How to Increase Employee Retention. The Role of Job Satisfaction and what Increases it
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How to Increase Employee Retention. The Role of Job Satisfaction and what Increases it

Organisational Success Podcast

Keeping good staff is becoming increasingly critical for many organisations. Working out what factors help with employee retention is important. One of those factors is job satisfaction. But what helps to increase job satisfaction? In this interview, David talks with Michelle Drake who has recently completed a study which will be of interest to many people, looking at the connections between employee retention and job satisfaction.




Michelle Drake – Employee retention and job satisfaction

[00:00:00] David: Today, I’m talking with Michelle Drake. Michelle is one of our members and has recently completed a study which will be of interest to many people, looking at the connections between employee retention, job satisfaction, now whilst there’s an awful lot of talk about the great resignation or the big quit as it’s become known in many circles and whilst the pandemic did lead to a sudden spike in unemployment for a portion of the labor force across many sectors and in many countries, especially with people who were on zero hours contracts, hospitality for example, who were directly impacted by the pandemic and shutdowns and things like that. The actual statistics show there’s not been a statistically significant jump in people leaving their jobs over this period. Now there has been a slight increase, but not something in terms of the numbers that is actually out of the norm, what has happened and what is significant, is that the number of job openings have increased significantly over the last year [00:01:00] or so, and employees are finding it hard to fill places, especially in skilled roles. So, there is a shortfall in skilled employees, but it isn’t down to resignations and the movement of staff as such, and I’ll put the stats in the show notes, so you can see where they’re from. Now, that doesn’t mean that some workplaces aren’t suffering from higher than average turnover and that, that turnover isn’t hugely disruptive. Anyway, I’d like to just welcome Michelle. I just wondered whether you could just start off by giving us a little bit about your background and what led up to the study. 

[00:01:32] Michelle: Absolutely. I just completed my Master’s Degree at Daemen College near Buffalo, New York, and I went to study leadership and innovation was the program I went through and I found it very fascinating. Actually, my background is in clinical laboratory science, I work in a hospital laboratory when I’m not studying and that would be one of the areas that you’re mentioning about having a specific skillset, you know, it’s [00:02:00] very specific, the background that you need to work in this field and we’re experiencing even before the pandemic, a shortage of skilled workers coming into the field and it was something that concerned me because I could tell my coworkers were always in a bad mood because they were overworked, because there wasn’t enough staff to handle all the work and being in a hospital you’re 24 / 7. So it was a concern to me, I’m like, well, what, you know, I’ve still got, I’m only halfway through my career, what can I do to help this situation so that I don’t have to leave career myself from burnout symptoms. So, and what I found was, that you know, the factors that influence employee engagement or job satisfaction, those are you know, things that maybe that are lacking, that managers aren’t aware of in this industry, and maybe they don’t know how to recruit people and keep them. So, I found out a lot of very interesting things. 

[00:02:52] David: Yes. Yeah. The study is really interesting. Can you just, just to kind of start us off, can you just explain what job satisfaction [00:03:00] entails and why you focused on this as an indicator of retention?

[00:03:03] Michelle: Sure. Well, I mean, a job satisfaction is going to be when employees are motivated and they’re productive and they’re loyal to their organisation’s success, right. They care about what happens and so they contribute and they make the organisation better just by being there and using their skillsets. So, I mean, I was interested in it because I was concerned about the shortage of workers and I was, how can employees, excuse me, employers recruit and retain skilled staff because it’s very expensive to train people, and then if they come there and then they’re not happy, then they’re going to look for jobs elsewhere.

[00:03:39] David: Yes. Yeah. And so what kinds of factors are involved in job satisfaction? 

[00:03:44] Michelle: Well, there’s quite a few factors. I mean, you need to have clear expectations of what the job involves, there’s like the enjoyment of work, there’s a sense of meaning. It has to be a worthwhile align with persons moral, but like in healthcare or the biggest part of it is the quality of [00:04:00] care is directly affected by how much a person is satisfied with their jobs. So a patient’s outcome is going to be directly affected by how engaged a nurse is with their position, so it’s very important. 

[00:04:12] David: Yeah, and I would kind of guess given the kinds of people who come into health care to work, that, that alignment of values with the organisation, what the organisation is doing, feeds back into the care that people are getting and the sense that people have of doing a good job and this kind of a cyclical relationship going on.

[00:04:33] Michelle: Yeah, we did find that in my studies too. So, it’s a direct correlation between your job satisfaction and the patient outcomes. It’s been, many studies have shown that and it’s the more burnout somebody is going to experience, the more the patient outcomes are going to go down, so. 

