How to Increase Job Satisfaction and Improve Employee Engagement

Employers face dynamic and ever increasing challenges.  A global economy of discriminating consumers has placed demands on employers never before seen.  Employers face the challenges of maintaining productivity as well as keeping their workforce engaged and motivated.  Environmental pressures, rising health care costs, and the needs of the workforce have placed management in a complicated and tenuous situation.  The answer lies with creating a work environment that maintains employee job satisfaction as well as motivates people toward exceptional performance. 

A new survey conducted by the Conference Board showed only 45 percent of Americans are satisfied with their work.  This is the lowest level ever recorded by the Conference Board in more than 22 years of research.

Those that fail to improve job satisfaction are at risk of losing their top talented people to the competition.  Supervisors and managers who maximize the potential, creative abilities, and talents of the entire workforce have a greater competitive advantage than those who don’t.  Employees that are engaged in their work have a higher level of job satisfaction.  Motivated workers provide the health insurance businesses desperately needed in these chaotic times. 


The leaders of the organization have the responsibility for creating a high level of job satisfaction.  Dr. Edwards Deming said, “The aim of leadership should be to improve the performance of man and machine, to improve quality, to increase output, and simultaneously to bring pride of workmanship to people.”    A motivating environment is one that gives workers a sense of pride in what they do.  To show supervisors and managers how to build a more productive work environment, I’ve created a five-step process called the PRIDE system.  Leaders can improve motivation within their organizations by following this process: 

  • Provide a positive working environment 
  • Reward and recognition
  • Involve and increase employee engagement 
  • Develop the skills and potential of your workforce
  • Evaluate and measure job satisfaction 


Job satisfaction begins by first providing a positive work environment.  Fran Tarkenton says, to find what motivates people, “you  have to find what turns people on.”  This is the most important factor in the process.  A motivating working environment requires going over and beyond the call of duty and providing for the needs of the worker. 

Walt Disney World Company provides an excellent work environment for their employees or “cast members.”  Employee assistance centers are spread strategically across the theme park.  Some of the services included employee discount programs, childcare information, money orders, postage stamps, check cashing, and bus passes.  The Walt Disney Company realizes that taking care of their employee’s needs keep them motivated,  on the job and loyal to the company. 


Mark Twain once said, “I can live for two months on a good compliment.”  Personal recognition is a powerful tool in building morale and motivation.  A pat on the back, a personal note from a peer or a supervisor does wonders.  Small, informal celebrations are many times more effective than a once a quarter or once a year formal event. 

Graham Weston, co-founder and CEO of Rackspace Managed Hosting, gives the keys to his BMW M3 convertible for a week to his top performing employees. This creative way to reward employees has a bigger impact than cash. He says, “If you gave somebody a $200 bonus, it wouldn’t mean very much. When someone gets to drive my car for a week, they never forget it.”


People may show up for work, but are they engaged and productive? People are more committed and engaged when there is a process for them to contribute their ideas and employee suggestions. This gives them a sense of ownership and pride in their work.

The Sony Corporation fosters the exchange of ideas within departments by sponsoring an annual Idea Exposition. During the exposition, scientists and engineers display projects and ideas they are working on. Open only to Sony’s employees, this process creates a healthy climate of innovation and engages all those who participate.


Training and education motivates people and makes them more productive and innovative.  At Federal Express, all customer contact people are given six weeks of training before they ever answer the first phone call.  Learning never stops and testing continues throughout their employment tenure.  Every six months customer service people are tested using an on-line computer system.  Pass/fail results are sent to each employee within 24 hours.  They receive a personalized “prescription” on areas that need reviewing with a list of resources and lessons that will help.  Federal Express’ intensive training and development program has resulted in higher motivation and lower turnover. 

There are many reasons training and development makes sense.  Well-trained employees are more capable and willing to assume more control over their jobs.  They need less supervision, which frees management for other tasks.  Employees are more capable to answer the questions of customers which builds better customer loyalty.   Employees who understand the business, complain less, are more satisfied, and are more motivated.  All this leads to better management-employee relationships. 


Continuous evaluation and never ending improvement is the final step of the PRIDE system.  Evaluation is a nonstop activity that includes a specific cycle of steps focusing on job satisfaction and employee engagement.  The primary purpose of evaluation is to measure progress and determine what needs improving.  Continuous evaluation includes, but is not limited to, the measurement of attitudes, morale, and motivation of the workforce.  It includes the identification of problem areas needing improvement and the design and implementation of an improvement plan.  Good organizations conduct a job satisfaction survey at least once a year.

Businesses have searched far and wide for the competitive advantage, the best equipment, robotics, or the latest business technique.  These devices provide only temporary solutions.  The true competitive advantage is trained and motivated people proudly working together, contributing their vitality and energy toward the goals of the enterprise. 

Greg Smith is a nationally recognized speaker, author, and business performance consultant. He has written numerous books including his latest, 401 Proven Ways to Retain Your Best Employees. He has been featured on television programs such as Bloomberg News, PBS television, and in publications including Business Week, USA Today, Kiplinger’s, President and CEO, and the Christian Science Monitor. He is the President and “Captain of the Ship” of a management-consulting firm, Chart Your Course International, located in Atlanta, Georgia. Phone him at 770-860-9464. More articles available:


One thought on “How to Increase Job Satisfaction and Improve Employee Engagement

  1. Increasing employee job satisfaction and retention in the 2000’s. Organizations are into a phase of creative disassembly where reinvention and adjustments are constant. Hundreds of thousands of jobs are being shed by GE, Chevron, Sam’s Club, Wells Fargo Bank, HP, Starbucks etc. and the state, counties and cities. Even solid world class institutions like the University of California Berkeley under the leadership of Chancellor Birgeneau & Provost Breslauer are firing staff, faculty and part-time lecturers. Yet many employees, professionals and faculty cling to old assumptions about one of the most critical relationship of all: the implied, unwritten contract between employer and employee.
    Until recently, loyalty was the cornerstone of that relationship. Employers promised job security and a steady progress up the hierarchy in return for employees fitting in, performing in prescribed ways and sticking around. Longevity was a sign of employeer-employee relations; turnover was a sign of dysfunction. None of these assumptions apply today. Organizations can no longer guarantee employment and lifetime careers, even if they want to.
    Organizations that paralyzed themselves with an attachment to “success brings success’ rather than “success brings failure’ are now forced to break the implied contract with employees – a contract nurtured by management that the future can be controlled.
    Jettisoned employees are finding that the hard won knowledge, skills and capabilities earned while being loyal are no longer valuable in the employment market place.
    What kind of a contract can employers and employees make with each other? The central idea is both simple and powerful: the job or position is a shared situation. Employers and employees face market and financial conditions together, and the longevity of the partnership depends on how well the for-profit or not-for-profit continues to meet the needs of customers and constituencies. Neither employer nor employee has a future obligation to the other. Organizations train people. Employees develop the kind of security they really need – skills, knowledge and capabilities that enhance future employability.
    The partnership can be dissolved without either party considering the other a traitor. Employee loyalty to management is dead. A Rx for employee loyalty reform.

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