Shareholders are generally skeptical about investment to improve employee satisfaction and happiness. They believe that investment in employee satisfaction programs is an unnecessary expense. They are unaware of the value that employee satisfaction programs contribute to the bottom line.

Employee satisfaction programs are often treated like they are the playground where we have fun and play games, but not where we get work done. Every dollar that goes towards helping staff feel more satisfied is a dollar that shareholders don’t get. Is this how your shareholders/stakeholders see it?

If so, you might be interested in these just-released study findings. The study reviewed 326,000 satisfaction reviews posted on Glassdoor. The reviews were by employees of 313 organizations made over a seven year period from 2009 to 2016. Only current employee reviews were included. Any impact from disgruntled employees who had left the organization was therefore avoided. And companies were only included in the analysis where more than 500 responses existed. There’s no self-selection bias, and the sample isn’t just those companies that have good results and seek to publicize them through an award.

The results are persuasive. Satisfied employees improve the bottom line. Firms rated most highly by their employees achieved superior financial performance relative to those rated lowest. When employees are prepared to publicly praise their company, you can be sure that the company is performing well now, and will in the future.

So-called intangibles, such as satisfaction, are not included in standard accounting measures. This is a problematic gap in how organizations are measured and valued. Publicly available information like these reviews, can help boards to augment standard accounting measures. Boards should be aware of the power of this information and support activities that have a positive effect on satisfaction.

What does an employee satisfaction program need to look like? And how much investment does it take?

According to Payscale research, appreciation is the biggest contributor to employees’ satisfaction. Appreciation lets us know that what we do matters. Knowing that we matter connects us to others. When our experience is that what we do at work is valuable, it satisfies one of our deepest human needs. According to Kegan and Laskow Lahey, appreciation tells people that they make the difference.

“Regularly producing [appreciation] is like pumping oxygen into the system.”

So a satisfaction program means a significant increase in the appreciation that leaders provide to their teams. And this doesn’t have to cost much at all. But it does take a certain approach to leadership and one which we need to see more of. A generative, coaching approach, sees leaders ask team members for their input and suggestions. This helps them to feel valued and appreciated. They take the time to notice what gets done and appreciate it by being:

Specific, and
 Focused on their experience of the person, not the person’s attributes.

Well-aligned programs that increase the satisfaction of employees contribute to bottom line company performance. Investing in employee satisfaction programs is an investment in company performance, and shareholder/stakeholder wealth. How happy your employees are makes a big difference to how well your company performs.

Company Bottom line

Employee satisfaction is bankable

Now that you know this, what can you do to improve employee satisfaction?

1. Do your senior leaders/shareholders/stakeholders appreciate the importance of employee satisfaction? If not, share this research with them.

2. Are there reviews of your organization on Glassdoor and similar platforms? What do they tell you? What might you need to do to improve the reviews?

3. Are your leaders noticing the work and efforts of their teams? Do they provide sufficient appreciation? If not, help them to understand the value of appreciation, and how to do it well.

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