Employee satisfaction: What it means and how to improve it
Customer satisfaction is downstream from employee satisfaction. Learn how prioritizing employee well-being can lead to greater engagement and performance.
By Peter Alig, Contributing Writer
Last updated August 18, 2023
Organizations are placing more importance on employee satisfaction and a critical factor for success. A satisfied workforce has greater potential to drive productivity and efficiency while leading to greater employee retention.
Improving employee satisfaction means more than just monetary compensation—it requires the improvement of various factors that impact a person’s overall well-being, engagement, and motivation. From work-life balance and career growth opportunities to recognition and a supportive company culture, organizations need to adopt a holistic approach to fostering an environment where employees feel valued and fulfilled.
By improving the employee experience, organizations can create a workplace where employees thrive, resulting in a happier and more successful organization.
- What is employee satisfaction?
- Why is employee satisfaction important?
- What drives employee satisfaction?
- How to improve employee satisfaction: 10 fundamentals
- How to measure employee satisfaction in the workplace
- Common challenges in measuring employee satisfaction metrics
- Team satisfaction trends
- Workplace satisfaction is about more than employee well-being
What is employee satisfaction?
Employee satisfaction refers to the degree of contentment that team members experience concerning their roles in the organization. It is worth noting that job satisfaction and workplace satisfaction essentially refer to the same concept.
Employee satisfaction vs. employee engagement
Employee satisfaction describes how happy staff members are with their jobs, while employee engagement refers to their interest levels regarding work.
Employee engagement is a sign of employee satisfaction, but satisfied employees aren’t necessarily always engaged with their work. A satisfied employee may cheerfully clock in, do the bare minimum, and clock out, while an engaged employee is highly self-motivated and wants to go above and beyond what their job expects of them.
Look for evidence of both satisfaction and engagement to get a full picture of the state of your workforce.
Why is employee satisfaction important?
The benefits of employee satisfaction are far-reaching and lead to a thriving workplace. When team members enjoy doing their jobs, they’re more likely to get their work done and stay at your company—plus, happier employees often lead to happier customers.
A satisfied employee will generally have better focus and more pride in their work than a dissatisfied one. Multiply the amount of satisfied employees throughout the workplace, and you’ll have entire teams putting in extra effort to achieve goals and improve the quality of their work.
Employees that are happy with their positions also build internal relationships that result in greater collaboration, sharing information with each other—rather than hoarding knowledge—and improving overall performance and efficiency.
Satisfied employees stick around longer. After 12 years of employee satisfaction research, the iOpener Institute concluded that the happiest workers stay at their companies twice as long as their least happy colleagues.
Workers want their organizations to give them reasons to stay, but more than half say their employers don’t care enough about keeping them. According to Gallup, 52 percent of exiting employees say that their manager or organization could have prevented their decision to leave by focusing on their satisfaction.
Happy employees bring cheerfulness and enthusiasm to customer interactions. This attitude puts customers at ease and encourages them to build relationships with your brand.
A positive customer experience pays off, too. Research shows a correlation between companies having high employee experience metrics and high customer experience metrics. When a company improves conditions for their employees, areas like customer satisfaction and revenue often see improvements, as well.
What drives employee satisfaction?
Employee satisfaction is the result of overall well-being and workplace engagement. Companies that want to improve workplace satisfaction should pay attention to these key drivers:
- Support: A supportive environment nurtures employees, helping them succeed by removing pain points and providing necessary tools. Supporting employees also requires recognizing their efforts and rewarding their achievements to make them feel valued.
- Inclusion: An inclusive culture promotes diversity and encourages employees to contribute their ideas. Inclusion leads to employees feeling like they fit in at the company and have respect.
- Professional development: Companies that fail to provide their employees with opportunities for growth risk losing them to competitors that do. Professional development can include mentorship programs, training workshops, and promotion opportunities.
Prioritize these tenets to drive satisfaction in the workplace and improve engagement.
How to improve employee satisfaction: 10 fundamentals
Companies with a highly satisfied workforce focus on more than making day-to-day tasks more enjoyable. They also focus on understanding employee goals and aspirations. Incorporate these practical tips into your workplace to create satisfied employees.
1. Ensure employees can get quick answers to IT and HR questions
Distracted employees are neither happy nor productive, and issues with technical or social aspects of their job can lead to distractions. The more time they have to spend searching for answers to their questions, the more disgruntled they’re likely to get.
Despite the importance of connecting employees to IT and HR departments, according to the Zendesk Employee Experience Trends Report 2023, 30 percent of employees report not knowing how to contact these teams.
Consider adding employee experience (EX) software that can provide specialized solutions. Internal IT and HR support tools open up avenues of communication between departments and make it easy to get quick answers. You can automate many workflows, so HR and IT teams can focus on the tickets that require more attention.
2. Build an internal help center
Internal help centers are centralized resources that provide employees with the assistance and information they need to perform their work. Putting this information at their fingertips streamlines the process of looking for solutions and creates a sense of empowerment.
