Measuring Employee Satisfaction: What HR Needs to Know

September 04, 2019 by Josh Hrala

If you’re like most organizations right now, you’re probably looking for great ways to retain your talent while also attracting new people to fill positions. This is where employee engagement and satisfaction really comes into play.

By measuring employee satisfaction and engagement, you can help up your retention rates while also making your workplace active for future growth.

In this quick blog, we’ll be looking why measuring employee satisfaction is a must in today’s marketplace and what you can do with your measurements after the fact.

Let’s jump right in with a bit of back story.

Measuring Employee Satisfaction: Why Is This a Hot Button Issue?

Right now, the economy is doing extremely well. So well, in fact, that people are starting to consider the possibilities that we may enter a recession (or have a ‘market correction’) in the near future.

While those shifts are extremely hard to predict, the fact of the matter is that the strong economy has created a very low unemployment rate, which is great on the whole but can lead to challenges for businesses.

For example, with a tight labor market, employees have are ultra-empowered to leave their current roles and land new ones at other organizations. At the same time, this retention problem is exacerbated by the fact that it’s becoming harder and harder for organizations to attract talent.

All of this has caused a tremendous upswing in employee engagement conversations because, in order to stand out, organizations now must concern themselves much more with how engaged their employees are and how satisfied they are with their roles.

Measuring Employee Satisfaction

This is where measuring employee satisfaction comes in really handy. In today’s market, you need to understand how your employees are feeling, how engaged they are, and what you can do as an organization to ensure that they are happy and likely to stick around.

So how are you supposed to go about measuring employee satisfaction in the first place? Good question. Let’s dive into that now.

Measuring Employee Satisfaction: Start With Surveys

We’ve talked a lot about employee surveys before, but we cannot underline their importance enough.

In short, the best way to understand how your employees are feeling and to start measuring employee satisfaction across the board, you need to first ask your employees how they feel.

Now, there are numerous ways to go about this. The best – and simplest – way is to use a survey tool to get a baseline of where your employees are. You can do these anonymously if you’d like (you may get more responses that way), but you will eventually need to move to a more personal approach when it comes to implementing new changes at the organization.

So, to start, simply find a survey tool that you like and that is within budget and send it your staff members. You may want to include some sort of incentive with this survey, too, such as a gift card for completion or enter those that do participate in a contest to receive larger rewards.

When it comes to measuring employee satisfaction, you can ask very simple questions, such as ‘how satisfied do you feel in your current role?’ and things like that. Then, use a sliding scale (from one to 10, for example) for employees to rate these levels.

Now, this is a very simplistic method.

Measuring Employee Satisfaction

You may have people that just go down the ’10’ column and turn it in. This doesn’t really tell you anything about how they actually feel – more on this in a minute.

Think of good questions that strike at the heart of employee satisfaction. Maybe something along the lines of how happy people are at work, how would they rate their current tasks, can they get all of their tasks done on time, do they feel overwhelmed or burned out, etc.

All of these questions can use a numerical rating system to give you some sort of baseline.

The best thing you can do, though, is to have open-ended questions. Ask your employees to say a bit about their role, what they like, what they don’t like, what they want to do in their role, what challenges they face, and things like that.

When measuring employee satisfaction, these types of questions perform much better because you get actual insights from your staff instead of just a bunch of numbers, which can easily be filled out without much thought.

This leads us to our next point – avoiding pitfalls.

Measuring Employee Satisfaction: Common Pitfalls and How to Avoid Them

With any type of survey, you sort of open yourself up to having people answer quickly and fib on some of the answers. They likely aren’t doing this on purpose or for some malicious reason, they just want to tell you what you want to hear.

Numerical questions create this problem often. After all, if you have people rate something between one and 10 or from satisfied to completely dissatisfied, they will always like land somewhere in the middle or lean heavily on the satisfied side. This seems to be something inherent in human nature.

This is probably one of the most common pitfalls. If you get responses back and they are all in the middle or trending to satisfied, you may feel like you are in a better position than you really are. Open-ended or essay questions are a better way to fully understand what each person is going through.

That last bit is important. Satisfaction is a very personal thing, which is why you should always team up with managers and even interview as many employees as you can when measuring employee satisfaction. This way, you’ll get to paint an accurate picture of each employee and be able to make a plan of action that yields results.

Measuring Employee Satisfaction

The other big pitfall is not looking at response rates. If you send your survey to 1,000 employees, you should hope to get somewhere close to 1,000 responses back. Now, of course, this is a pipe dream because some people will miss the email, forget, or be out of the office and miss it. There are a bunch of reasons that people may simply not send the responses back.

However, if you send it to 1,000 people and only half get back, that’s an engagement problem in itself. Why are there no responses? What happened here?

The response rate will tell you quite a bit.

Measuring Employee Satisfaction: Everyone’s Different

The last pitfall, which we touched upon very briefly in the last section, is all about how employees are different. Every person living is unique. They want different things, are motivated by different things, and feel different ways. You need to understand this if you plan on increasing employee engagement and satisfaction.

Surveys go a long way when starting out. They provide a baseline, but to actually increase that baseline, you need to work with individual employees – or have their managers work closely with them – to fully understand what makes them tick and how you can do things that allow them to have a fulfilling experience inside the organization.

This is easier said than done, but those who actually take this route will likely find a better and more engaged workforce in the end.

Measuring Employee Satisfaction: The Takeaways

The main takeaways when it comes to measuring employee satisfaction is that you need to start by simply asking your employees some simple questions.

From there, work closely with your management team to help create a more nuanced picture of your workplace and its culture. You can then start to implement changes that will hopefully increase your baseline, which you obtained from the original surveys.

In the end, measuring employee satisfaction is only the first step in a much longer employee engagement initiative.

Josh Hrala

Josh Hrala

Josh is an HR journalist and ghostwriter who's been covering outplacement and offboarding for over six years. Before pivoting to the HR world, he was a science journalist whose work can be found in Popular Science, ScienceAlert, The Huffington Post, Cracked, Modern Notion, and more.

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