[00:04:52] David: Yeah. So there’s also a direct correlation with things like stress in the workplace, that’s closely tied to job satisfaction in [00:05:00] that, and then the outcomes. What about the other side of this? Because you know, we talk about job satisfaction, job dissatisfaction. What kinds of things within an organisation leads to kind of higher levels of job dissatisfying?

[00:05:13] Michelle: It could be like a mismatch of talents. Maybe somebody who’s not in the best role for their skillset or maybe unrealistic expectations for what they’ve been trained for, or maybe they’re, you know, if they’re overwhelmed, they might have that feeling of failure, and then they’re taking that home with them and it’s making a difference in their personal lives too. It’s having an effect on their overall. 

[00:05:36] David: Yes. The quite good all of this feels like kind of, certainly from a dissatisfaction point of view, feels like kind of job fit that I feel like training for the job is the right job for me. They’re using me in the right way and those kinds of things, and when there’s a mismatch in there, we get higher level of job dissatisfaction and then I’m assuming higher levels of job turnover, people leaving at that point. 

[00:05:59] Michelle: Right. 

[00:05:59] David: [00:06:00] So, another other factors then that are involved in job retention, on directly to do with jobs studies. 

[00:06:06] Michelle: Well, obviously, I mean, a person needs to have the proper amount of pay and benefits involved because if they’re worried about putting food on their table, then they’re not paying attention to their job. Right. They’re worried about making enough, making ends meet. So you have to have, when you hire somebody, especially the high skill set, you have to make sure that you’re offering them, the ability to maintain their life outside of work. Right. But other factors would be the relationship with their team that they’re on, that recognition for contributions that they’re making to the organisation, and those are some of the things that come to mind. 

[00:06:38] David: Okay. So that’s interesting. So these are things that some of them are directly related to things like pay and valuing people and reward, those kinds of things, but they’re also less tangible ways of valuing people about the way that they feel, whether they feel part of a team that actually is doing something, and that I suppose the sense of community [00:07:00] within that. 

[00:07:00] Michelle: Absolutely. Absolutely. I think we talked about organisational commitment, that focuses on relationships with the employee, you know, and also with your patients, maybe if you’re in healthcare or your customers if it’s another field or your community, just promoting that environment where people feel accepted, that sense of belonging. These types of organisations, they’re going to be more resilient, they can adapt to changes more, because people aren’t afraid necessarily of making a change, because if they make a small mistake, they’re not considered a failure because they’ll still be accepted with their community. If something doesn’t want to try and a new way of doing something, and you give them the right support to do that, so then they’re going to have the chance to be more creative and come up with new ideas and more innovation. 

[00:07:47] David: So the kind of job culture, I suppose, how the managers treat them, how they’re valued for their work. And what happens if things do go wrong are going to be quite strong, kind of indicators on [00:08:00] things like job satisfaction and this idea of organisational commitment, there’s sense that I’m aligned with the organisation, I feel part of something, and that it kind of aligns with my own values and interests. One of the, well, some of the findings, you kind of moved into kind of three themes that came across your study. They were collaboration, autonomy, and opportunity for professional growth. Can you just explain what these are and why they’re involved in job satisfaction? 

[00:08:30] Michelle: Sure. Well, collaboration in the job, it’s that level of trust transparency between, the workers and the employer, and, it’s the respect for knowledge and expertise and that everyone has a place, everyone’s role is important. And it’s so instead of more of the traditional hierarchy, when they’re recognizing that everybody has an important place and their knowledge is equally important, and instead of having to [00:09:00] go through 15 different layers, you know, cause the people at the top might not even understand what’s going on on the front lines. There’s just having that level of recognition between them, that’s what I mean by collaboration. To recognize that each employee is a whole person, and that all together, you’re going to be more successful than individually, that’s what I mean by collaboration and how that would relate to a job satisfaction is when you have that level, you’re less likely to want to go somewhere else. And as far as autonomy being another thing that I talk a lot about is, it’s your sense of purpose, your intrinsic motivation to do things that the love of doing it, just to do it, you’re not doing it just for the money you’re doing it because you enjoy doing it, and if you’re enjoying it, you’re going to make money. So. Yeah. So you need to have that time available to do what you enjoy while you’re at work, and then the opportunity for professional growth. One of the things I found there was that employees that were [00:10:00] mo I actually ended up being more engaged in productive, this is a study done by about industrial engineers and they were more likely to stay with the company when they had mastered something new than when they got an increase in pay. So it’s just, it’s something that human beings need to grow, and if they can enjoy what they’re doing and they’re growing in it and they feel comfortable with it, that level, then they’re going to stay at that job.

