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Job Satisfaction: The Challenges Transformed Organizations Face

© April 2006 Claudia Garcez

by Claudia Garcez, MHR Graduate Student

Claudia Garcez, Consultora de RH
Portugese Translation available here

What are the challenges facing a transformed organization? What should companies do to attract and retain "the right people"? The answer might just be giving people what they want. As many studies have shown, satisfied employees tend to be much more productive, creative and committed to their employers. After all, high levels of absenteeism and an increased turnover can profoundly affect a company's bottom line. Jensen (2000) defines job satisfaction as: "a sense of personal growth most often measured by the extent of new challenges and learning situations experienced" (p. 1). Amazingly, only a few organizations have made job satisfaction a top priority in their overall strategy. Perhaps they fail to understand the significant link between job satisfaction and productivity. Transformed organizations must create a positive workplace for their workforce to increase satisfaction on the job (Syptak, Marshland and Ulmer, 1999). This paper describes the challenges that a transformed organization faces in order to keep their people satisfied as well as discusses methods an organizational psychologist would suggest to increase employee satisfaction. Further, it outlines different ways our learning team motivates itself to be more productive. Finally, this paper will focus on things that keep employees satisfied in the workplace.

Challenges transformed organizations face

Around the world, companies have helplessly watched their employees walk out searching for better career opportunities. There is no question that attracting the "right people" is a challenge for any organization. An even more important challenge an organization faces is to retain a productive workforce. Transformed organizations should constantly take into consideration why they are losing their workforce. Despite this crucial concern, many seem to struggle to find a solution for a growing problem that desperately needs to be fixed.

Although overdue, companies are starting to discover that the departure of their employees results from a "lack of challenge" on the job or that the former employee "just needed something more". Exit interview results deeply frustrate managers because they realize that they may have been able to prevent their employees from leaving the company. In his article, Jensen (2000) gives an example of a bright young scientist who left a very successful biotechnology organization to work for a much smaller company. Here are the scientist's words: "I don't know what has happened, but I'm just not happy with the work I'm doing. Over the past six or eight months something's gone wrong. I really don't like the rut that I have fallen into" (p. 1).

Similar results are also seen in a 1999 survey. In this survey, IT professionals clearly reported that they felt undervalued by their employers, receive little communication on how they can contribute to their companies and feel overworked. Most IT professionals complained about the lack of effective training opportunities. They also saw very limited opportunities for advancement and that managers failed to satisfactorily discuss their career development (Ouellette, 1999).

Recently, job satisfaction factors were ranked in a SHRM 2005 survey. The participants had to identify and understand factors important to overall employee satisfaction on the job (Clark, 2005). According to Clark (2005), "HR literature shows that compensation is not the driving force behind employee job satisfaction" (p. 1). However, the results show that employees are changing their minds about what they value the most in the workplace. Worker's responses ranked benefits, compensation, work/life balance, job security, and a feeling of safety in the workplace as the top five important job satisfaction factors (Clark, 2005).

Methods an organizational psychologist would suggest to increase employee satisfaction

All the above factors have become tremendously challenging for transformed organizations. To better understand what keeps job satisfaction high, we should recall Frederick Herzberg's theory from the 1950's. He theorized that satisfaction on the job depends on two issues: hygiene issues and motivators.

Hygiene issues (dissatisfiers)
Company and administrative policies
Interpersonal relations
Working conditions
Motivators (satisfiers)
Work itself

According to Herzberg's theory, "Hygiene issues cannot motivate employees but can minimize dissatisfaction, if handled properly" (p. 1). These issues are directly related to the employee's environment. On the contrary, motivators create satisfaction by fulfilling individual's needs for meaning and personal growth (Syptak, Marshland and Ulmer, 1999).

Herzberg's theory can be very helpful for organizational psychologists in advising organizations on how to maintain employee satisfaction. In order to promote satisfaction within one's job, Hygiene issues need to be addressed. First, clear company administrative policies should be developed. According to Syptak, Marshland and Ulmer (1999), unclear or unnecessary organization policies can be a great source of frustration for the company's employees. It can be even worse if the polices are not required to be followed by everyone in the organization. By addressing this issue, organizational psychologists can decrease employee dissatisfaction by making sure the company's policies are fair and apply equally to all. Another consideration is to make printed copies of the company.s policies-and-procedures manual easily accessible to all organizational members. Syptak, Marshland and Ulmer (1999) recommend that organizations should have a written manual, soliciting staff input along the way and consider updating it. In addition, it's wise to compare the company's "policies to those of similar practices and ask whether particular policies are unreasonably strict or whether some penalties are too harsh" (Syptak et all., 1999).