Many companies provide help center resources—like internal knowledge bases—for their employees, but fail to keep up with the technology. The Zendesk EX Trends Report revealed 52 percent of employees believe their EX software is either difficult to use or dated. Keep your knowledge management tools current and optimized for efficiency so it can fulfill its role in improving employee satisfaction.
3. Involve employees in decision-making
To ensure the smooth implementation of policies that affect employees’ daily routines or tasks, involve them in the decision-making process. According to Harvard Business School, this approach demonstrates trust and appreciation for individuals’ opinions, which plays a vital role in fostering employee engagement.
Department leaders can organize strategy sessions where team members come together to collectively discuss and contribute ideas on achieving upcoming objectives. By providing a platform for open dialogue, employees get a voice in shaping the path toward success.
4. Create career development roadmaps
When employees understand how to progress from their current position to more senior roles, they feel a sense of purpose—and increased satisfaction. A study by the Robert Walters Group found that 69 percent of millennials said career progression keeps them engaged at work.
One way to clarify career paths is by mapping the employee experience journey for each position. Take your call center, for example. Create a document that lists the competencies, output, compensation ranges, and values expected of senior call center agents, supervisors, and managers. Assign new agents mentors from senior staff to answer role-specific questions.
5. Provide feedback regularly
Employees don’t want to wait until their annual review to hear input from their manager. Gallup data shows that when employees “strongly agree” they received “meaningful feedback” in the past week, they were nearly four times more likely to be engaged than their colleagues who didn’t receive feedback.
Ask managers to schedule regular meetings with each direct report. Managers can use this time to encourage team members, discuss their strengths and growth areas, and create an improvement plan, if necessary.
6. Offer competitive pay and perks
A Payscale survey revealed that a mere 55 percent of companies have a compensation strategy, making it difficult to attract and retain top talent.
To build that much-needed confidence, you can adopt transparency in determining pay rates. Consulting national salary surveys for different positions can help ensure your rates are competitive. If your organization offers below-market rates due to generous benefits, it’s crucial to communicate this clearly to prospective and current employees.
7. Personalize experiences
Emphasize making employees feel seen and valued before they can feel satisfied with their position. Personalizing their work environment is one way to promote that connection. According to the Zendesk EX Trends Report, 87 percent of EX professionals believe that personalization increases employee satisfaction.
Personalization needs to go beyond calling employees by their names if it’s to be effective. You need to tailor experiences to individual preferences and goals. For example, when you reward employee performance, give them something that aligns with their interests, not a one-size-fits-all prize.
Another approach to personalization includes tailoring development programs to the employee’s professional goals. Where do they want to be in the future, and how can you help them get there? Instead of randomly assigning a mentor, choose one that communicates in a style that will resonate with the employee. Connecting with employees requires as much emotional intelligence (EQ) as it does IQ.
8. Celebrate employee milestones
While recognizing top performers is important, neglecting the efforts of other team members can negatively affect employee morale. A winner takes all approach to recognition will make the majority of your staff feel unappreciated.
Commemorate employee milestones, like birthdays and work anniversaries, to make them feel appreciated. Celebrations can be as simple as a team lunch or a batch of cookies.
9. Encourage work-life balance
Employees who lack work-life balance often bring stress into the workplace, reducing job satisfaction. According to a study conducted by the IBM Institute for Business Value, 51 percent of employees consider work-life balance as the top factor influencing engagement within an organization.
Achieving work-life balance encompasses a range of aspects, such as the ability to work remotely and the availability of supportive parental leave policies. To address this, gather employee feedback through polls or surveys to understand individual perspectives on work-life balance. Use the results to implement initiatives that align with your company culture and business objectives.
For instance, if the most common response to the poll is unlimited paid time off (PTO), but you can’t afford it, explore alternatives. A potential compromise could involve offering employees an additional week of PTO or granting them a short sabbatical after a specified period of tenure.
10. Set up flexible work schedules
A recent McKinsey survey revealed that 87 percent of employees choose flexible working models when given the opportunity. This consensus is present across different industries and demographics and is unlikely to change soon.
Flexible scheduling only leads to team satisfaction if every team member feels like they have access to the same knowledge and receive the same treatment, regardless of their working hours or location. Ensure productivity and communication standards are identical across roles and that no one feels held back due to their decision.
How to measure employee satisfaction in the workplace
To get the most accurate read on your employee satisfaction levels, use multiple measurement techniques.
Employee satisfaction surveys
Use employee satisfaction surveys to discover what staff members like or dislike about working at your company. Use a mix of quantitative and qualitative questions so the surveys are easy to fill out but still informative for your HR department.
Quantitative research produces objective, numerical data and might ask questions like:
- “How satisfied are you with the feedback you receive at work?”
- “How proud are you to work at [Company Name]?
- “How happy are you with your work environment?”
