Monday, September 15, 2014

Employee Satisfaction Doesn't Really Matter

As business owners or leaders within our organizations we all strive to make our employees happy. For decades now we’ve all been concerned about workplace job satisfaction. We've spent endless hours and money on administering employee satisfaction surveys to ensure our employees are and will remain happy at work. 

Currently, most workplaces gauge their employees' satisfaction through surveys that measure an employee's happiness with their current job conditions.  Most surveys base their questioning around such topics as compensation, flexibility, vacation time, benefits and workload.  However, this could be kind of a "catch 22" in that when employees are asked what would make them happier at work, the common answers are more vacation, more compensation, free food, latte machines and ping pong tables. Who wouldn't be happy with all that??  
Let's look at a real world example. We all know Google. Google always receives high employee satisfaction ratings. They compensate their employees through high pay and tremendous benefits. Along with all the perks of free food, on-site medical staff and state of the art exercise facilities. In at least the last 3 years (and probably more) Google has been named to Fortune's 100 Best Companies (Fortune 2014) to Work For, always placing in at least the top 5.  As a result, Google is also listed as the number 1 company in CNNMoney's Top 15 MBA Employers (Cable News Network, 2014). This survey asks recent MBA graduates where they would most want to work after they receive their degree. In other words, Google has the opportunity to recruit the best of the best minds year in and year out.

However, the curious thing is that Google has a median tenure of 1.1 years (Payscale, 2014). Some may argue that the median age of a "Googler" is 29 years old, so they haven't been on the job very long. Google also suffers from the hyper-competitive tech market where competing companies are constantly wooing each others employees to come over to the other side. But when you compare Google with other high tech companies like Microsoft or Intel, which pull from this same pool of recruits, you'll find the median tenure to be more in the 4+ year range (BloombergView, 2014). To put this in perspective, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median tenure of all US employees is 4.4 years. Among professionals, which most Google employees are, is 5.5 years. Or how about this, the median tenure for people between the ages of 25 and 34, again the demographic of the typical Google employee, is 3.2 years. Even the food service and hospitality sector, which has the lowest median tenure of all industries, was at 2.4 years (BLS, 2014)...higher than Google.

So what's going on at Google?  Why the disloyalty?  How could they always have such high employee satisfaction ratings but only hold on to their employees for such a short time?  Here's an example of some feedback that was posted on June 12, 2014 on the website Glass Door (Glassdoor, 2014) from a employee at Google:

Pros – The rumors about the glamorous work environment at Google are true. You're in a comfortable workplace surrounded by the best people and practically smothered with perks.

Cons – The fabulous perks are there to keep the highly skilled employees complacent while they perform the menial, repetitive, labor that is required to keep the machine running. On any given evening, many a Googler can be heard lamenting about his/her under-stimulating project at any given Palo Alto watering hole.
That can't be the type of feedback Google was expecting when it lavished it's employees with all the great perks.
The interesting thing about this is that after reading this post, one would think this person was one unhappy employee.  However, this person gave Google a 5 out 5 in terms of his/her satisfaction with Google.  Uh?  Something doesn't add up.  But remember job satisfaction surveys only measure how an employee feels about their current job conditions:  compensation, benefits, vacation and perks...and when it comes to benefits and perks, Google certainly is one of the best out there!
One has to ask, as an employer and/or manager is it employee satisfaction that I'm really striving for here, or is it something?  Because once you take down those smiling faces, you get a lot of bored, disinterested employees that are not really engaged in the work they do.  There is no passion, no drive, no ambition to do better.  They put in just enough effort to get the paycheck, no more.
What does employee disengagement get you?  Not much, in fact it can really hurt your bottom line. According the Gallup's State of the Workplace Report (Gallup, 2013) a disengaged workforce leads a company to lost productivity, less innovation, higher rate of safety incidents, lower customer satisfaction, higher turnover rates and lower profitability.
What's even scarier, is that Gallup's study reports that only 30% of the US workforce is engaged, while the remaining 70% are disengaged or actively disengaged.
So what do I mean by employee engagement? According to Gallup, it’s a measurement of an employee’s emotional commitment to an organization; it takes into account the amount of discretionary effort an employee expends on behalf of the organization.

Can an organization have a satisfied employee who is not engaged and vice versa? As stated by the ADP Research Institute (ADP, 2013), chances are an engaged employee is also a satisfied employee. Few people are willing to go the extra mile for their employer unless they fundamentally happy in their jobs.

However, it is certainly possible to have a satisfied employee with a low engagement level – someone who shows up to work and goes through the motions, but does not demonstrate a lot of initiative or put in a lot of extra effort to further the success of the organization.  Does this sound like anyone that works in your company?  Chances are it does...

How can we go from a disengaged workplace to an engaged one?  Find out in Trinity's October blog post where I will offer some insights into employee engagement and mobilizing your teams to bring out their best.

Need help engaging and mobilizing your employees?  Look no further, contact The Trinity Business Group today for more information!


"20 Companies with the Least Loyal Employees - Google, Inc.." PayScale. (accessed September 15, 2014).

"Best Companies to Work For 2014." Fortune. (accessed September 15, 2014).

"Employee Satisfaction vs. Employee Engagement: Are They the Same Thing?." Talent Management.{14CB5B2B-87F0-4574-AE5B-A7AEC3778286} (accessed September 15, 2014).

Cable News Network. "Google." CNNMoney. (accessed September 15, 2014).

 "Google Reviews." Glassdoor.,6.htm (accessed September 15, 2014).
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "JOLTS News Releases." U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. (accessed September 15, 2014).

 "State of the Global Workplace." State of the Global Workplace. (accessed September 15, 2014).

"Why Are Google Employees So Disloyal?." (accessed September 15, 2014).


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