Posted by: Bill von Achen | October 22, 2010

Employee Satisfaction is Not Always About Money

Business owners frequently believe that employee job happiness is determined almost exclusively by how much money they’re paid. But an employee satisfaction survey we conducted for a client company reveals that compensation is not always the most pressing issue when it comes to gauging job satisfaction.

The survey was conducted at a privately held company, and was triggered by the owner’s concern that a recent rash of resignations by key members of the company’s professional staff might be attributable to below-market compensation levels. Staff members were asked to complete a brief questionnaire on a variety of work-related issues to gain a better understanding of what they liked (and didn’t like) about the company and their jobs.

The results clearly indicated that money was not the issue of greatest importance to the company’s employees. Instead, the survey found that employees were more concerned about the following four issues:

Insufficient training and support: Employees most frequently complained about the widespread absence of technical training, insufficient access to documentation, limited access to other experienced employees, and obsolete computer technology.

Infrequent performance feedback: Most employees found fault with the absence of regular informal performance feedback on their job performance, and stated that there was inadequate communication with their managers about performance related issues.

Workload issues: Employees complained about being required to work on projects with little or no prior experience, and the stress that resulted from having to appear as an expert with the company’s clients when they (the employees) do not have the requisite knowledge.

The stress of frequent travel: Those employees that travel extensively complained that the company failed to address the stress that frequent travel places on employee’s personal lives, or to account for the burden of out-of-town assignments when evaluating performance.

On the plus side, employees mentioned the following items as sources of satisfaction with the company (once again, compensation was not widely mentioned):

Support from company management: Employees were highly satisfied with the personal support that they received from the company’s management team, the respect they were accorded by their managers, and their ability to make independent decisions about critical issues.

Satisfaction with other employees: Virtually every single employee felt that the quality and professionalism of the company’s other employees was a key factor in their job satisfaction, along with a sense of shared values and an attitude of teamwork.

Independence: Most employees were pleased with the independence and autonomy that they were given, and expressed satisfaction in being continually challenged in their work, being required to take on significant responsibilities, and routinely having to make important decisions.

Opportunities for professional growth: Several employees commented favorably on their excitement about being part of a rapidly growing organization, and recognized that the company’s growth would provide significant professional and personal development opportunities for everyone.

Of course, there are always instances where below-market compensation can lead to employee unhappiness and, ultimately, resignations. But, as this survey shows, job dissatisfaction frequently centers on issues other than money. Taking steps to address the root causes of employee dissatisfaction can help you to retain your company’s most valuable assets without breaking the bank.


  1. I’ve heard recent anecdotal evidence that some employers are increasing ther “richness” of their health plan benefits to prevent employees from migrating to other firms soley for an upgrade in the benefit package.

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