Contented workers, we are told, are productive, loyal and collaborative. But in the current environment of talent wars, just how content do they have to be to stick around rather than casting longing glances at the competition?
Research generally looks at the two components of contentment: satisfaction and happiness. The Stone and Beatles, respectively, explored these states of mind in pop songs. But more important, how are they defined within the context of the workplace? And what is the difference between a satisfied worker, and a happy one?
Two studies were produced this year that may help address the issue, and guide employers toward the right amount of contentment among workers that will foster the desired outcomes: productivity and loyalty.
SHRM’s study reported that employee satisfaction has been escalating, and that two key contributors were “respectful treatment of all employees at all levels,” and “trust between employees and senior management.” These, SHRM said, were more important to more employees than were financial and benefits factors when it came to being satisfied with one’s job.
Universum argues that satisfaction alone doesn’t bond employee and employer. That feeling needs to be elevated to happiness for the true bond to form.
“The ability to retain experienced talent is no longer a matter of employee satisfaction alone; it is also tied to how employees compare to their peers in other organizations,” said the report. “This research has found that a negative gap between peers from one company to the next is often a signal that less satisfied employees are ripe for poaching.”
In other words, people talk to people in other organizations, and tune in to whether their peers feel fulfilled, are eager to recommend their employer as top notch, and believe they have career opportunities ahead.
Universum produced a Happiness Index based on the data gathered from some 250,000 participants which, it says, can help employers “identify the specific drivers of employee satisfaction in their environments and the speed of addressing lapses between their performance and that of other companies. When in the negative and combined with the cost of recruiting and hiring, these factors can cost a company. So the index can provide a roadmap for improvement.”
The Universum data is far more detailed than SHRM’s output. Yet SHRM did yield a gem for employers’ consideration: The people around you can heavily influence one’s decision to stick with a job or look elsewhere. That’s where the trust and respect factors come into play.
“Workers have shown an increased preference for understanding their role and how it aligns with the success of an organization,” said Evren Esen, director of SHRM’s survey programs. “What’s important to employees now is a collaborative environment that encourages feedback and interaction among co-workers and between employees and their supervisors.”
These studies indicate that satisfaction with one’s internal team environment, and happiness with one’s position compared to those at other organizations, are critical to retaining top talent — perhaps moreso than wages and benefits. And while the two do overlap, satisfaction represents a solid foundation for employee retention, and happiness seals the deal.