Another challenging "hygiene" issue to be addressed is supervision. In his book, Noe (2005) briefly describes a number of studies that "have identified managerial behaviors that can cause an otherwise competent manager to be a 'toxic' or ineffective manager" (p. 336). According to Noe (2005), "these behaviors include insensitivity to others, inability to be a team player, arrogance, poor conflict-management skills, inability to meet business objectives, and inability to adapt during a change transition" (p. 336). Organizational psychologists should advise their clients to appoint the "right person" for a supervisory position. Companies should view this role as critical for effective performance. Such a position requires strong leadership and listening skills, including the ability to treat all employees fairly. In addition, organizational psychologists should advise their clients on how to teach their supervisors to use positive feedback whenever possible and should establish a set means of employee evaluation and feedback so that no one feels singled out (Syptak, Marshland and Ulmer, 1999).

The third "hygiene" issue that needs be addressed is salary. Employees expect to be fairly paid for the work they've done. If this expectation is not met, then employees will probably be dissatisfied with their jobs, adversely affecting their productivity. Syptak, Marshland and Ulmer (1999) recommend organizations to consult salary surveys or local help-wanted ads as a way to identify whether the salaries and benefits the company is offering are comparable to those of other offices in the area or the industry. In addition, companies should make sure they "have clear policies related to salaries, raises and bonuses" (Syptak, Marshland and Ulmer, 1999).

Another significant "hygiene" issue is interpersonal relations. Organizational psychologists should advise their clients to increase the organization's social interaction. It is fundamental for employees to socialize during their time on the job. Of course, such an interaction should occur in a reasonable time without adversely affecting the company's productivity. The company could have a specific and comfortable place where employees can relax and spend time together. There should be special events held after work hours, or "team" lunches provided by the organization. This interaction can increase friendship and develop more teamwork. At the same time, organizational psychologists should suggest that organizations to crack down on rudeness, inappropriate behavior and offensive comments (Syptak, Marshland and Ulmer, 1999).

The last "hygiene" issue that should be addressed is working conditions. It is important for the company's workforce to feel comfortable at the place they work. Little things such as a nice desk or a clean work area can make a difference in the employees' productivity. Syptak, Marshland and Ulmer (1999) advise organizations to do everything they can to keep the company's equipment and facilities up to date. In their article, Syptak, Marshland and Ulmer (1999) also recommend companies to "avoid overcrowding and allow each employee his or her own personal space, whether it is a desk, a locker, or even just a drawer" (p. 1).

Once the "hygiene" issues have been addressed, organizational psychologists should work on the motivator factors. The first motivator factor to be considered is the work itself. Companies should make sure that their employees believe that "the work they are doing is important and that their tasks are meaningful" (Syptak, Marshland and Ulmer, 1999). It is fundamental to emphasize to individuals that their contributions significantly impact the company's results. Syptak, Marshland and Ulmer (1999) suggest companies to make a big deal out of meaningful tasks that may have become ordinary. Even though employees may not find all their tasks interesting or rewarding, companies should stress to their employees how those tasks are essential to the overall processes (Syptak, Marshland and Ulmer, 1999).

Another motivator factor is achievement. According to Noe (2005), "goal-setting theory suggests that learning can be facilitated by providing individuals specific challenging goals and objectives" (p.111). It's important that individuals are placed in positions that they are qualified for. Based on this theory, organizational psychologists should advise their clients to set clear and achievable goals to their employees. Employees should know up front what is expected from them. Feedback should be provided regularly so corrections can be made along the way.

Probably, the most important motivator factor is recognition. Employees expect to be recognized for their time and effort. Organizational psychologists should advise their clients to make job recognition part of their cultures. One of the best ways to motivate employees is through positive reinforcement. It is extremely important for employees to feel they are doing a good job. Recognition is one way to get employees to perform at their highest level. They are willing to do whatever it takes to perform their best, as long as they feel their work is appreciated. The ultimate purpose of recognizing employee performance is not only to motivate them to be more productive and feel satisfied with their jobs, but ultimately to retain their talent and contribution to the success of the organization. Considering the high cost of turnover, it would be logical that the retention of top performers is the essential to the success of transformed organizations.

The fourth motivator factor is responsibility. Transformed organizations must empower their employees to make prompt decisions as well as solve problems in a timely manner. Organizational psychologists should suggest to their clients to give more responsibility to their employees. If workers feel they have an ownership interest in their work, they will probably be more motivated to perform at their best. Syptak, Marshland and Ulmer (1999) recommend companies to be careful not to simply add more work for their employees. "Instead, find ways to add challenging and meaningful work, perhaps giving the employee greater freedom and authority as well" (p. 1).

The final motivator factor that should be considered is advancement. As we know, if employees feel they are not advancing their career within the company, they will look for better opportunities elsewhere. Organizational psychologists should suggest to their clients to reward loyalty and performance with "advancement". When companies do not have an available position, they should consider giving an extra bonus or other type of gratification to their employees. In addition, companies should communicate to their workforce possible future positions that may interest them. Another way to help employees advance their career is to support and contribute to their education, which will make them more valuable to the organization.

