What Are the Benefits of Employee Satisfaction?

Employee satisfaction often correlates with engagement, but what differentiates the two? The answer lies in how satisfaction reflects the emotional aspect of employee engagement.

This article was updated to reflect new information on March 3, 2023.

Since the phrase “the customer is always right” was popularized by retailers such as Selfridge’s and Wanamaker’s in the early 20th century, customers have often been referred to as a company’s most significant stakeholder. In turn, customer satisfaction has often been seen as a strong marker of success for business outcomes. But what about employee satisfaction?

The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer found that 40% of the 33,000 respondents ranked employees as the most important ingredient to long-term company success, compared with 34% who said customers. Just one year earlier those priorities were flipped, with 37% saying employees versus 38% saying customers. Increasingly, businesses are recognizing the needs of all their stakeholders. 

But placing an emphasis on your people doesn’t have to come at the cost of your customers. In fact, employee satisfaction often directly drives customer satisfaction. As the world of human resource management continues to evolve, businesses have to consider the thoughts and feelings of their employees. That’s where surveys can be a major business benefit. 

What Is Employee Satisfaction?

Employee satisfaction refers to how happy an employee is with their job. A satisfied employee is content with their work-life balance, often being more punctual, productive, and engaged. Job satisfaction covers a majority of the employee experience, including:

  • Workload.
  • Flexibility
  • Pay
  • Recognition
  • Career development
  • Benefits

The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer found that 40% of the 33,000 respondents ranked employees as the most important ingredient to long-term company success, compared with 34% who said customers.

The importance of each of those factors will differ depending on the individual. Understanding personal preferences, as well as generational and occupational ones, is important to any modern workplace. By regularly surveying your people, you can better respond to each person’s needs.

What Is Employee Engagement?

You’ll often hear employee engagement and employee satisfaction spoken about in the same sentence. However, the two terms aren’t synonymous. Job satisfaction is a strong corollary for engagement, often being understood as the emotional component of engagement. But it’s possible for an employee to be satisfied without being engaged. 

  • Employee satisfaction is the extent to which employees are happy with their working life. Typically, that means they have a passion for their work. However, a satisfied employee may also be content with their work because it’s easy, or well-paid, or because they have friends in the workplace. 

  • Employee engagement refers to how committed an employee is to the company and its goals. An engaged employee brings their full self to work, performing beyond their required duties, taking pride in good work, and acting as an advocate for the organization. 

That doesn’t mean satisfaction isn’t important—far from it. Indeed, satisfaction is the first step toward creating a more engaged workforce. A satisfied employee believes they are treated fairly by their company, but an engaged employee believes in the company and its continued success. Bottom line, satisfaction is a vital part of engagement, but it’s not the whole picture.

What Is an Employee Satisfaction Survey?

Employee satisfaction surveys are questionnaires designed to measure how fulfilled your employees are at work. The questions provide actionable insights around various workplace factors and your employees’ sentiment toward the overall company. Responses are either measured through rating scales or checkboxes, and often include the option to leave written comments. 

The purpose of these surveys is to provide businesses with actionable insights to inform their wider employee experience strategy. By identifying areas where people aren’t satisfied with their jobs, not only can managers better support their teams, but they can ensure that the actions they take are informed and efficient. 

What Is an Employee Engagement Survey?

An employee satisfaction survey is very focused, measuring only how happy an employee is at work. Conversely, an employee engagement survey looks at how invested each person is in the company mission, factoring in the full scope of their everyday working life. Satisfaction is often easily measured through one or two questions within an engagement survey. 

An engagement survey gives businesses insights into the overall engagement level at their organization. Rather than measuring satisfaction in isolation, businesses should do so alongside other drivers of engagement. By considering all the factors that influence the workplace experience, businesses gain a far fuller picture.

A satisfied employee believes that they are treated fairly by their company, but an engaged employee believes in the company and its continued success.

At Workday, we’ve identified 14 drivers of employee engagement based on decades of research in behavioral psychology and management theory. You can use these questions to form the basis of your own survey template. Or, you can learn more about our employee engagement solution Workday Peakon Employee Voice.

