Do You Have Dissatisfied Employees?

by Mary Pille, Employers' Association

Aside from the obvious impact the economy has had on the workplace—i.e. layoffs, furloughs and wage freezes—there could be longer-term effects in the aftermath of the recession. The headline of a study of 5,000 households recently released by the Conference Board read, “U.S. Job Satisfaction at Lowest Level in Two Decades.” According to the report, Americans of all ages and incomes continue to grow increasingly unhappy at work. This should be a red flag to employers. Here are some additional facts from the study:

  • Forty-five percent of those surveyed said they were satisfied with their jobs, down from 61.1 percent in 1987, the first year in which the survey was conducted.
  • The youngest cohort of employees (those currently under age 25) expressed the highest level of dissatisfaction ever recorded by the survey for that age group.
  • The growing dissatisfaction across and between generations is important to address because it can directly influence the quality of multi-generational knowledge transfer, which is increasingly critical to effective workplace functioning.
  • The drop in job satisfaction between 1987 and 2009 covers all categories in the survey, from interest in work (down 18.9%) to job security (down 17.5%), and crosses all four of the key drivers of employee engagement: job design, organizational health, managerial quality and extrinsic rewards.

The “pay attention” statistic that came out of the study is that 22 percent of respondents said they do not expect to be in their current job in a year. Guess which employees are the most anxious to move on? Most likely, the star performers. Insightful employers are those that were able to maintain an acceptable work culture during the recent economic downturn, positioning themselves to welcome those highly productive, dissatisfied employees looking for better opportunities.

As an employer or manager, what steps have you taken to retain the star performers in your organization or department? If this has not been on the radar screen, an organization of dissatisfied employees will have a negative impact on productivity, and ultimately, the bottom line. It is well worth it to maintain the talent you already have. Think of retention as re-recruiting your workforce. While compensation is a key consideration, especially if pay cuts and wage freezes were a part of your survival plan, pay alone will not be enough to come out of the trough ready for growth. Today’s employees are looking for a career package, including a good culture, career path, diversity of responsibilities and work/life balance. Below are some methods to consider for employee retention and reduced turnover:

  • Training. Employees who receive training are reinforced in their sense of value.
  • Mentoring. When goal-oriented, mentoring creates a structured mechanism for developing relationships within an organization.
  • Instill a positive culture. Create and practice a series of values such as honesty, excellence, respect and teamwork.
  • Use communication to build credibility. Make opportunities for communication to flow both ways—both down and up through advisory groups or employee satisfaction surveys. It is extremely important for employees to know that you are really listening.
  • Show appreciation via compensation and benefits. Offering competitive salaries and meaningful benefits shows the importance of the employee to your organization.
  • Coaching/feedback. It is important to give feedback and coaching so employees’ efforts are aligned with the goals of the company. These also help employees meet expectations.
  • Provide growth opportunities. Giving employees opportunities to improve their skills will create an environment in which they feel challenged to make self-improvements.
  • Make employees feel valued. Employees will go the extra mile if they feel responsible for the results of their work, have a sense of worth in their jobs, believe their jobs make good use of their skills, and receive recognition for their contribution.
  • Lower stress from overworking and create work/life balance. It is important to match work/life balance to the needs of employees. When structured properly, both the employees and employer win.
  • Foster trust and confidence in senior leaders. Developing strong relationships with employees from the start is key to building trust. Employees have to believe that upper management is competent and that the organization will be successful.

Take a good look around your organization or department. How would you rate your organization or yourself for having the methods outlined above in place? The good news is that there is always an opportunity to put these initiatives into place, and you can make it happen! iBi