Increase employee satisfaction by meeting these 5 needs

Team Asana contributor imageTeam AsanaJune 25th, 20228 min read
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Summary

Employee satisfaction describes how happy employees are with their jobs, their work experience, and the company they work for. In this piece, we’ll discuss what most employees need to feel satisfied at work. When you create a work environment that promotes job satisfaction, you’ll increase team morale and improve the employee experience.

The saying goes “do a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” While this isn’t exactly accurate, there’s something to be said for finding work you enjoy. Research shows that happy workers are 13% more productive, and this is hardly surprising. An unhappy employee must put their emotions aside if they hope to work efficiently. 

In this piece, we’ll discuss what most employees need to feel satisfied at work. Whether you’re a small team lead, a project manager, or even a CEO, you can contribute to employee satisfaction by increasing team morale with our tips below. 

What defines employee satisfaction?

Human resource departments use employee satisfaction to describe how happy employees are with their jobs, their work experience, and the company they work for. 

You can better understand employee needs by looking at a motivational theory in psychology known as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. Abraham Maslow—an American psychologist—believed humans need five things to feel fulfilled. He ranked these things hierarchically as follows:

  1. Physiological needs like food, water, and shelter.

  2. Safety

  3. Love and belonging

  4. Esteem

  5. Self-actualization.

An employee’s needs resemble the five basic needs but with a focus on the working world. While each employee values different things in the workplace, these five fundamentals establish the bottom line for what satisfied employees require to stay that way. 

Similar to Maslow's hierarchy, the bottom is the most important, and you can't build to the next level until you fulfill the first one. For example, if you don't feel like you’re paid what you deserve, it’s hard to feel secure in your job. And if you don’t feel secure in your job, it’s hard to feel a sense of belonging.

What defines employee satisfaction?
  • Compensation: Employees must receive an appropriate level of compensation for their work in order to survive in the world and feel respected in their role. Compensation includes an employee’s salary, as well as other benefits they may receive like stocks, company perks, etc. Without fulfilling this essential need, employees can’t meet their other needs because this need is a building block for everything else. Lack of proper compensation can lead an employee to experiencing low self-esteem, frustration, and self-doubt.

  • Security: Building on the need for proper compensation, employees want to know that they can rely on their employers. An employee won’t feel fulfilled in their jobs if they feel like they can lose it at any moment. A lack of job security can result in eventual mistrust between employer and employee. 

  • Belonging: One of Maslow’s basic needs is belonging, and employees need to feel like they can bring their full selves to work. Whether your team works remotely or in person, employees will feel more workplace satisfaction when they develop meaningful relationships with their manager and teammates. An employee’s satisfaction levels are lower when they’re isolated from members of their company and don’t feel supported in their role. 

  • Purpose: The most satisfied employees are those that feel a sense of purpose in what they do. When team members understand how their daily work impacts the larger company mission, they tend to be more motivated and more excited about their jobs. Sense of purpose is all about mindset, and you can help give employees purpose by shaping their work experiences.

  • Self-actualization: Self-actualized employees are ones who are confident in their roles, willing to push boundaries, be curious, ask questions—as well as support their team members and work cross-functionally. You can help employees reach this level of fulfillment by giving your team members opportunities for growth and encouraging them to learn new skills. Employees feel their best when they’re doing things they excel at.

Employee satisfaction isn’t black and white, and you can measure it in various ways. When trying to improve employee satisfaction, keep in mind that it functions on a spectrum, as opposed to a checklist. For example, an employee may feel like their job provides some sense of belonging, but not enough to make them feel completely satisfied. 

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Team member satisfaction example

Team members assess their satisfaction level by comparing their work experience to their needs. For example, let’s say Kat Mooney has worked at Apollo Enterprises for five years and she’s now taking time to reflect. She writes down her employee experience in a company review:

“In my five years at Apollo Enterprises, I’ve enjoyed the relationships I’ve built with everyone in the office. I love coming to work because it feels like a community. 

I work in customer service and I truly feel like my work has a purpose. I’m really good at what I do, and without my role, our company wouldn’t have loyal customers. I know that the company will always need my role, so I’m not worried about losing my job, but I do occasionally feel like others don’t appreciate my skills, which causes me to lose confidence.

My biggest complaint about my job, however, is that I’m underpaid. I’ve stayed in the same position for five years with no hope for a raise. I’ll have to decide if this substandard pay is worth letting go of everything else I enjoy about my job.”

Kat’s job meets almost all of her basic needs for satisfaction. She feels a sense of belonging, a sense of purpose, and security in her role. She knows she’s good at what she does. But even with four of her needs met, Kat’s employer isn’t offering her the compensation she deserves, which could cause her to walk away. 

If you were Kat’s manager, you could use her review to adjust your viewpoint on the customer service team. Offering her a raise would probably cost you less money than training a new person and getting them to the level of experience Kat is currently at. If you don’t want to lose Kat, you’ll need to consider what she’s worth.

5 ways to improve employee satisfaction

Employee satisfaction is important for individual productivity, but it also benefits the entire company. Happy employees stay with companies longer, and employee retention can reduce overhead costs and improve profitability. 

5 ways to improve employee satisfaction

To increase employee satisfaction, consider your employees’ five needs and take actionable steps to meet them.

