most importantly, motivating.

Nike Cofound Phil Knight is quoted in Shoe Dog as saying “don’t tell people how to do things, tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results”. This idea is the driving force behind job enrichment where workers are given control over how they perform their tasks. As an alternative to job specialization and the scientific model, job enrichment promotes autonomy while reducing turnover and absences; two measures of motivation. 

However, not all employees or roles are suited for job enrichment. An example of such is the Ford Motor Company assembly line where a high level of consistency is required in the product. While it’s impossible to give manufacturing line workers a high level of autonomy, instead managers can employee job rotation to increase employee motivation and reduce role fatigue. Job rotation creates a process for regularly moving employees from job to job which increases the skills of the worker while reducing the monotony of the role. Per Renee Weisman’s study previously quoted, employees with access to growth are more likely to love their jobs, and job rotation provides access the learning new skills and thus growing the employee professionally. 

Regardless of the role, it’s also important that managers be trained to understand and apply the job characteristics model which attempts to design jobs with increase motivational properties. Beginning with the job characteristics, managers should define the skill variety, task identity, task significance, level of autonomy, and method of feedback. The most motivating roles have a high degree of all of these job characteristics, however, if one characteristic is lacking, it may be important the increase another., an Amazon company, operates in a giant warehouse with hundreds of employees cutting and shipping bolts of fabric around the world. Because the role of cutting fabric has a low level of skill variety and autonomy, increased the level of task significance and method of feedback by creating an incentive program that tracked fabric cut rates and gamified performance. Incentives can include time off, monthly bonuses, and company-wide employee recognition for those who maintain minimum performance criteria. These recognition and bonus programs flow directly into the psychological state component of the job characteristics model. 

John F. Kennedy once told the story of a janitor at the NASA space center. He asked the janitor what he was doing and the reply was “well Mr. President, I’m helping put a man on the moon”. Nick Saban at the University of Alabama copied this mantra for his football program that has won six of the last ten division one football championships. His equipment managers have been quoted as saying at Alabama they fold towels and clean helmets to win national championships. Meaningful work generates motivated employees. While winning football games may not seem meaningful to everyone, during the height of the Cold War, getting to the moon before the Russians was a point of pride for all Americans. President Kennedy had inspired a generation to the point that even the custodian of the NASA Space Center felt a sense of meaning and responsibility in his work. The equipment manager folding towels and cleaning helmets at Alabama understands the meaning of his work, the responsibility to support a dynasty, and has first-hand knowledge of the results – all of which are components of the psychological state and generate positive outcomes under the job characteristics model.

Motivation, performance, satisfaction, absenteeism, and turnover are all outcomes of adequately designing jobs with job characteristics and the psychological state in mind. Furthermore, outcomes can build upon one another. If a high level of motivation is maintained through empowerment, meaningfulness, and feedback, performance, satisfaction and a lack of absenteeism is anticipated to follow. While other factors such as person-job fit may impact performance, it’s important that managers understand that without these key properties that are tied to the retention of employees, person-job fit, person-organization fit, and diversity are virtually irrelevant. Managers who leverage the job characteristics model can decrease turnover and build a strong organizational culture.

Final Recommendation

According to a 2016 Gallup survey, 60% of millennials are open to a new job and 36% say they will look for a new job within the next 12 months. Fifty-five percent of millennials say they are not engaged at work, meaning organizations are failing to adapt to the changing expectations of the workforce. It’s imperative that organizations recalibrate management through continuous training focused on the issues that are important to a new generation of workers in order to improve attraction and aid retention. Organizations should require managers to look outwardly at the changing requirements of the workplace to ensure a high level of person-organization fit is achievable. This isn’t just about selecting the right employees, but rather about creating a culture that meets the expectations of a variety of diverse employees. Additionally, managers should be given the responsibility of maintaining a high level of diversity in their hiring and promotion processes and be trained on how to consciously build diversity into their daily operations. The greatest threat to diversity is fault lines and stereotyping, and conscious efforts can combat these threats. Lastly, managers should be trained to utilize the indicators and models for motivating employees. The organization cannot attract and retain people or promote diversity in the workforce without first creating engaging, motivating experiences for employees. Managers should be trained in new methods of providing feedback, gamifying tasks or roles, and designing jobs to maximize the workforce. Only through continuous, iterative training of business leaders will today’s human resources strategy be adapted to tomorrow’s workforce requirements.

Topics: human resources, Job Satisfaction, Employee Moral, Employee Morale