Four Steps To Improving Employee Job Satisfaction

We know from research that showing a high level of interest and concern for our employee results in higher levels of motivation and performance. One of the most powerful ways to do this is to have a conversation specifically about how to maintain or improve the employee’s current level of job satisfaction. After all, who wouldn’t feel motivated by having a manager who cares about our satisfaction at work and who is happy to spend the time talking to us about something so close to our hearts?

Two  of the challenges some managers and business owners a have is a) knowing where to start and b) how to help their employees identify their job satisfaction needs. Here’s a simple process that helps with both of those issues

Four Steps for Talking about Job Satisfaction


STEP ONE. Explain to the employee that you would like to talk with them about their current level of job satisfaction and how you both can either maintain it if it’s high or improve it if it needs improvement.

Top tip: make this conversation only about their job satisfaction as it has much more perceived value as a ‘stand alone’ conversation rather than tacked on to a conversation about their performance

STEP TWO. Ask the employee to do some preparation for the meeting. Ask them to:

  1. Answer the question ‘What do you want from your job, me as your manager, the business / organisation’?
  2. Identify which of these ‘wants’ can be addressed by them (the employee) and you (the manager), rather than ‘wants’ that can only be addressed by others / the business. This is particularly important for managers who are not business owners because what we are aiming to do here is focus on what we can directly influence (not, for example, on salary increases or promotion which are often beyond our control / remit)  
  3. Of these, rate their current level of satisfaction between 0 (not at all satisfied) to 5 (fully satisfied)

STEP THREE. At the meeting ask the employee to talk through their list. Use questions like these to explore their answers;

  • Tell me more about why this issue is important to you?
  • What are your priorities here?
  • What ideas do you have on how you and I can maintain or improve your satisfaction in these areas?

STEP FOUR. Make an action plan. Here you want to select two or three ideas you and your employee can implement. Please note the ‘you and’ part of the last statement because if you, and only you, come away from the meeting with a ‘to do’ list, something’s gone wrong.


Because job satisfaction is a joint responsibility. Your employee has, as an intelligent adult, a responsibility for their own satisfaction at work. You can, and do, play a large part in influencing your employee’s job satisfaction but they have to play their part too. So be sure to include in the action planning a question on the lines of ‘and what will you do?’                   


Having conversations with your employee about their job satisfaction may feel like just one more thing on your ever expanding ‘to do list’. The benefits, though, of spending some good quality, focused time on this issue can be enormous in terms of both employee motivation and in building your relationship with that employee. And here’s the great part. Even if you and your employee cannot come up with a whole range of actions to maintain or improve their job satisfaction, most employees find that the very fact that their manager is interested in their satisfaction and prepared to spend time discussing this with them is highly motivational in itself. It’s a ‘no lose’ situation   
Would you like to know more about how to improve employee satisfaction and performance?  Would you also like to read about the 5 classic mistakes that could be getting in the way of ‘effective management’ (and what to do about them!)?
Then claim your copy of my special report ‘Boost your business performance through effective people management’ at

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June 3, 2011

Tom Williams @ 7:38 pm #

This is a great starting point. I would add that this conversation *has* to have the manager 100% in “listen-only” mode.

It’s important for the manager to fully digest the feedback (as opposed to looking for opportunities to respond) and for the employee to feel that they are there truly to share, as opposed to be convinced, disagreed with, or explained away.

We’ve created a new employee feedback tool called Happiily which aims to provide near real-time employee feedback to managers in a secure trusted environment. Would love your feedback on it.

Looking forward to more from you Joan!


Tom Williams
Chief Happiness Officer,

June 6, 2011

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