Job Satisfaction Drives Progress

Bob Schultek
Author of
The Gauntlet

Leadership is a people business. Results are achieved by influencing and inspiring your people to ask why, take responsibility, and make a difference for customers, teammates, and the business as a whole. 

During this time of unrelenting change and adaptation, it becomes clearer that your people are your most sustainable competitive advantage. They are the face of your business, doing the meaningful work and delivering the experiences that build enduring relationships. Growth relies on these relationships. 

One system on which leaders depend, but that stills lags in evolution, is people management. Only those who feel appreciated, who understand how they make a difference, can create the experiences that nurture relationships by making your business personal and distinctive. But most of today’s personnel management systems tend to be robotic, automating human performance assessment by favoring efficiency and risk aversion over behaviors that build relationships like empathy, initiative and personal accountability. In a competitive market that demands agility, where finding and retaining the best people is increasingly vital, automating human performance, “just doing my job,” is a shortcut to mediocrity and becoming a commodity. 

To address this issue, more companies are monitoring job satisfaction. It’s not a new concept, but perhaps one with increasing relevance. Fifty years ago, Oldham and Hackman proposed a job satisfaction model that asked five questions:

  1. Does the work you do create meaning or impact? (“task significance”)
  2. Do you feel ownership (emotionally) in the work you’re doing? (“task identity”)
  3. Do you have the freedom to make choices? (“autonomy”)
  4. Is the task monotonous? (“skill variety”)
  5. Does your workplace encourage the safe and easy sharing of feedback to help you improve? (“feedback”)

A more modern job satisfaction model (Daniel Pink’s in his book “Drive”) focuses on motivation and distills these 5 factors down to three:

  1. Purpose: Connecting a person’s work to a cause larger than themselves motivates them to invest extra time and effort in pursuing the most challenging problems. Provide a means for your people to collaborate with others on a strategic, longer-term improvement project that aligns with your core values. 
  2. Mastery: Most people want to improve their skills – it builds confidence and increases their visibility. A sense of progress, not just in their work, but their capabilities, strengthens a person’s inner drive. Challenge people to master a current competency by pursuing continual improvement and growth. Then, monitor how they’re progressing, and if they’re not, scale back the challenge; getting stuck is de-motivating.
  3. Autonomy: Self-direction is a natural inclination, an inner drive. Help your people progress by giving meaningful feedback, choice over how to do things, and encouragement. You can support autonomy by giving people real control over various aspects of their work, whether it’s deciding what to work on or when to do it.

At this time, when knowledge work, creativity, and problem-solving are required to succeed, increasing job satisfaction can result in a more productive, loyal workforce, that fosters stronger relationships and delivers improved results. 

How might your business improve job satisfaction?

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