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Friday, December 3, 2010

I Can't Get No... Job Satisfaction!

According to some recent research, the number one reason that employees leave their jobs is because of their relationship with their direct supervisor. There are many factors, of course. Some people will remain in a job even if they have a very poor relationship with their supervisor, but in many cases, employees leave because of their boss.

I once went to work for a company that had an extremely high level of turnover and an almost toxic environment. This was a small company, and the owner directly supervised all the employees. The owner knew he was the cause of the problems and hired a consultant to help him. One of the results of the consultant’s work was that I was hired to manage Operations and supervise the employees. In effect, I was a buffer between the owner and the other employees.

I was a good buffer. Eventually, it didn’t happen overnight, I stabilized the workforce and the Operations of the company. However, the effects on my health of being the buffer were not good and I left the company. But the experience did give me first hand knowledge of the effects of bosses on employees.

Other research has looked at the factors of job satisfaction. I was looking at this after a question was asked about how to retain employees when, in the current economic conditions, the company could not give raises or bonuses to employees. While base pay is an important consideration in job satisfaction, it is not the top factor. The factors that affect job satisfaction are complex. Base pay is usually ranked in the top 5, but a survey done by the Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) in 2009 showed that job security and benefits ranked the highest, with compensation coming in third. Given the state of the economy at the time of the survey, that is not surprising, but that would not be surprising even in a good economy.

Many factors contribute to job satisfaction, but if you look beyond job security and compensation, you will see that there are a number of factors that relate to the job or the work itself. And, of course, relationship with supervisors and management are important. The factors that relate to the work and the relationships with management are important for Business Operations professionals.

Employees want to perform work that utilizes their skills, and they want to perform work that is meaningful. What does meaningful mean in this situation? It means that the work they do is important for the success of the organization, and in many cases, important to the health and well being of society in general. For Business Operations professionals, the challenge is to ensure that the employees work is meaningful. How can you do that?

One place to look is within one of the core principles of the Lean Management system. Lean advocates, no, relies on, employee participation and input. Workers play an important role in designing and improving processes, establishing procedures, and developing work systems. When the workers themselves are heavily involved in their own destiny, their satisfaction with the job is very high.

The takeaway here for Business Operations professionals is to tap into your employees knowledge, bring them into the process of designing and improving how you do things, and understand and improve your relationships with your employees.

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