It wasn’t that long ago that self-employment was a fast-rising phenomenon in the marketplace.
Many unemployed individuals of all ages were establishing their own small businesses and then often quickly providing job opportunities for others. Professionals, especially, were at the very least acting as "free agents" -- contracting themselves back to former employers and/or new clients.
It seemed that people were seeking the same sense of Freedom 55 that was often touted by the investment industry.
Yet, as many new entrepreneurs soon found out, there are many challenges to running your own business, not least of which is the challenge of surviving a downturn in the economy. As you might expect, many of these new businesspeople did not survive but instead, had to fold their tents, so to speak, and return to the regular workforce as best they could.
So, it is not surprising that the latest 2010 employee job satisfaction survey is showing that once again, job security is the most important element of job satisfaction. And with aging demographics, it is also not surprising that the second most important element of job satisfaction is benefits, especially those related to health care and retirement. Next, we see that employees want to have good opportunities to use their unique skills and abilities followed by interesting work, financial stability of the employer and, lastly, compensation.
As a leading management consultant and human resource professional, I have always maintained that money is not a true or long-lasting motivator. In fact, my experience has shown that individuals who are motivated solely by money simply don't stay in one place. Instead, they job hop, always looking for the next big raise. These individuals are typically quite selfish and self-centred and are not the kind of employees who will develop any kind of long-term loyalty. It's best to avoid them at all costs.
Since most corporations, not-for-profit agencies and small business owners alike want to recruit and retain high-quality employees, the question for employers, then, is how do you help employees feel more secure about their jobs? Just what human resource strategies can be applied to make this happen? The following suggestions might be applied to your organization.
Mission/vision -- Individuals who stay with a firm are typically those who feel there is a good fit with their employer. They understand the organizational purpose, they believe in the vision and they can see how they can contribute to it. A feeling of belonging is critical. Involve staff in the development and/or revision of your mission/vision.
Job structure -- There has been much research that proves individuals are more apt to excel when they have responsibility for a whole job, from start to finish. This gives individuals a sense of control; it increases their sense of personal ownership because they can see the results of the end product. Check out your jobs to see if individuals just doing part of a work process. If so, restructure the job to create more job satisfaction.
Challenge and opportunity -- Cross training of employees has been successful in creating job satisfaction in organizations. This gives employees the opportunity to expand and/or learn new skills. It also reduces the risk for employers when someone is ill or leaves the firm. Cross training creates flexibility for employers and opportunity for individuals to offer more generalist skills. Finally, conduct an examination of all the skills your employees possess. This will not only create a few surprises but will make you aware of hidden skills that can be put to immediate use.
Coaching/mentoring leadership -- Gone are the days when the role of a supervisor is to police for failure. This top-down, heavy-handed approach no longer works. Employees want to be respected for their intellect and ideas and believe me, they have a lot more to offer than they are given credit for. The approach today and for the future is to apply a coaching/mentoring style of leadership. People will feel more respected and will work harder.
Drive down responsibility -- You have probably heard me say it before but I need to say it again, the old top-down hierarchy won't work any more, either. Having to ask permission and/or seek approval for every task is cumbersome, inefficient and downright dissatisfying. Teams and team leadership is one of the key means of establishing job satisfaction, and these teams are responsible for whole jobs. In many cases, teams are now responsible for entire departments. The difference in motivation, synergy, energy and job satisfaction is spectacular. Give it a try.
Management training -- Supervisors and managers need to receive training in how to be a participative leader engaged in coaching and mentoring instead of directing. They need ongoing personal coaching as they begin applying this new way of working. It is best to use a training program that allows these individuals to apply their learning directly back to the workplace over a six-month time frame. After all, change takes time and needs reinforcement. Be sure to include managers at all levels of your organization in the training, as support from the top is critical.
Open communication -- Once again, employees want to have some sense of control over their life. Therefore, knowing what is what with the direction of your organization is important to them. If rumours arise, dispel them immediately. At the same time, keep in mind that communication is a two-way street and sometimes you need to get feedback from your employees.
Employee benefits -- Employee benefits are often the last thing employers think of; after all, they have typically had benefits in place for many years. But things change. Your employee demographics have changed and benefit offerings have greatly improved. It is probably time you undertook an assessment of how to update your plans.
As you have learned, job satisfaction is not just about money. It's about job security that only comes from employee involvement, being appreciated, and being given opportunity to use and build on skills. Finally, it's about belonging to an organization that respects individuals for who they are and how they can contribute.
Source: 2010 Employee Satisfaction Survey: Exploring what matters most to employees, SHRM, 2010
Barbara J. Bowes, FCHRP, CMC is president of Legacy Bowes Group, a Manitoba-based talent management solutions firm. She is also host of the weekly Bowes Knows radio show and is the author of the newly released bestseller, Resume Rescue. Bowes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.