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How Important Is An Overall Measure Of Employee Satisfaction?

May 30, 2003

Dear Yardstick:

I think the overall measure is one that provides value, and given that it consists of only one question, the cost of adding it is minimal. However, I wonder which components of satisfaction you are asking about in your other questions. It would be more interesting to evaluating the those questions, rather than the overall satisfaction question.

To complicate my answer even further, I would question the use of satisfaction. In my own research, I find that satisfaction is not related toperformance. In fact, I argue that working towards the improvement of overall satisfaction may actually result in negative effects on your company's performance. Why? Satisfied employees are not necessarily productive employees.

Satisfied employees will not necessarily be willing to change when your company needs them to change. Satisfied employees can be very mediocre. We know from a variety of research that some level of dissatisfaction is needed in order to encourage people to change and to move forward.

I would strongly suggest you ask questions that predict performance.I recommend adding questions about motivation, challenge, and energy (the degree to which employees are energized by their jobs). I also recommend asking open-ended comment questions. Employees have a wealth of information about your business that you do not have: Why not use your survey process to tap into that knowledge base? Measurement can turn into a very useful intervention if you do the following:

  1. Ask questions that can lead to action; provide managers with information that will be compelling and enable them to take action to improve performance. Open-ended comments that ask for suggestions to improve performance usually work very well.

  2. Make sure the survey data is provided to managers in a timely way. Don't expect managers to take action if they receive their reports months after a survey was taken.

  3. Increase the frequency of your surveys. You could ask very short surveys on a weekly basis, with all managers receiving their own reports weekly.

  4. Hold managers accountable for action; find out what they are doing with their data and share best practices.

  5. Change your survey questions to reflect what's important in your business today. Worry less about benchmarking and focus more on helping your management team by giving them actionable data.

SOURCE: Dr. Theresa Welbourne, eePulse,Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The information contained in this article is intended to provide usefulinformation on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice ora legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.

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