The Great Divide: Exploring the Controversy Surrounding Employee Satisfaction Surveys

May 24, 2023
The Great Divide: Exploring the Controversy Surrounding Employee Satisfaction Surveys

Do you know that liking what you do can make a significant difference in your work life? It's called employee satisfaction, and it's not as easy to come by as you might think. Surprisingly, only 49% of employees in the United States are satisfied with their jobs.

Businesses have a keen interest in boosting employee satisfaction because companies with happy workers outperform those with dissatisfied employees by a staggering 202%. Even small improvements in satisfaction can have a positive impact on productivity and loyalty.

In this article, we're going to delve into employee satisfaction, how it differs from engagement, how to measure it, and more. We'll also discuss the ongoing debate surrounding the use of employee satisfaction as a workplace metric and explain why employee engagement is a superior and more informative alternative.

So, what exactly is employee satisfaction?

 It's a measure of how content and fulfilled your employees are in their jobs and overall workplace experience. High employee satisfaction has been linked to increased productivity, stronger loyalty, and reduced turnover. Therefore, it's in a business's best interest to pay close attention to this metric. Moreover, tracking employee satisfaction over time can provide valuable insights into the overall health of your organization.

The challenge lies in figuring out how to enhance employee satisfaction. Numerous factors come into play, such as compensation, recognition, relationships with coworkers, company culture, job satisfaction of managers, and more. Understanding where your business excels and where there's room for improvement is crucial in boosting employee satisfaction. We'll delve into this topic in more detail later on.

What's the deal with employee satisfaction versus employee engagement? 

It used to be that employee satisfaction was the go-to metric for HR departments, but in recent years, engagement has stolen the spotlight. And there's a good reason for that shift in focus.

Employee satisfaction is pretty one-sided. It only tells you how your employees feel about your business. On the other hand, employee engagement goes beyond that and measures the connection and effort your employees put into their work. It's a metric that benefits both your employees and your business because it's tied to both their emotional state and their output.

Over time, HR professionals realized that just having satisfied employees isn't enough to bring out their best. You see, someone can be satisfied with their job but not truly engaged. We actually witnessed this phenomenon in 2022 with the rise of the "quiet quitting" trend. These employees were relatively satisfied, but they became complacent and unproductive. They would show up, go through the motions, and collect their paycheck without going the extra mile. While the company retained their talent, it took a hit in terms of productivity. On the other hand, engaged employees are more likely to go above and beyond their job duties to help their company succeed.

So, here's the bottom line: to unlock better outcomes for your business, your employees need to be both satisfied and engaged. It's important to understand that satisfaction and engagement are different measurements, although they are closely related. Satisfaction is a crucial component and an indicator of engagement. In other words, for an employee to be truly engaged, they must also be satisfied with their work.

employee satisfaction survey controversy

Measuring employee satisfaction

When it comes to measuring employee satisfaction, there are so many factors to consider. The best way to tackle this complex metric is by conducting a survey that covers various aspects of the employee experience. Here's a simple step-by-step guide to help you launch your first employee satisfaction survey:

  1. Kick off an annual employee satisfaction survey

Make it a yearly tradition to create and administer an employee satisfaction survey. This gives your employees an opportunity to voice their opinions on areas they feel need improvement within the organization. It's also a chance for your business to listen and take action based on their valuable feedback. To make things easy, you can use a survey tool like one from Ariglad, which provides customizable survey templates to simplify the process.

  1. Dive into data analysis

Once the survey period is over, it's time to dig into the results. Naturally, you'll want to celebrate the areas where your business scored highly. However, it's equally important to pay attention to the areas where your business received lower-than-expected scores. These are the areas that require attention and improvement. To determine where to start, you'll need to delve deeper and identify which opportunities are likely to have the most significant impact on employee satisfaction.

  1. Harness the power of benchmark data

Whether it's your first employee satisfaction survey or you've conducted several in the past, benchmarking can provide valuable context to your scores. Benchmarking options that allow you to compare your results to real company data. With an average response rate of over 80%, you can gain insights from a substantial sample size. There are three types of benchmarking available:

  • Industry benchmarks: These encompass at least 20 companies and 20,000 people.
  • Geography benchmarks: This category includes a minimum of 50 companies and 10,000 people.
  • Function benchmarks: These benchmarks consist of a minimum of 50 companies and 5,000 people, focusing on specific functions within the organization.

