As the effects of employee job satisfaction on a business have been well documented, taking steps to improve overall satisfaction are simply part of a good business strategy.
This begs the question “where do I start?” In order to improve contentment, one must first figure out what the current levels are, which may be more complex than expected.
The primary hurdle a business owner or HR manager may have to overcome is employee reservation. Often times, employees are reticent to discuss their satisfaction level with their supervisors for fear of potential repercussions. The simplest way to get past this is to create a degree of anonymity in the information gathering process. There are several ways one can accomplish this.
A suggestion box is a classic tool for information gathering for a reason. Those contributing to the suggestion box can be mostly certain their identity will not be known, eliminating any potential for backlash. Additionally, a strategically placed suggestion box can, in some cases, garner more responses than a survey or online form. In plain sight, a suggestion box reminds employees they have a place to submit their opinion, which in itself can encourage a response. It is also a simple, straightforward way to express an opinion with practically zero potential for user error. The difficulty with a suggestion box is the open, all-inclusive nature of comments one may receive. There is no direction and, as a result, it can be difficult to extract a clear message. A simple fix for this is to post a specific question above the suggestion box, perhaps on a weekly basis, and encourage employees to focus their comments on the question. Though a decidedly low-tech solution, the merits of the suggestion box should not be overlooked.
The online information gathering process can take on several forms. One option is an employee forum, where staff can register anonymously and post comments or constructive feedback for the business. As people have been shown to be predominately less inhibited in an online situation, this can provide a more accurate snapshot of employee morale. The pitfalls of this method are the same as those for the suggestion box, in that the scope of information may be entirely too broad for any substantial knowledge to be gained.
Alternatively, online questionnaires are one tactic for gathering precise, streamlined information. Questionnaires, by their nature, will limit the field of information by supplying specific questions for the employee to answer. Once unified in this way, the feedback becomes more quantifiable and, therefore, useful. Questionnaires can also be scheduled at regular intervals to provide ongoing assessments, much like employee reviews, or to allow a business owner to dig deeper into a particular topic.
A lesser used method of information gathering is the staff committee. In this situation a group of staff members are brought together to provide feedback to management. Ideally, employees will be aware of the committee members and bring their concerns to them. The committee members can, in turn, bring these issues to the attention of management, acting as a sort of go-between or buffer for the rest of the staff. Possible difficulties with the staff committee include members failing to report accurately or attend meetings. Ideally, employees most interested in the committee would be chosen as representatives to pre-empt this sort of behavior.
There are a wide variety of methods a manager or business owner can employ to gather information on employee satisfaction and morale. The particular tactic chosen is less important than the staff’s confidence in its effectiveness and whether they feel free to share information without repercussion. Remembering these two ideas when planning will help ensure accurate, helpful outcomes.