[00:10:25] David: Yeah, that’s really interesting. What I’m getting from this is a real sense of kind of collegiality, a sense that somebody is in a calling, that this is something that, you know, I really want to do, and that they’re being valued for doing that, and that they’re also, as you say, professional growth, this idea that there’s a continual learning rather than you’re in your box, you’ll stay in the box and just do what you’re told kind of thing, which kind of links back to the autonomy, I suppose. 

[00:10:52] Michelle: Right, right. They’re very much connected, and if you don’t have enough challenge, like if you’ve been doing this same thing for a long time and you [00:11:00] haven’t had a chance to grow, then you’re going to get bored and then you’re going to start looking for other things, or you’re going to start causing problems with your teammates or your needs to other disruptive behaviors, and then over here too much challenge, you know, if it’s too far the other way and you can’t handle it, it’s going to cause anxiety, which also leads to job dissatisfaction. So it’s looking at a balance that needs to be achieved. 

[00:11:22] David: Yeah. So, a kind of a balance so that it’s not too much or too little. And as you say, there’s a saying that I use, you know, for people start pulling the legs off spiders, and once they’ve finished with spiders, they start on people. Yes. Yeah, exactly. So what were your main findings? 

[00:11:38] Michelle: Okay. So the study that I did for my particular field it was actually put out by the American society of clinical pathology. They did this study in 2018, so it was before the pandemic started, they published it, right around oh eight, it was April of 2020. And, what they did was they surveyed about 4,000 people with [00:12:00] my job title, and what they found was they did all different age groups, years of experience, all different geography locations within the United States. And what they found was there’s a correlation between job satisfaction and how valued an employee felt by their employer. There was no correlation depending on their years of experience or so, you know, if you might think, well, maybe it’s a generational thing. You know, some people, you know, that the older generation told these young people, blah, blah, blah, and that’s not necessary, and there was no correlation between their job satisfaction levels and their age. It was tied with completely with how valued they felt by their employer and also interestingly, there was how much control they had over their schedules. Like, so if unwritten healthcare workers tend to, you know, we work overnights, we work weekends, we work holidays, and if you don’t have a control over that, it’s hard to manage your personal life and still be there for your families, and that’s [00:13:00] definitely a difficulties. And that ties into autonomy, having your, you know, your own control over, you know, just your own life, if that is flexibility. So, that is a concern that probably should be looked at by managers. There was also a strong indication that I think 86% of the respondents said that they had inadequate time to train new employees. 88% respondent, that there was inadequate time for continuing education provided. So that’s very concerning for the professional growth part.

[00:13:30] David: Yeah. So, it’s almost like there’s so much focus on the day-to-day that there isn’t enough time for that kind of that, as you say, the personal growth, the development part, and also being involved in the development of other people. And I know one or two studies that have shown that helping other employees get better at what they’re doing can also help with this sense of job satisfaction.

[00:13:52] Michelle: Yeah. Because if you feel like you, you know, say a new employee comes in and they’re not getting the proper training and then they leave, then you have that [00:14:00] feeling of failure that, oh, I didn’t do my, maybe I could have done more, even though you’ve done everything you can with what you’ve been given to make the situation, try to work. So not obviously, I mean, some people are going to leave for geographical reasons, their spouse moves to a different location or, you know, there’s just other family situations that happen, and so, I mean, there’s going to be turnover, but there are some things that maybe an employer can have some control over.

[00:14:26] David: Yes, definitely. It’s interesting that you’re talking about this because, so in a former life, I was a police officer and I do remember I was in a particular group and we had a new boss come in, and he took over and, basically, he said, look, you work out your shift patterns and tell me what shift patterns you want. The only stipulation is, we need 24 hour cover and we need extra cover in these times. You go off, if you can work out a good shift pattern for that, then we’ll adopt it, as long as everybody agrees and the commitment to the job really kind of went up and people that weren’t moaning [00:15:00] anymore, which was a quite clever strategy, because you had to work shifts, but we kind of felt like we had control over. 

[00:15:06] Michelle: Right, right. You’ve chosen to be there today. You know the responsibility, you signed up for this job for a reason, knowing what you were getting into and now you have control over it. Yeah. You’re not going to miss your brother’s wedding, you know, you’re going to be able to still attend that because you know, your coworker is going to help you out so that you can go do that. Yeah. 

[00:15:27] David: Yeah, it’s interesting. It’s a much more collegiate approach. Isn’t it? And I suppose it’s the antithesis of micromanagement that occurs in quite a lot of workplaces where employers start kind of tightening down on the employees, in the thought that they’re actually going to get more work out of them and things are going to be neat, and in fact, it has the opposite effect quite often. Okay. So if employers, leaders and managers are going to learn from this study, what, in your opinion are the three most important takeaways for them? 