1. Provide growth tracks

Meet your employees’ need for proper compensation by offering career development opportunities. Advancement should be available for everyone, even if team members move forward at different speeds. 

When you outline clear growth tracks that have raises associated with them, employees understand how to achieve specific goals to get to the compensation they want. Aside from each individual’s growth track, you can provide challenging projects and skill-building workshops to stimulate growth. 

Aim to provide growth tracks for individual contributor roles, in addition to manager positions. Oftentimes, we associate being a manager with increased pay, but not everyone is suited for a managerial position. Sometimes, great team leaders are individual contributors who support their team in other ways. Showing your team members that there are various paths for growth can help them understand what their future at your company can look like.

Read: Leadership vs. management: What’s the difference?

2. Prioritize transparency

Being transparent with your employees is the best way to build trust and respect. This means telling them about both good and bad things and giving them the context they need to succeed in their roles. 

For example, many companies experienced economic uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic. This resulted in a lack of security for employers and employees. Employers who were transparent about that uncertainty likely had happier employees through that hard time because of the trust they developed. 

If you can reassure your employees that their jobs are safe and let them know when rough patches occur, you’ll develop a strong team that’s prepared to stick with you through it all.

3. Foster company culture

Employees are happiest when they feel a sense of belonging at work. To do this, establish an organizational culture that emphasizes inclusion, so you can ensure everyone feels welcome, regardless of their background. 

When team members feel like they can be their full selves at work, they’re not only happier—they’re also more invested and involved at your company. You can do this by investing in a culture of belonging, building diversity and inclusion programs, and encouraging your employees to connect with people they relate to through programs like Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). For example, At Asana, we have specific Slack channels and monthly meetings for parents to discuss how they manage child care while working. Giving team members with children an opportunity to connect with others who share a similar experience makes them feel like they belong.

Additionally, make an effort to schedule team activities so employees can get to know one another outside of their daily tasks. Employees will feel more comfortable when they feel connected to the people they work with.   

Read: 45 team building games to improve communication and camaraderie

4. Increase employee engagement

Employees that aren’t engaged in their daily work likely won’t perform at their best. There are many reasons an employee may disengage, including apathy, burnout, or insecurity in their job skills—like imposter syndrome

One of the best ways to increase satisfaction is to help your employees feel a sense of purpose. As a team lead, it's your responsibility to ensure your team members understand how their daily work contributes to broader company goals. 

This begins during the onboarding process. Use onboarding to excite new team members and show them why their work matters. Keep up that momentum by:

  • Connecting daily work to company goals

  • Clarifying work priorities 

  • Recognizing employee success

  • Promoting healthy work habits

  • Seeking feedback from team members

  • Initiating team collaboration

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5. Encourage bottom-up decision making

The final step to increasing employee satisfaction is to help your employees feel more confident by giving them a voice. Try including them in manager meetings, asking for their feedback on company decisions, and looking to them for guidance on projects. 

When you encourage bottom-up decision making, employees at the bottom of the team structure have an equal chance of contributing to project success. Team members will feel appreciated when you take notice of the ideas they bring to the table. 

Read: 100+ teamwork quotes to motivate and inspire collaboration

How to measure employee satisfaction

Taking action to improve employee satisfaction is only one part of a two-part equation. You must measure employee satisfaction to know whether your current practices are working. Are your employees happy or do you need to change things up to increase satisfaction levels?

How to measure employee satisfaction

There are many ways to measure employee satisfaction. Use more than one way to get the most accurate insights. Consider these measurable ideas:

  • Employee engagement surveys: With an employee engagement survey, you’ll get a baseline idea of what employees like and dislike. Tailor your questions to your areas of concern and see how employees respond.  

  • One-on-one meetings: Use individual meetings with your team members to assess how each person is feeling in their position and discuss any obstacles they’re experiencing. 

  • Employee satisfaction index (ESI): An ESI measures how satisfied employees are on a scale from 1 to 10. It asks employees to rate how satisfied they are in their workplace, how well their workplace meets their expectations, and how close their workplace is to their ideal job. You can use this information to inform any changes or improvements you need to make at the team or company level.

  • Employee turnover rate: Employee turnover rate is the rate at which past employees have left the company during a specified time period. Turnover can include voluntary and involuntary leave. Use this rate to assess whether employees who left were unhappy in their roles and why. 

  • Suggestion box: Some employees may not feel comfortable openly expressing their concerns or opinions. A suggestion box provides an anonymous method for employees to submit advice and can give you a better chance of receiving honest feedback. 

  • Reviews and feedback: If you regularly ask for reviews and employee feedback, you’ll increase the data you have on employee satisfaction. You can use any information you receive in these reviews and feedback for company improvement and growth.

Every employee feels fulfilled in different ways in the workplace, and your data will better represent every employee when you have more metrics. If you receive negative results from your data collection, you can use that information to focus on problem areas, whether that be onboarding, company culture, or career development.

Drive team collaboration with communication software

Employees are the most important part of any workplace. Without high-performing employees, your company can’t produce good work and make money. When you have a team of satisfied employees, you set your entire operation up for success. 

Team communication software can keep your team in constant collaboration, no matter where they are in the world. Set up meetings, give and receive feedback, and integrate hundreds of apps to engage instantly. A satisfied team is a productive team, and with the right tools, improving satisfaction is simple. 

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