  • Accomplishment
  • Autonomy
  • Environment
  • Freedom of opinions
  • Goal setting
  • Growth
  • Management support
  • Meaningful work
  • Organizational fit
  • Peer relationships
  • Recognition
  • Reward
  • Strategy
  • Workload

What Are the Benefits of Measuring Employee Satisfaction? 

Surveying satisfaction is an important step toward understanding your team members and can prove decisive in organizational decisions. A survey can enable your company to gather data that impacts a variety of business outcomes including:

  • Pay and benefits
  • Company culture
  • Digital transformation
  • Training and development

By asking how your employees feel, your people leaders can approach strategy with those sentiments in mind. In doing so, your business can unlock three major benefits. 

1. Improve Overall Customer Satisfaction

One of the fastest ways to improve customer satisfaction, particularly in a company with a high proportion of customer-facing roles, is to improve employee satisfaction. If a dissatisfied employee deals with customers, it will naturally have a negative impact on customer-service quality. 

Recommended action: Every bad user experience has a negative impact on the company brand, so acting quickly here is key. Survey your employees, acknowledge consistent problem areas, and outline how you’re going to tackle them moving forward.

2. Retain Talent and Improve Loyalty

When employees see that their feedback is not only listened to but acted on, you naturally increase their engagement and loyalty. This Total Economic Impact™ Study, conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Workday, estimated that voluntary staff turnover was reduced by 10% after three years of using Workday Peakon Employee Voice. 

Recommended action: Make sure your employees are aware of how you’re acting on their feedback throughout the process. Knowing that you’re taking direct steps to improve employee experience will have a positive impact on overall employee retention

3. Increase Employee Psychological Safety

Employee satisfaction includes the ability to contribute freely. Employees often feel that they cannot voice their concerns, whether out of lack of support or fear of repercussions. Engagement surveys are a great opportunity for your employees to express how they feel. However, there are two key conditions to receiving honest feedback. Employees need to be reassured that:

  • Their honest opinion is valued.
  • The information they provide is confidential.

Recommended action: Emphasize to your employees that all feedback is welcome, whether positive or negative. Also, reassure employees that their responses are confidential, so that they feel comfortable expressing themselves honestly.

How Do You Write Good Employee Satisfaction Survey Questions?

Creating a survey to measure employee satisfaction can be difficult. Fortunately, our engagement solution Workday Peakon Employee Voice does the hard work for you, with a robust set of 45 survey questions, real-time analytics, and employee and manager dashboards. 

Your engagement survey should align with your company’s mission and have a clear goal that employees can identify with. Here are five straightforward measures that will improve your surveys:

  • Avoid business jargon and use concise, clear language in questions.
  • Communicate any problem areas and actions to the whole organization.
  • Don’t go overboard on length; shorter pulse surveys are best.
  • Pulse surveys work best at a regular cadence, either weekly, biweekly, or monthly.
  • Make sure your managers have visibility into their team’s responses.

Should Employee Surveys Be Confidential? 

To encourage employees to provide open and honest feedback, they need to be reassured that their responses won’t be held against them. True anonymity is difficult, since comments can often contain identifying details. However, confidentiality should be at the heart of survey software.

This Total Economic Impact™ Study, conducted by Forrester Consulting on behalf of Workday, estimated that voluntary staff turnover was reduced by 10% after three years of using Workday Peakon Employee Voice.

At Workday, we put an emphasis on privacy. Managers can respond to comments left through Workday Peakon Employee Voice, but they won’t see who left the comment. We also ensure that responses can’t be segmented until they reach a minimum threshold, to guarantee surveys are confidential. Taking those proactive steps helps promote psychological safety among your employees. 

Connecting Satisfaction to Your Employee Engagement Strategy

As employee expectations continue to evolve, it’s essential that businesses understand what their employees think and how they feel. Understanding satisfaction as the emotional component of engagement underlines how essential it is to promote a positive company culture. A successful employee engagement program is a major part of that.

Employee satisfaction surveys can offer priceless insights into what policies will provide your employees with the best possible work environment. Your employees’ job satisfaction and their wider engagement is reflective of the quality of their employee experience. Improving that experience requires strategy, and that strategy requires people leaders to listen. That’s what separates a good organization from a great organization.

More Reading