The Top 10 Proven Ways to Increase Employee Satisfaction

What is most important to your employees?

That was the question we asked last year in this blog postbased on 2012 from the Society for Human Resource Management Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Report. We were shocked to learn that at the top of the list of factors contributing to job satisfaction were (1) communication between employees and senior management, and (2) relationships with direct supervisors.

Better relationships and communication with leadership are out there with benefits and benefits!? Yes! Today’s employees want some very basic things – to be treated like people and to be recognized as valuable members of the organization. And according to these years SHRM report, the results are even more astonishing.

The new workplace

SHRMA November 2014 survey of 600 U.S. workers found that these 10 factors topped the list of factors affecting overall employee satisfaction and engagement in the workplace:

1) Respectful treatment of all employees at all levels

2) Trust between employees and senior management

3) General benefits

4) Compensation/salary total

5) Job security

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6) Relationship with immediate supervisor

7) Opportunities to use skills and abilities in your work

8) Immediate supervisor’s respect for employee ideas

9) Organizational financial stability

10)Management Recognition of the employee’s performance

Compensation, fringe benefits, job security and financial stability come as no surprise. What is Surprisingly, respectful, trusting relationships are valued even higher than paychecks and dental plans.

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Let’s take a look at some of these factors, which together point to a shift in the American Workplace. Managers should ask themselves (if they aren’t already), How can I create more respectful, trusting relationships and recognize employees for the great work they do?


It’s not just for Aretha Franklin.

The word is based on Latin and means to look back. In other words: employees want to be seen and recognized, not just treated like a cog in the machine or worse.

In the dying command and control paradigm, workers are seen as assets and are seen as less than whole, either intentionally or unconsciously. Managers demand performance or information so they can make decisions that affect business growth. But how often do they thank those individuals for their contributions, or allow them to make the decisions themselves?

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The wording and weight of this factor is significant. 72% of respondents value respect for “all employees at all levels”. Employees expect to be treated with respect and demand that leaders treat everyone in the organization that way.

The impact of mistreating an employee is felt by everyone. This kind of behavior creates toxic environments where no one feels safe. It’s like going out for the first time with someone who is really nice to you but rude to the waiter. This behavior raises red flags about who the person really is and begs the question, How long will it take before I am treated badly?

Some managers may think that compensation and benefits are high enough on the list that employees will live with disrespect and distrust as long as their basic needs are met. Keep in mind that job security is at #5, way below “trust” and “respect”. The best and brightest of a company might be willing to leave if they are not respected or if the work environment is unhealthy.

The impact of mistreating an employee is felt by everyone. This kind of behavior creates toxic environments where no one feels safe.

The speed of trust

According to the SHRM study, oOrganizations that lack trust between their employees and senior management often develop unfavorable working conditions. If management does not support its employees, suspicion can arise, resulting in a less than productive workforce. Concerned employees may feel the need to withhold information or use other tactics to exert influence.

People who participate in relationships that lack trust are always on edge. Communication is stifled and bottlenecks can arise. Managers are unable to gather information about what is really going on. Before long, a stressful environment is created that drains employees’ energy and is a leading factor in decisions to leave the company.

Conversely, trusting relationships are a blessing for everyone. Stephen MR Covey explains in his book: The speed of trust, that the rate at which people grow their business is directly proportional to the time they invest in creating trusting relationships: High confidence is a dividend; when it goes up, you will find that everything goes faster and the costs go down. It’s so predictable.

Leaders lead by example by always being open and honest and creating transparency in all aspects and all levels of the company. They can evenshare their own goals, progress and failures to create a culture of open communication. Then employees feel encouraged to take risks, knowing that those risks will pay off or result in respectful and constructive criticism.

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Direct Supervisors

HR has its place when it comes to dealing with paperwork and benefits, or guiding managers in people and performance management. Ultimately, it is the direct managers themselves who must take ownership of these relationships. Two of the top ten factors on the list relate directly to supervisors: Employees want a solid relationship with managers and want to be respected for their creative and innovative thinking.

When employees feel this strong bond of trust, they will openly share issues rather than sweep them under the rug. And when leaders create safe environments, employees are much more likely to come up with innovative ideas.

A proven method is that managers regularly managers constructive discussions where they invite employees to share their challenges, achievements and ideas. Managers who regularly have conversations with employees can more easily provide feedback on performance. Over time, there will be a rhythm of communication where employees know they can turn to their manager for anything. When employees feel this strong bond of trust, they will openly share issues rather than sweep them under the rug.

And when leaders create safe environments, employees are much more likely to come up with innovative ideas. According to SHRM,appreciation for employees’ ideas is also important for employees’ sense of belonging. In addition, those who work directly on the daily challenges of work can generate the most effective ideas.

Recognize achievements

SHRM collaborated with the National Center for the Middle Market, to explore HR professionals’ views on their organization’s performance management systems. Compared to other business issues, the majority of HR professionals indicated that performance management was a top priority. Yet only 2% of HR professionals found their organization’s performance management system worthy of an A rating!

15Five’s Guide to Creating High-Performing Teams capitalizes on this deficiency in performance management:

People are driven by extrinsic drives such as recognition and compensation, or the intrinsic achievement of mastery. Managers who openly recognize employees for who they become, empower them to do their best work, and encourage them to step into expertise or leadership roles.

When managers emphasize the strengths of people at a company, those people are much more engaged, productive and creative. There are clear and measurable positive effects on the bottom line.

Yet the highest level of personal fulfillment is reached when people become something better. That’s when your employees’ focused work has led to a mastery position, and you tell your employee that in addition to performing well on a task or having more revenue, you see this transformation in him or her.

[Tweet “When managers highlight people’s strengths, those people are far more productive and creative.”]

The bottom line is that the world of work has changed. Employees no longer attract their work persona while working 9 to 5 for their paycheck. They won’t continue dealing with troubled workplaces while complaining about the fat cats in the C-suite.

People spend most of their lives at work. They don’t want to survive, they want to thrive in a healthy environment. They want to be treated with respect and contribute the skills and abilities of which they are proud. They want to put their whole selves to work every day and develop meaningful relationships with other whole human beings. This is not the reality we live in, it is the reality that has already arrived.

David Mizne produces the podcast Best-Self Management and is a senior manager at 15Five, people & performance software with continuous feedback, OKR tracking, 1-on-1s, 360° reviews, the Best-Self Academy and Transformational Services. David’s articles have also appeared on The Next Web, HR Daily Advisor and The Economist.

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