Next, ask employees to rank their satisfaction on a scale of 1 (very dissatisfied) to 5 (very satisfied). Once all the surveys are submitted, divide the sum of positive responses (responses from 4-5) by the total number of responses collected. Then, multiply the result by 100. The percentage represents your satisfied employees. Compare the scores over time to see if satisfaction improves.
Qualitative research produces descriptive data from open-ended questions like:
- “What do you like (and dislike) most about our feedback system?”
- “Do you see yourself working for [Company Name] in the next two years? Why?”
- “What can managers do to make you feel more satisfied with your job?”
This allows respondents to elaborate on their ratings and tell you exactly what needs improving.
Employee Net Promoter Score (eNPS)
An Employee Net Promoter Score® is a simple metric that asks a single question: How likely are you to recommend this company to others seeking employment? Recipients respond on a scale from 1 (extremely unlikely) to 5 (extremely likely).
eNPS gauges how loyal your workers are to your organization and indicates job satisfaction.
To calculate eNPS, divide responses into three groups: promoters (those who answered 4 or 5), passives (those who answered 3), and detractors (those who answered 2 or 1)—and use this formula:
eNPS® = (Number of promoters / Total number of respondents) – (Number of detractors / Total number of respondents)
You’ll get a number between -100 and 100. A score higher than zero means the overall sentiment is positive. According to a Nailted survey, tech companies have an average eNPS® score of 35.
Check out our NPS calculation guide for more info on the nuances and how to best use it.
Common challenges in measuring employee satisfaction metrics
Employee satisfaction metrics can provide great insights into the state of your company. However, the data you gather and how you examine it will impact the conclusions you reach. If there are any flaws in your processes, your takeaways may not be accurate.
Here are some of the common challenges that companies face when gauging worker satisfaction:
- Employee participation: Some employees likely won’t respond to a survey. Those employees’ feelings might differ greatly from the ones who responded, meaning the data doesn’t reflect reality. You can make participation mandatory, but that doesn’t guarantee genuine responses. Managers can try gathering feedback during team meetings and compare the results to the hard data.
- Data reliability: The timing of administering a survey can skew the results. Issuing a survey at the end of the quarter (when stress is high) will have different responses than if you send a follow-up survey at the beginning of the quarter after a company party. Neither set of responses may accurately reflect employee sentiments. Try to control these variables as best you can by administering surveys at consistent intervals.
- Inherent biases: Metrics should reveal the true state of workplace satisfaction, not to verify the administrators’ preconceived notions. Do your best to write neutral questions so employees aren’t being led to a certain result. Likewise, when you’re interpreting the data, assess it from a neutral perspective, avoiding seeing what you want to see.
Team satisfaction trends
What it means to have satisfied employees—and what you can do to create them—changes over time. Here are the top trends that companies say lead to an improved employee experience.
Hybrid and remote workplaces
In response to evolving employee preferences, companies are increasingly embracing hybrid and remote workplaces. The Zendesk EX Trends Report revealed that 84 percent of EX professionals believe supporting remote, hybrid, and in-person employees is a top priority. Hybrid work models provide employees with flexibility and autonomy by allowing them to have a combination of in-person and remote work.
It’s a win-win for companies and employees. Employees get improved work-life balance, and companies save money on infrastructure while tapping into a broader talent pool. Advances in technology enable managers to effectively manage the employee experience in remote settings. Teams can work together regardless of physical location.
Companies are embracing personalization as a means to strengthen employee engagement and satisfaction. According to the Zendesk EX Trends Report, 59 percent of employee experience teams deliver personalized communication. On top of that, 23 percent plan to add personalized capabilities in the next 12 months.
Companies are recognizing that employees have unique needs and preferences. In response, businesses are tailoring their approach to accommodate these differences. Flexible work arrangements are one form of personalization, as well as customized development plans and personalized recognition programs.
Companies are actively creating collaborative workplace culture as a way to address employee satisfaction. Fostering teamwork, open communication, and a sense of belonging leads to higher engagement and overall job satisfaction.
To achieve this, organizations are implementing collaborative tools and platforms that facilitate easy information sharing and employee collaboration. They’re also encouraging cross-departmental collaboration, promoting a collective mindset, and breaking down information silos. Furthermore, companies are creating a foundation of trust so employees feel comfortable sharing ideas, asking questions, and providing feedback.
Workplace satisfaction is about more than employee well-being
Former Campbell Soup Company CEO Doug Conant famously said, “To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.” Winning in the workplace means creating satisfied and engaged employees who delight customers and help boost your bottom line.
To grow and measure employee satisfaction, invest in software like Zendesk. This tool enables you to automate IT and HR workflows, tap into your team’s expertise, and look for sentiment trends.
When coupled with the right workplace initiatives, the right tools empower you to enhance the employee experience and simultaneously improve employee satisfaction.
Net Promoter, Net Promoter Score, and NPS are trademarks of NICE Satmetrix, Inc., Bain & Company, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.
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