5 Steps to Improve Job Satisfaction

The new realities of this economy have challenged business executives at all levels. Uncertainties about the economic recovery, increasing government involvement, rising health care costs and the motivation of the workforce have placed management in a complicated and tenuous situation. While the challenges seem endless, one of the biggest issues executives face is how to improve performance as well as keep the workforce engaged and maintain a high level of productivity.

A 2010 survey conducted by the Conference Board showed only 45 percent of Americans are satisfied with their work. This is the lowest level ever recorded by the Conference Board in more than 22 years of research. Those that fail to improve job satisfaction are at risk of losing their top talented people to the competition. Losing good employees is bad enough, but businesses are also seeing a growing percentage of unhappy employees staying just for a paycheck. As a result, many organizations are hamstrung with employees who are only performing at a minimal level. What should you do?


The responsibility for change and performance improvement rests squarely on the shoulders of leaders at all levels. Dr. Edwards Deming said, “The aim of leadership should be to improve the performance of man and machine, to improve quality, to increase output and simultaneously to bring pride of workmanship to people.”

A motivating environment is one that gives workers a sense of pride in what they do. To show executives and business owners how to accelerate performance and become a top place to work, I’ve created a five-step process called the PRIDE system.

P-Provide a positive working environment
RReward and recognition
I-Involve and increase employee engagement
D-Develop the skills and potential of your workforce
E-Evaluate and make continuous improvements

Clearing The Picture – SHRM


Engaged and motivated employees provide the health insurance businesses desperately need in these challenging times. Fran Tarkenton said to find what motivates people, “you have to find what turns people on.” This is the most important factor in the PRIDE process. Senior leaders have the responsibility for setting the culture and climate of their organization. A work environment that leads to high job satisfaction requires leaders are in touch with their workforce.

The Walt Disney Company provides an excellent work environment for their employees or “cast members.” They have spread employee assistance centers strategically across the theme park. Some of the services include employee discount programs, childcare information, money orders, postage stamps, check cashing and bus passes. The Walt Disney Company realizes taking care of their employees’ needs keep them motivated, on the job and loyal to the company.


Pay and benefits are important, but financial incentives are limited in their ability to motivate and drive performance improvement. For most people, the most powerful form of reward and recognition is a job that gives them a sense of purpose and is in alignment with their skills and abilities. As reported in the Conference Board survey, one of the main reasons job satisfaction has decreased is workers do not consider their jobs interesting.

Personal reward and recognition is also a powerful tool that increases job satisfaction and motivation. Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.” A pat on the back or a personal note from a peer or a supervisor does wonders. Small, informal celebrations are many times more effective than a once-a-quarter or once-a-year formal event.

Graham Weston, co-founder and CEO of Rackspace Managed Hosting, gives the keys to his BMW M3 convertible to his top performing employees for a week. This creative way to reward employees has a bigger impact than cash. He says, “If you gave somebody a $200 bonus, it wouldn’t mean very much. When someone gets to drive my car for a week, they never forget it.”


People may show up for work, but are they engaged and productive? Job satisfaction increases when there is a process to contribute their ideas and employee suggestions. This gives them a sense of ownership and pride in their work. Marsha Myers of Lee Hecht Harrison said, “Managers usually overlook the company’s most valuable asset and source of information – their employees. As the economy slows, creative organizations can find new ways to drive revenue and reduce costs by seeking employee suggestions.”

In order to stimulate innovation, Sony Corporation fosters the exchange of ideas within departments by sponsoring an annual Idea Exposition. Scientists and engineers display projects and ideas they are working on. Open only to Sony’s employees, this process creates a healthy climate of innovation and drives employee engagement for all those who participate.


Ongoing training and development is a critical element of a successful organization. It helps people become more productive and effective at what they do. Well-trained employees are more capable and have more autonomy over their jobs. It also gives them internal mobility and has a positive impact on employee retention.

At Federal Express, all customer contact people receive six weeks of training before they ever answer the first phone call. Learning never stops and testing continues throughout their employment tenure. Every six months customer service people are tested using an on-line computer system. Pass/fail results are sent to each employee within 24 hours. They receive a personalized “prescription” on areas that need reviewing with a list of resources and lessons that will help. Their intensive training and development program have resulted in higher productivity and lower turnover.


The economic realities we now face require increased vigilance. Businesses must balance cost reductions and cut backs with the needs of the workforce. Organizations should never be content with status quo and must be alert to anything that causes job dissatisfaction and lowers productivity. Many executives have in the past only focused on tangibles such as profit and loss while relegating matters of hiring, development and talent management to human resources. This can no longer be the case.

There is an important list of items that merit evaluation. The goal is to insure progress and determine what needs improving. Continuous evaluation includes, but is not limited to, the measurement of attitudes, morale, and motivation of the workforce. It includes the identification of problem areas needing improvement and the design and implementation of an improvement plan.

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