Seven proven ways to boost employee satisfaction

Maybe you’ve recently completed an employee satisfaction survey that had surprisingly low results. Or perhaps you simply looked around this morning’s team meeting and noticed the eyes down, big sighs and an absence of smiles. If you’ve decided to do something about it, this article is for you.

Seven proven ways to boost employee satisfaction

Employee satisfaction has a direct effect on team and organisation performance. Boosting satisfaction has been shown to improve engagement and productivity while reducing employee turnover and its crippling costs. So, to help you design an employee satisfaction programme that suits your situation, here are seven proven strategies to consider and adapt.

1.    Understand what affects employee satisfaction

Satisfaction is all about how happy an employee is in their current role. When it comes to what the organisation does, employee satisfaction tends to be influenced by things like:

  • Pay and benefits
  • Flexibility around work times and locations
  • The amount and type of work they’re expected to do
  • Collaboration and support from colleagues
  • Whether they have the equipment, materials and information they need to shine
  • What they think of their team leader and senior managers
  • Opportunities to learn and advance their career
  • How well the company’s culture and values fit with their own

These are in no particular order, and each employee will have their own priorities and expectations. This leads us nicely to the next strategy.

2.    Gather employee feedback and act on it

Successful organisations have a culture of open and honest communication between all levels. This includes ‘upward’ feedback and recognition, not just the traditional top down approach. It can take a while to build the trust and belief required for this to become the norm, but the benefits far outweigh the effort involved to get there.

Anonymous surveys can be a good place to start. They help to encourage honest and frank feedback. Free-to-use employee satisfaction surveys are available online or you may prefer to hire an HR specialist to help guide you through. Sharing collated results with your team and working together on ways to improve is a great start. You don’t have to agree to do everything the team suggests. If you’re not willing to do something at this stage, explain why, but be willing to revisit the idea if things change.

Keep track of the improvement in survey results over time, and ensure the team gets credit for their ideas and making them happen. When employees see their feedback is genuinely valued and acted upon, they’re much more likely to contribute to the organisation’s success. The process in itself builds satisfaction, not just the outcomes.

3.    Learn, coach and enable effective recognition

Take time to assess and improve your own employee recognition skills. Ask your employees how well you recognise individual and team contributions, as well as what you could do to improve. Most experts say effective recognition should be frequent, prompt, personalised, specific, inclusive and visible.

The next step is to lead by example and encourage peer-to-peer recognition. Congratulating those who get on board and quietly coaching recognition skills within your team will help to develop the desired culture.

Be careful to link recognition to agreed targets, as well as organisation-wide goals and values. This helps to keep the focus on desired outcomes.

When a team goal is reached, be sure to recognise and reward everyone in the team, not just the stand-out individuals. This sends a clear message that you value collaboration and achieving the shared goal above all else.

4.    Communicate, communicate, communicate

Providing a single source of the truth through timely transparent communications is the best way to avoid unhelpful and distracting rumours that can undermine employee satisfaction.

Your employees should be among the first to know about successes, challenges and changes for the organisation. Armed with accurate information and key messages, they can also be powerful ambassadors within your communities. Even internal workplace challenges and changes should be shared as soon as possible. This gives employees time to process, provide feedback, prepare and adjust. To find out about something at the last minute through the news media, a supplier or a customer – when clearly managers have known about it for some time – creates lasting dissatisfaction and undermines trust.

Remember that communication is a two-way thing. It’s most effective when employees have an opportunity to provide input. Employees will share their thoughts one way or another, so it’s much better if you’re in on what they have to say. That said, even just using internal communication channels to provide timely messages and ongoing reference information is better than nothing at all.

5.    Plan and support career growth

Another strong contributor to employee satisfaction is a sense of self-improvement and career progression. In particular, younger employees will often choose a lesser-paying employer if they get to work alongside some of the best in their field or the organisation is known for internal promotions. Asking employees where they would like to be in a year, five years and beyond is the first step for helping them to reach their goals.

Opportunities to learn can take many forms and don’t have to cost very much. In addition to external training courses you could offer mentoring within the organisation, short-term assignments with other departments or a project team, paid time off for short-course classes or lectures, membership to industry support groups and so on.

6.    Give employees the space to excel

It’s difficult to feel satisfied and proud of your work when you’re constantly micro-managed. It feels like you’re not trusted, your wings are clipped and any achievement won’t be seen as yours. As a manager, it’s much better to agree output targets and deadlines, ask to be sent progress updates at set intervals and encourage people to speak up early if they’re struggling. You could then use the time released from micro-management to focus on removing obstacles and inefficient company processes that your team find frustrating.

Giving space also includes allowing employees to suggest how their role could evolve to make better use of their strengths. This works particularly well when employees have a good understanding of the team, department and organisation goals, and how they could better support them. As a manager you still have ultimate control, but when employees can choose how to evolve their role – rather than have changes imposed – it’s much more satisfying.

7.    Create a healthy, comfortable and social work environment

Promoting employee wellbeing and healthy living helps employees to perform at their best, avoid burnout and feel more contented at work. Initiatives could include optional team walks at lunchtime, giving everyone a step counter, providing healthy snacks and fruit, ensuring workstations are ergonomic, and allowing flexibility around work times and locations.

Investing in a more attractive and productive physical environment can also boost employee satisfaction, particularly when you involve your team in its design. Even simple things like optimising temperature and light levels, and allowing people to personalise their workstations can help. Providing flexible spaces where project teams can temporarily co-locate helps to build teamwork and eliminate inefficient communication channels.

Taking the time to encourage social interaction in the workplace is another way to lift employee satisfaction. It also improves collaboration and teamwork. If you have remote workers or people with flexible schedules, be sure to find ways to include them. This can be as simple as sending them their favourite refreshment and a few snacks, so they can join an online party with the rest of the team at the office.

Next steps

Hopefully this article has given you some ideas to help you get started. You don’t have to make everything happen on your own. It’s much better to involve your team. When you’re ready, you could let them know there’s some great work going on, but you’re not sure everyone is enjoying work as much as they could. Tell them you’re keen to find out what feels good about their work and what doesn’t, then to collaborate to make improvements. Then you could let them know how you’d like to get the ball rolling, such as conducting an employee satisfaction survey. Just be sure to ask if they’d be happy to participate and help with making improvements based on the results.

Check out an easy way to appreciate your employees.