In spite of the various solutions available to organizations that want to improve employee satisfaction, a majority of Americans are disengaged from their work. 

According to Gallup’s latest State of the American Workplace report, only one-third of the American workforce is engaged, while just over half are disengaged. In addition, 16% are actively disengaged and acting out in response to their dissatisfaction.

Not only are companies with unsatisfied workers missing out on the potential benefits of a more engaged workforce, like greater customer satisfaction and employee productivity, but they’re also more prone to negative outcomes, like higher turnover and absenteeism. 

In fact, the Gallup study found that companies in the highest quartile of employee engagement experience, on average, 17% greater productivity, a 10% increase in customer ratings, 41% lower absenteeism rates, 20% higher sales and 21% higher profitability.

Given these numbers, it’s clear that employee satisfaction is a competitive advantage companies can’t afford to be without.

What Is Employee Satisfaction?

Employee satisfaction is an important measure of an organization’s human capital that encompasses a number of emotions an employee has towards their employer.

Employee satisfaction is typically achieved when employees feel that their employers show interest and concern about their overall health and wellbeing. While that includes supporting them on the job, it also includes how employers seek to improve employees’ lives outside of work. Employee satisfaction can refer to an individual’s attitude toward their employer as well as overall workplace morale.

Why Job Dissatisfaction is Costly

While providing employees with perks and flexibility that will improve their level of satisfaction may be costly, the cost of maintaining a dissatisfied workforce is much higher. This lack of satisfaction ultimately leads to significantly higher turnover rates—and each lost skilled worker can cost a company the equivalent of 213% of their annual salary to replace, according to the Center for American Progress.

In fact, 75% of the causes that lead to employee turnover are preventable, according to the Work Institute’s 2017 Retention Report. Overall, Gallup predicts that disengaged employees cost the United States economy between $450 and $550 billion annually.

What Do Employees Want?

While employee engagement efforts will take different forms depending on the employer, geography, industry and other unique factors, the guiding principals remain the same. The number one factor that best increases employee engagement, according to a recent study by PayScale, is a culture of appreciation. 

Employees, by and large, want to do work that is meaningful to them, where they feel like they’re able to make a significant contribution to an effort they’re passionate about. They want to feel like the organization cares about their career progression, and is actively helping them succeed in the long run. Employees want to be trusted to do their best work while having the resources to help them grow and learn. In short, employees are motivated when they have a clear sense of the bigger picture, and feel that their employer does too.

Employee Engagement: It’s Not Just About Perks

While perks can help foster employee satisfaction they should be considered an extension of those guiding philosophies, rather than the solution itself. Employee satisfaction programs should be a reflection of the organization’s overall culture and values, so take your company’s values and culture into consideration when deciding on perks to offer your employees. Here are some benefits to consider according to the values they align with.

If you want to promote…

  • Good health: offer excellent health care coverage, gym memberships, fitness classes and generous leave policies. While some organizations provide employees with an annual stipend to cover fitness related expenses larger organizations often provide facilities onsite. 
  • Financial wellness: provide strong salaries and bonuses, as well as benefits like student loan repayment assistance and pension or retirement contributions. According to a recent report by Fast Company, 80% of employees with student debt said that they wanted to work for a company that offered repayment assistance.
  • Work/life balance: offer benefits like flexible work schedules and work from home options, as well as generous vacation packages. A recent study by FlexJobs found that 80% of companies offer some form for flexible working options to at least part of their staff.
  • Family support: include benefits like paid parental leave, day care services and bereavement leave. In early 2017 Facebook made headlines for offering its employees paid bereavement leave of 20 days in the event of the loss of an immediate family member and up to 10 paid days after the death of an extended family member. 
  • Career growth and success: give opportunities for mentoring as well as regular evaluation and feedback, and provide tuition reimbursement for further training and education. According to a recent report by Future Workplace, companies that embrace internal career mobility increase employee engagement by 49%, employee productivity by 39% and employee teamwork by 38%.

Not All Employees Are Engaged the Same

While the most widely publicized, over-the-top employee perks typically come out of Silicon Valley, you don’t need to be a tech giant to provide a great working environment.

In fact, In-And-Out finished one position higher than Google in Glassdoor’s 2018 Best Places to Work report, with employees expressing appreciation for the fast-food chain’s family-like work environment and flexible work schedules.

Furthermore, according to research recently conducted by Great Place to Work, employees at smaller companies appreciate a friendlier work environment that makes them feel welcome, while employees at larger companies put more value in their ability to make an impact as an individual. 

As a result, employee engagement initiatives should be tailor-made, utilizing employee input to build a custom program that ultimately helps the organization become more competitive.