Different ways we motivate ourselves and others within the learning team

Now, we will focus on different ways our team motivates itself and others within the learning team and on things that keep us satisfied at our jobs. Our group is composed of four members. Each of us rated motivator factors that we value the most within our group. Half of our team name effective communication, accountability and recognition within the top three most important motivator factors. Effective communication is important to us as a group because we feel that it is an important element in accomplishing tasks while we view accountability as the key for our group to be successful. We also ranked recognition at the top of the list. We believe that even a simple "thank you" makes a difference. We expect our members to value each other's efforts and to produce quality work in a timely fashion. A positive climate, working with a diverse group, and interaction with new members were also valued by our team members.

Things that we consider motivators in our places of employment

As for things that motivate us in our jobs, we ranked interpersonal relations and recognition as the top motivator factors with three out of four group members citing these as top. We expect to get along with our bosses and co-workers. We expect to have a team that looks outward when things are running smoothly while management notices when things are getting rough. Responsibility, empowerment, competitive salary and timely feedback were also considered important motivator factors for our team members. Other factors such as positive climate, benefits, challenging work, flexible schedule, job security and opportunity for advancement were also noted as valued motivators.


Transformed organizations face tremendous challenges in the need to attract and retain a productive workforce. Organizations must create new ways to keep their employees satisfied at all levels. Surveys should be conducted as a way to find out what is causing workers to be dissatisfied and action taken when the root is discovered. Companies must be willing to do what is necessary to close possible satisfaction gaps. A powerful tool for organizational psychologists to use in advising their clients on ways to keep their employees satisfied is to consider following Frederick Herzberg's theory. By following this theory, transformed organizations will have the best opportunity to create and retain a motivated productive workforce.


Barrie, J. M. (2000). The Top 7 Challenges HR Professionals are Facing. Managing

Working Relationships. Retrieved on Sept 9, 2005. Available at: https://www.workrelationships.com/site/newsletter/issue6.htm

Clark, Margaret M. (2005). Employees, HR differ on drives of satisfaction, survey finds.

SHRH Home. Retrieved on Aug 9, 2005. Available at: https://www.shrm.org/surveys.

Jensen, David G. (2000). Keys to Job Satisfaction. Search Masters International.

Retrieved on Sept 9, 2005. Available at: https://www.searchmastersinternational.com/eprise/main/web/us/smi/en/candidates_career_dev_job_satis

Noe, Raymond A. (2005). Employee Training and Development (Third Edition).

McGraw Hill: New York.

Ouellette, Tim (1999). 1999 Job Satisfaction Survey: Living With the Pain.

ComputerWorld. Retrieved on Sept 6, 2005. Available at: https://www.computerworld.com/careertopics/careers/story/0,10801,944,00.html

Syptak, Michael J., Marshland, David W., Ulmer, Deborah (1999). Job Satisfaction:

Putting Theory Into Practice. American Academy of Family Pratices: News and Publications. Retrieved on Sept 6, 2005. Available at: https://www.aafp.org/fpm/991000fm/26.html

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More Articles by © Claudia Garcez

Wed Apr 5 14:08:13 2006: 1859   BigDumbDinosaur

Nice article.

[IT professionals] also saw very limited opportunities for advancement and that managers failed to satisfactorily discuss their career development (Ouellette, 1999).

That right there probably accounts for more IT employee defections than anything else. My own personal experience from many years ago when I was an employee was that the "computer guy" (or gal) was "too specialized" to ever be anything more than a low-level, behind the scenes worker. Which brings up an issue that Claudia (is this the same Claudia who declared her undying love for Tony? <Grin>) didn't cover.

A source of employee dissatisfaction that seems to be constantly overlooked is this business of off-shoring work to countries with a much lower standard of living. How can any company expect to retain qualified personnel if the threat of losing ones job to a foreign worker is ever-present? As long as businesses treat employees as little more than chatel, sacrificial lambs as it were, to be discarded when the economic winds shift, employee loyalty will never come about. You can't expect loyalty from someone whose worth is considered to be transitory.

Wed Apr 5 14:14:03 2006: 1861   TonyLawrence

I think a large part of IT's problem is that "tech types" don't communicate well with "management types". We don't speak the same language: tech people see cause and effect, management folk see nuance and shading. Tech sees truth and lies, management sees shades of meaning. There's little mutual respect - in fact there's more likely mutual disdain. No wonder tech "gets no respect"

Wed Apr 5 14:20:35 2006: 1862   BigDumbDinosaur

Tech sees truth and lies, management sees shades of meaning.

That's as good a comparison as any, although one could reduce it to "tech sees truth and lies, management just lies." <Grin>

Thu Apr 6 11:00:16 2006: 1867   TonyLawrence

Another interesting link: (link)

A telling quote:

"Nine out of 10 would like to communicate with IT using easy-to-understand, interactive simulations rather than static text requirements."

So the answer to "Do I have to draw you a picture?" is definitely "Yes".


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