[00:15:57] Michelle: Well, I think that they need to [00:16:00] consider prioritizing professional development as a way to keep employees satisfied. I think that you know, if they have to prioritize, you know, everybody needs a break sometime in their shift when they also need to schedule in time for personal development. Like whether somebody needs to work on continuing education or go to a class outside of work or, meet with a mentor or it needs to be a priority, and relationship building in the workplace is huge before that collaboration, you need to create that environment for belonging, recognizing that each employee is a whole person and their life outside of work is just as important as it is at work. And, no, and I don’t mean like necessarily bring their home life to work, but recognize that they are a whole person and that they have needs outside of work. And, also maybe something of a structural change as it relates to collaboration, I mean, if your hierarchy is creating barriers of communication and I mean, they’re just to create that [00:17:00] environment where you’re available and approachable and, you know, where you’re recognizing that everyone is important. And then you have to role model that as a leader for everybody else to pick up on that, you have to be transparent, you have to be, you know, trustworthy and I mean, that takes a lot of work to get to that point, but eventually once it’s in place, there’s lots of evidence that creates a very successful work environment.

[00:17:25] David: Yes. And I think it’s this, you know, a human workplace for humans, as opposed to treating people like the robots or something, and that they can just keep kind of moving along and that they don’t have feelings, they don’t have emotions, and also want to develop, and it’s making the workplace more human, that I think makes a considerable difference.

[00:17:47] David: Excellent. Kinda last question if I may, and I know this wasn’t exactly the focus of this study, but you do mention it a few times, what are the connections between your findings and issues to do with stress and burnout? 

[00:17:59] Michelle: Oh, there is a [00:18:00] direct correlation between job dissatisfaction and burnout. And, this study that the ASCP put out also highlighted some of the tolls that this takes on people when they’re constantly working short and trying to meet all of the demands. It has an emotional and physical manifestations and, what’s going to happen is, people get tired, they’re stressed, they have anxiety, but they don’t get enough sleep at night because they’re worried about it, and then that it comes up in other problems, their immune systems don’t work as well, and then maybe they’re turning to addictions to cope with the problems and, which leads to more, you know, absences from work and then it stresses the employees out. So there’s this whole cycle that happens when burnout is there, and we’re definitely seeing that right now in the United States, in that healthcare. And not the same way throughout the world right now, because of the pandemic, but there’s just enormous pressure. And two, because they can’t save everybody and it’s that’s scary and it’s [00:19:00] definitely taking a toll on people and they need to have time to recuperate and deal with that emotional stress. And, one of the ways to do that of course, is getting out of that environment and learning something new for an hour or something, just to remember, you know, and take care of yourself at the same time. 

[00:19:16] David: Yeah. Try and reconnect with who you are. And, as you say this, if people aren’t staying in the job and the job retention issues, and the term used is working short. So there are a few people, the stress starts to go up and that’s why job retention is so critical within lots of organisations, otherwise, lose the skills that you need, but it’s more than that is the effect that it has the knock on effect that it has on other people, and then that knock on effect that in health care that it has on the patients or in other industries, the knock-on effect that it has on the organisational outcomes starts to go downwards. 

[00:19:52] David: Brilliant. Michelle, thank you so much for being generous with your time. I really appreciate it. Where can people find you if they want to know more? 

[00:19:59] Michelle: [00:20:00] Well, my email, it’s at Daemen College. 

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David Wilkinson

David Wilkinson is the Editor-in-Chief of the Oxford Review. He is also acknowledged to be one of the world's leading experts in dealing with ambiguity and uncertainty and developing emotional resilience. David teaches and conducts research at a number of universities including the University of Oxford, Medical Sciences Division, Cardiff University, Oxford Brookes University School of Business and many more. He has worked with many organisations as a consultant and executive coach including Schroders, where he coaches and runs their leadership and management programmes, Royal Mail, Aimia, Hyundai, The RAF, The Pentagon, the governments of the UK, US, Saudi, Oman and the Yemen for example. In 2010 he developed the world's first and only model and programme for developing emotional resilience across entire populations and organisations which has since become known as the Fear to Flow model which is the subject of his next book. In 2012 he drove a 1973 VW across six countries in Southern Africa whilst collecting money for charity and conducting on the ground charity work including developing emotional literature in children and orphans in Africa and a number of other activities. He is the author of The Ambiguity Advanatage: What great leaders are great at, published by Palgrave Macmillian. See more: About: About David Wikipedia: David's Wikipedia Page

  • Marcia B says:

    I would love to cite some of this data for a presentation I’m creating. Where can I find the article?

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