Posted on January 21, 2013 by Katherine Razzi
When assessing employee satisfaction it is important to be very cognizant of how to do so successfully. That is, it is easy to unintentionally measure something that is unrelated to workplace satisfaction. For example, merely asking employees if they liked a recent training program is not nearly as useful a question as asking how many times they used something they learned in the training program in the last month.
The first step in understanding employees’ perceptions is to know what questions to ask in order to elicit the most accurate responses possible. Many leaders in organizations attempt to create a quick survey in house to give to employees, but often times obtaining inaccurate information based on a poorly constructed survey can be waste a company time and money.
The problem with many organizational surveys that are created in-house is that the items within them are far too broad and open to individual interpretation. The goal is to create items on a survey that are constructed in such a way that respondents conceptualize them in very similar ways. For example, an item on which respondents must rate their agreement that says “I have lots of fun at work” is quite broad and would not be very useful for obtaining accurate representations of whether the employees have fun. Some individuals would think of fun in different ways than others. Similarly, no two people would consider the phrase “a lot” to mean the exact same thing. Therefore, any variability in responses to such an item would not necessarily be due to differences in amounts of fun at work but rather differences in interpretations of the poorly constructed item.
Another good rule of thumb is to try to assess behaviors as opposed to affect. For example, asking about the frequency with which an employee does a certain action will return a more objective and accurate response than asking about how an employee feels toward a certain aspect of the organization. Emotional or feeling-based responses are often subjective and, while useful, can be obtained in more concrete ways. Satisfaction is much easier to measure when operationalized in a specific and observable way than through vague questions about feelings and perceptions. A common way of rationalizing satisfaction with an organization is by the extent to which one would recommend working at the company to a friend. This very specific action still assesses a type of satisfaction without merely asking “are you satisfied”?