The wise words of Sun Tzu encapsulate the mantra of success when he says, ‘He will win whose army is animated by the same spirit throughout all its ranks’. Similarly, an organisation with a spirited leader or top management, cannot master the market unless their entire team of employees is motivated to move forward in the same way. Possibly that is why every event, seminar, book, talk or expert advice, will always stress upon the importance of satisfied and engaged employees for an organisation’s success. The reason why employees are critical for every organisation is now an established fact: business cannot successfully compete without first ensuring that its team within is driven and motivated to succeed.
However, the complex human behaviour does not make this an easy task. With constantly changing dynamics and the emergence of the new ‘millennial’ work force, employee satisfaction seems to be a constant struggle for several organisations. For most employees, an ‘unsatisfied workplace’ becomes an easy escape route for low performance. For the employer, this under-performance then becomes a reason for poor growth, low revenues or at times a reason for layoffs.
What they fail to realise is that employee satisfaction is a two-way street. Unless both sides of the equation participate equally in building the organisation and taking it forward, there will always be internal stumbles and roadblocks. Both sides will blame each-other, drag the status quo for a while and eventually the business suffers.
Both employers and employees have their set of responsibilities to fulfil; we have highlighted 3 core responsibilities below.
Employers often don’t give due importance to employee satisfaction. More than anything else it is mainly because they have tried few things but it just doesn’t seem to work. Absence of expected results ends all initiatives in dead-end and leaves the management in frustration. To create the right environment to develop employee satisfaction, focus on the following priority areas will help:
• Challenging work
Hiring decision should be based on the work at hand. The employee should find the work challenging, at least not mundane. Boring work doesn’t excite anybody. The trick is to assign the work to a person who doesn’t find it boring. This should be one of the key hiring decisions. Often it is said that if you find a good person, find a role in your organisation to keep him. It further substantiates the point – assign work that is exciting to this person.
• Positive work environment
The work environment is largely dictated by the attitude of the managers and senior management. An approachable leader that is dedicated to his/ her work is likely to encourage the same behaviour in the workforce. When an employee does well, an immediate acknowledgement of the contribution can give a huge boost to the employee satisfaction and productivity levels. A sense of achievement and working towards a larger than life goal helps to keep the work environment positive. Further, enabling open communication is essential to address any concerns before they become major grievances. It also reduces the need for employees to complain among themselves and bring in negativity to the workplace.
• Growth opportunities
Human beings aspire to grow. So do your employees. The growth is not just financial – that is bound to happen with time. Along with the money what we crave for is fame. That happens when we take up bigger responsibilities. Is there scope for your employee to take up bigger responsibility? If not, what can be done about it? One of the sustainable ways is to grow the organisation. This increases the volume and the ticket size. What better opportunity of growth can an employee have? This requires realistic plans and communication. However, hierarchical growth is not always possible. Then look out for opportunities of lateral growth. This brings newness and a new zeal. Otherwise, things get mundane and boring and the effort reduces. An old hand contributes disproportionately in the organisation’s growth. The longer an employee stays, the deeper understanding the person gains, and the better solutions and plans will come from this person. But first, this employee has to stay for this long duration.
Even with every attribute of employee satisfaction ensured by the employers, lack of effort from the employees can hinder the outcome. As business entrepreneur Tim Clark states, “You (employee) have to want to be engaged. There has to be a deep-seated desire in your heart and mind to participate, to be involved, and to make a difference. If the desire isn’t there, no person or book can plant it within you.” For an employee to be satisfied, he needs to be mindful of the following:
• Pick the right work
We will obviously be less satisfied if we have to do a task that we don’t want to do or don’t like doing even if the work environment is positive. Of course, in the times of tough competition, it becomes difficult to find the work you want to do. There are two important things here – realistic self assessment and practicality. Be realistic of your own skill set in the present moment. You might want to be an astronaut but do you currently fit the bill. If not, be practical and take up a job that matches your skill. And build on your skills so that you can apply for the position of an astronaut. Know that your current job is serving this purpose and this will make it worth your while.
• Pick the right organisation
You might have a dream organisation you want to work with. Or sometimes, we get influenced by the public opinion of an organisation and want to work there. For your job satisfaction, in addition to the right task it is equally important to be in the right workplace. However, rule out infatuations. Does your dream organisation has the work you want to do? Don’t make the mistake of going with a particular organisation with total disregard to what you like doing. Satisfaction comes from the inside and not outside. Looking for satisfaction from the organisation is a beginning that can only end in disaster. If the organisation does what you like doing, then go after it. If you think that it is out of your league, you are wrong. Firstly, you can always improve on your skills and secondly if you have been employed for a while you know organisations are struggling to hire – they never seem to get the right candidates. Research and evaluate your fitment, find that dream organisation and work for it.
• Contribute to the organisation
Even if you don’t have the right job at the right organisation, you must contribute to your organisation. Seems like a ‘dharma’ or a ‘karma’ talk but this is how you grow. Your personal growth is important to reach the right organisation. This is normal human endeavour and it is each person’s journey. Unless you are a fresher don’t expect that organisation will make your growth plan, invest in you and then hope for some returns from you. Actually even if you are a fresher there must be something that you bring to the table else there are many freshers out there. Parasitic relationships don’t work. Your organisation is paying you. What can you do in return? In the present moment… Your promotions are not based on your potential – you were given the job on your potential. Promotions happen for past achievements. What have you helped your organisation achieve? And knowing this will give you a sense of satisfaction not experienced before.
Employment is a relationship. And for satisfaction in any relationship, it takes two to tango.
For developing effective ways to enhance employee satisfaction and retain your talent, ping us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Author Profile: Madhukar Kumar is a leadership coach and believes in the philosophy of “Know Thyself”. His non-judgemental listening coupled with thought-provoking questioning has helped his clients to uncover authentic leadership. Academically, he holds an engineering degree from NIT Surathkal and an MBA from IIM Calcutta.