Workplace Satisfaction - What is Important to Your Employees?

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Are your employees satisfied with their work? Do you know what’s important to them? What motivates them? What’s missing from their current position?

As managers, developing, engaging, and retaining employees is an ongoing responsibility. You’ve probably been given lists of mission critical competencies and accompanying developmental remedies. You know what to focus on with your employees. Or do you?

While you’re busy trying to close competency gaps, some of your best people are thinking about jumping ship, throwing in the towel, opening a yogurt stand. They know there must be greener grass out there somewhere.

What’s wrong?

Is it a Competency Gap or a Workplace Satisfaction Gap?

Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans asked talented employees (in focus groups, surveys, and coaching sessions), “How thrilled are you with your work? What’s great about it? What’s missing?” The answers include, “I love my work except for —–

  • the pressure – to produce, conform, innovate.”
  • the jerk I work with (or report to).”
  • the lack of time for family, health, fun.”
  • the boredom, repetition, lack of challenge.”

The answers are as diverse as the people. But there’s a commonality too. In every case there is either something wrong or something missing. If you hope to engage and retain your key people, it’s not enough to search for and close competency gaps. You’ll need to dive in, diagnose and work to close the satisfaction gaps as well.

Defining Workplace Satisfaction

What’s important to us at work is as unique to each of us as our fingerprints. One person wants autonomy and another craves recognition. Others want a promotion or work/life balance. Spend time with your employees to clearly define what rings their chimes. Ask them to rate those desired work parameters on a scale of 1-5. This will help your employees identify what matters most to them at work.

Rate Their Current Work

Once the satisfiers are delineated, ask your employee to rate their current work and workplace against each of those parameters. To what degree does this work meet the desired parameter? How does it fall short?

Analyze and Close the Gaps

Sometimes the gaps will be very apparent. Other times it won’t be so obvious. Engage in a real conversation with your employees to get clear about the gaps. Once the gaps are identified, work with your employees to brainstorm possible solutions (sometimes work-arounds) to their dilemmas. Try a few. See what works and what doesn’t.

Note: The above steps depend on a trusting relationship between you and your employees. If you have that — great. If you don’t — build it NOW!

It sounds so simple and of course it’s not. Sometimes your most talented people must move on to be satisfied and successful. Often, though, they don’t. They can get exactly what they want, right where they are. And you can help them do that.


Based on concepts from Love It, Don’t Leave It by Beverly Kaye and Sharon Jordan-Evans

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