Every organization says that people are their greatest asset but not all invest the effort to ensure that their work culture and practices are designed to provide employee satisfaction. In some cases, this is not even a priority which indicates that a stated value is also a neglected value. When this is the case employees become cynical and discouraged rather than loyal and engaged. In fact, the level of employee engagement is directly tied to the investment that is made to ensure that the workplace is healthy.
How do I know this? I have often interviewed numerous individuals on staff in the course of a "cultural audit" of an organization. Usually I am talking to good people who often have significant frustration in their work. What amazes me is that senior management and boards seem to have no idea of the frustrations that are articulated. This includes fortune 500 companies, non-profits, churches and other businesses. There are also plenty of examples of healthy workplaces where the staff are engaged and satisfied. What makes the difference?
While there are many factors that separate loyal and engaged employees from those who are unengaged and rather cynical, let me suggest five factors that can lead to greater employee satisfaction or in their absence, dissatisfaction.
First, there are clear expectations for all staff as to what spells success in their work. Fuzzy expectations lead to a situation where a staff member thinks they are fulfilling their job but the supervisor does not which creates frustration for the staff member and the supervisor. When review time comes around there is not an objective standard by which to evaluate the staff member's work leaving the evaluation to the subjective opinion of the supervisor.
A good question to ask each of your staff members and their supervisors is this: "Are their clear parameters for this job and objective ways to define success?" If the staff member feels that the answer is no, or fuzzy, those parameters and definitions of success need to be revisited.
Second, each staff member has a supervisor who takes an interest in them, their work, and is committed to helping them succeed. This makes perfect sense if an organization's greatest asset is their people. In fact, if this is not the case, this stated value is not a real value.
What this means practically is that supervisors need to be trained in how to supervise well so that staff are served well. Too often, supervisors are given responsibility to oversee staff with little or no training as to what the parameters of their job are and how success will be defined for their supervisory role. This lack of training has a huge impact on their staff who count on their supervisors to help them succeed.
A good question to ask in every organization is this: "Can supervisors articulate the parameters of their supervisory role and do they know what factors define success? Have they been trained in their supervisory role?"
Third, staff have what they need to do their job well and a supervisor who will resolve problems they cannot resolve. Few things are more discouraging to staff than to have responsibility for a task without the requisite tools to complete that task with excellence.
In one organization I worked with this frustration was articulated by the individual who was responsible for the use of facilities and reserving meeting rooms or venues for groups that needed them. What she lacked was a usable software program that would have made her job a breeze. Instead she was saddled with an antiquated program that took significantly more time.
She expressed her need to her supervisor numerous times but he resisted purchasing new software in the name of budgetary restraints (it was not really an issue). The staff member finally resigned in frustration which meant that the organization now had to find another individual to fill the responsibility and lost the valuable experience of the individual that left. It is a classic case of staff not having the tools necessary to do the job. And in the end, the organization lost.
A good question to ask every staff member is this: "Do you have the necessary tools to accomplish your job with excellence." You might be surprised by the response.
Fourth, there is a culture of teamwork and cooperation within the staff that brings synergy and the best thinking and execution for the work at hand. The healthiest organizations have staff who work together to accomplish the mission of the enterprise. There are also work cultures where everyone does their own thing rather than working cooperatively with one another. The one who sets the cultural norm is always the leader or supervisor.
Teamwork and cooperation does not just happen by accident. It is a culture that is intentionally created by leadership of a team, division or organization. And it is the responsibility of leadership to ensure that it is present and that staff understand the imperative of moving toward a goal together rather than separately. This may take training and dialogue but it should be an expectation of all staff. In healthy organizations you often hear the comment, "I love working with my team because we are committed to helping one another accomplish our goals." Conversely, job satisfaction of staff significantly declines when this is not the case.
A good question to ask staff is this: "Do you perceive that we work together as a team and that there is a cooperative spirit among us?" That might well spur dialogue toward a greater level of teamwork.
Fifth, staff are fairly compensated for their work. Many would wonder why this comes last rather than first. The truth is that for most employees their compensation is not the major factor in their job satisfaction as long as it is fair and equitable. Most people want to work in a healthy organization with people they appreciate over receiving a higher salary in an unhealthy organization where they don't want to come to work.
When doing a cultural audit of an organization I often ask employees if they feel that their compensation is fair and equitable. In healthy organizations the answer is generally yes and in unhealthy organizations the answer is often no - especially in church and non-profit environments.
A word to ministries and non-profits. It matters how we compensate our staff. Our compensation reflects the value we place on them. It is sad to see non-profit employees struggle with their income because in the name of meeting the needs of others we are unwilling to meet the needs of our own staff.
When compensation is fair and equitable, staff feel valued. When not, they often feel used. Non-profits love to keep their expenses low so that they can say that a high percentage of what they raise goes into services to others. But, when they are not fair to the staff who make the services happen it is not a value but rather a focus on their mission at the expense of their greatest assets.
A good practice is to compare your salary structure to other similar non-profits in your area to determine whether your pay structure needs renovation.
Employee satisfaction is everything to any enterprise. They are the greatest asset because without them the mission will never be accomplished. When staff are happy they are engaged, loyal and willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish the mission. Pay attention to these five areas and you will increase the satisfaction of your staff.