Employee Satisfaction: How to talk about employee job satisfaction – without the fear!

job satisfactionEmployee Job Satisfaction – The Conversation Challenge!

Having a conversation with our employees about how to maintain or improve their job satisfaction is one of the most effective ways of achieving higher levels of employee motivation and performance. Some business owners and managers though are afraid to hold these conversations in case they result in ‘opening a can of worms’ – more specifically in case the employee comes to them with a list of wants and needs they cannot (or will not) meet. Good point!
Here are some simple strategies for overcoming the two issues that the business owners and managers I work with fear most;
Dealing with unworkable ideas
When we have a conversation with our employees about their job satisfaction(see Four Steps to Improving Employee Job Satisfaction) we are aiming to help the employee identify actions they and you can take to improve or maintain that satisfaction. Of course the employee may bring ideas that are (in your opinion) just not ‘workable’. Managers and business owners fear this happening because they think they will either have to; a) agree to something that they know just won’t work or b) have to tell the employee that they are being stupid
The way to deal with unworkable ideas is to explore the ideas with questions, particularly with any variation on the ‘golden’ question ‘Talk me through how that would work?’
Let’s take a simple example. The employee wants to undertake some training which means they will be away from their job during a time when you know there will be a high volume of work to complete. It’s not that the training is a bad idea – it’s just not the right time for them to be absent. So in this example you might ask ‘Thinking about the pressure of work we will be under at that time, talk me through how you think we can cope with you being away on the training. How would that work?’
Often using the ‘Talk me through’ technique the employee will come to the conclusion that their idea is not workable. You can then move on to other options.
Of course, if they can talk this through with you and come up with a good plan, then the idea is workable and you can simply go with it!      
Dealing with ‘just give me the money’
One reason business owners and managers avoid talking about job satisfaction is because they assume the employee will just ask for money e.g. ‘I’d be more satisfied at work if you gave me a raise / bonus / new car’. Now research tells us that most employees are not motivated by cash. Research also tells us that managers often wrongly assume they understand their employee’s satisfaction needs – they frequently guess money is a motivator even when it isn’t. But hey, you know your employees and if you are absolutely positive (based on objective facts rather than guesswork) that they will only be motivated by money (and presuming you don’t want to / can’t give them cash) then of course you wouldn’t hold a conversation like this. Why would you? However if you’re in any doubt or you just want to take a chance then you simply need to pre-empt the ‘money conversation’ like this
‘Just to be clear, Jo, I want to focus our conversation on the things we can do to improve your job satisfaction that are not related to money. So it’s not a conversation about bonuses or pay rises. The reason for this is (explain the reason i.e. there is no money / it’s not the time of year to be reviewing pay) it’s about exploring how we can improve your job satisfaction in other ways’
It’s all about assertively setting the parameters of the conversation right from the start so that you can manage your employee’s expectations

Employee Job Satisfaction Summary

Of course there are good reasons why business owners and managers are sometimes reluctant to open conversations about job satisfaction. 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. Well worth, I’d say, applying the old adage ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’!!       


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’ HERE


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