By leveraging benchmark data, you can better understand how your business stacks up against the competition. This information helps you stay competitive as an employer and create the best possible workplace for your valued employees.

4. Action planning

Running a survey alone won't bring any benefits unless you follow up with action based on the findings. Once your survey is complete, it's essential to sit down and carefully review the results. Use this opportunity to create an action plan that addresses the high-priority items identified in the survey. This step is crucial because it sends a powerful message to your employees. It shows that your business not only listens to their feedback but also takes tangible steps to improve their experience within the company.

It's not just about taking action once; it's about consistently acting upon the survey findings. By regularly implementing changes and improvements based on employee feedback and openly communicating both the survey results and your plans for action, you can actually help prevent survey fatigue. This approach demonstrates to your employees that their feedback is genuinely valued and that it has a real impact on driving meaningful change within the organization.

Examples of employee satisfaction surveys

When it comes to designing your employee satisfaction survey, it's important to include a mix of question types to gather both qualitative and quantitative feedback. Employee satisfaction is influenced by various factors, so it's crucial to cover different areas of the employee experience in your survey. Here are some sample questions you can consider for your next employee satisfaction survey:

  • Do you have a clear understanding of the company's strategic objectives?
  • How would you rate your enjoyment of our company's culture?
  • Do you believe work is fairly distributed across teams?
  • On a scale of 1 to 5, how satisfied are you with your job overall?
  • How meaningful do you find your work at [Company]?
  • Are your goals clearly defined?
  • Do you feel comfortable providing honest and candid feedback to your manager?
  • Does your manager follow through on their commitments?
  • Are you satisfied with the growth opportunities available to you at [Company]?
  • Do you feel valued for your work at [Company]?
  • Do you believe your compensation is fair for the work you do?
  • How would you rate your work-life balance at [Company]?
  • What are three areas you think we could improve at [Company]?
  • How often do you get to work on projects you're passionate about at [Company]?
  • Do you feel well-informed about the career growth opportunities available to you at [Company]?

Remember, incorporating a diverse range of questions will help you gather comprehensive insights into your employees' satisfaction levels and identify areas for improvement within your organization.

employee satisfaction survey

Let's dive into the pros and cons of measuring employee satisfaction

Understanding these points can help you make an informed decision about whether to focus on satisfaction alone or adopt a more holistic approach by measuring employee engagement as well.

Pros of Measuring Employee Satisfaction:

  1. Reduced turnover: When employees are satisfied with their jobs, they are more likely to stick around for the long term. By actively monitoring employee satisfaction, your business can identify areas for improvement and allocate resources to enhance the overall employee experience. This not only keeps your talented workforce happy but also increases their retention within the organization.
  2. Increased productivity: Satisfied employees are more inclined to go the extra mile to support their teammates, your business, and your customers. In fact, a study we conducted in partnership with customer service software company Zendesk revealed that engaged employees provide better customer service. So, investing in employee satisfaction can lead to a boost in productivity and overall business performance.

Cons of Measuring Employee Satisfaction:

  1. Incomplete picture: It's important to note that satisfaction alone may not provide a comprehensive understanding of your employees' level of engagement. You can have employees who are satisfied but not fully engaged in their work. By solely focusing on satisfaction, your business may unintentionally overlook opportunities to build stronger connections with your workforce. To create a truly exceptional workplace culture and drive better performance, it's essential to invest in both satisfaction and engagement.
  2. Holistic measurement: Most HR professionals and businesses agree that measuring engagement yields a higher return on investment. Research by Gallup indicates that companies with higher engagement levels tend to experience increased profitability, productivity, and employee retention, as well as lower absenteeism and workplace accidents. Engagement, which encompasses how employees feel about the company and how they act based on those feelings, has a stronger correlation with individual performance metrics and overall business success.

Why We Recommend Measuring Engagement:

In our view, employee engagement is a more comprehensive measurement that takes into account both employee happiness and the desired outcomes for your business. By tracking engagement over time, you can prioritize the well-being of your employees while also driving productivity and loyalty. It's a balanced approach that allows you to build a thriving workplace culture and achieve better business results.

So, while employee satisfaction is important, we recommend placing a greater emphasis on measuring engagement as it provides a more holistic understanding of your employees' experience and aligns with the desired outcomes for your business.

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