A business is only as good as its people. With staff retention, productivity and engagement now ranking as the most topical concerns for modern-day business, identifying ways to improve and build job satisfaction for employees must be on the company agenda in order to ensure continued success.

However, contrary to popular belief, financial compensation alone has only a very limited impact on job satisfaction; research conducted by Glassdoor in June 2015 put the improvement at a slight 1 point increase in happiness for every 10% increase in earnings. Instead, the research pointed to factors beyond salary alone including company culture or values, career opportunities and leadership. When looking to address employee satisfaction and morale, what practical steps can managers, human resource representatives and leadership take?

What is employee satisfaction – and why does it matter?

Human Resources expert Susan Heathfield defines employee satisfaction as a term to describe “whether employees are happy and contented and fulfilling their desires and needs at work […] Many measures purport that employee satisfaction is a factor in employee motivation, employee goal achievement, and positive employee morale in the workplace.”

With employee disengagement costing the US economy an estimated $450 – $550 billion last year alone, repercussions for failing to address it not only impacts upon individual employees, but translates into tangible financial loss for organizations.

Improving Employee Satisfaction:

1. Be flexible

Giving employees greater control, autonomy and responsibility for their own time within the workplace (and externally) is paramount. With the rising popularity of work-life balance as an employee demand, particularly amongst the Millennial generation, empowering employees with flexible work schedules and the option for telecommuting according to individual needs is a key first step. Being open to staff coming in and leaving earlier or later also addresses the stress of the daily commute!

2. Allow employees to shape their own roles

Individuals who have the opportunity to shape their own roles and work according to their strengths also demonstrate greater job satisfaction. Regular job reviews that allow the opportunity for employee feedback and encourage a proactive approach to role development address this need; however, managers will need to exercise judgement in aligning an individual’s wishes with the greater needs of the business.

3. Stop micro-management

Support middle management in achieving a balance between supporting their teams and stepping over into the dangerous territory of micro-management. Evidence against the practice shows managers who persistently make all the decisions, are unable to delegate and tend to assert their authority at will just ‘because they can’ create a negative culture for employees: resulting in low morale, lack of innovation, disengagement and ultimately, high staff turn-over.

4. Recognize and reward – outside financial remuneration

Employees need to know that their work and performance is both recognized and valued. Deploy recognition processes, whether that be a company-wide intranet announcement, internal newsletter or through a staff meeting, to ensure hard work is celebrated. Consider the ‘smaller’ yet equally significant perks your staff may appreciate: whether that be vouchers, a day’s additional holiday, a lie-in, ad-hoc gifts or simply use of the best parking slot for the month. Set stretching yet achievable targets employees can aim towards and strive for.

5. Drive communication and transparency

When change occurs within the workplace, dissatisfied employees are those who feel they haven’t been kept informed. The result is disengagement and a potentially poisonous practice of ‘Chinese whispers’ amongst staff. Adopting a transparent approach to keeping employees informed is essential. Using internal communication tools or platforms such as intranets, company e-mails / newsletters, manager cascade meetings or ‘town hall’ announcements, ensure your staff are in the know. Communication should also be a two-way process: adopt an open-door policy to invite feedback, questions and encourage a collaborative culture in which employees feel they are heard and their opinions respected.

6. Promote good health

Looking after employee health is no longer the sole responsibility of the individual; due to the significant cost to employers, it now lies with organizations to promote and drive good health. Workplace stress is attributed to $190billion in US healthcare costs (Joel Goh, The Relationship Between Workplace Stressors and Mortality and Health Costs in the United States) and causes associated health concerns including hypertension, high blood pressure, gastrointestinal issues, fatigue and substance abuse. Organizations can support employees by educating them on health issues through materials or seminars, ensuring staff take regular breaks and annual leave, providing kitchen facilities and healthier food choices in-office, offering discounted gym memberships or company communities for weight-loss or fitness goals – for example, having employees complete a race together for charity or similar.

7. Look after the work environment and housekeeping issues

Small things make a big difference. Employees are more likely to be disgruntled if they are regularly using sub-standard facilities or facing frustration caused by slow servers, insufficient software or broken equipment. Deal with staff complaints swiftly and embed reporting processes to identify issues. Additional personalized touches to the office, whether that be pictures on the walls or a full-scale Google slide, will create an atmosphere that will engage employees and improve their perception of coming to work. Allowing employees to take responsibility for their own workspace and apply small individualized touches will embed a sense of belonging and support job satisfaction.

8. Training and investment

Support your employees in striving for more and drive their career development. Investing in employees by offering training, up-skilling, mentoring or coaching is proven to enhance their satisfaction and engagement with the business. As an employer, you not only benefit from happier employees, but the additional skills and expertise they are subsequently able to offer.

9. Embed a strong, sociable culture

According to a Gallup poll, close friendships at work improve employee satisfaction by as much as 50%. Establishing and embedding a strong company culture isn’t achieved overnight; however, employers can help facilitate its development by encouraging socialization and communication. An intranet that embodies social tools and encourages collaboration is a key driver in achieving this, particularly for workforces that are not centralized in one location – a growing theme with globalization. Consider the workplace environment and whether colleagues can talk and share ideas. Organized social activities outside of work hours are beneficial; organizations who encourage birthday celebrations or attend events together demonstrate greater engagement and contentment at work.

10. Reduce bureaucracy, red tape and time-wasters

As organizations expand, processes must evolve to allow for the change. Failure to adapt will result in frustrations and time wasted as individuals wait for the red tape. Is it really essential for your CEO to personally approve every PO? Can your processes be streamlined, automated or assisted, perhaps with the implementation of a company intranet system that digitalizes HR processes or provides a centralized point for communication and collaboration?

Finally, look at the greatest time-stealers within your business. Meetings rank as one of the biggest causes for lost time: an average of 31 hours wasted every month, according to Atlassian, who estimate the cost to U.S businesses at a staggering $37 billion annually. Of those surveyed, 91% confessed to daydreaming, while 45% felt overwhelmed by the number they attended. Removing time-wasters relieves stress and anxiety, increases productivity and ultimately drives employee satisfaction in the workplace.

Happier employees make for a more productive, innovative and engaged workplace. By even implanting small changes to improve employee satisfaction, organizations will benefit from significant long-term rewards. Why not try and see what you could do to support your employees today?