Throughout our careers, our feelings about our jobs change.
Sometimes we feel very satisfied, other times we feel incredibly disheartened and unsatisfied.
Measuring job satisfaction is important because it can predict our future behavior (Faragher, Cass, & Cooper, 2013).
- Are we likely to resign from our jobs?
- Are we at risk of poor health?
- Is it highly likely that we will suffer burnout?
In this post, we explore various ways of measuring job satisfaction. We’ll look at the most widely used tools in the literature and discuss other challenges of measuring job satisfaction.
Finally, we will look at the resources available at PositivePsychology.com to increase job satisfaction among employees.
Before you continue, we thought you might like to download our three Work & Career Coaching Exercises for free. These detailed, science-based exercises will help you or your clients identify opportunities for professional growth and create a more meaningful career.
This Article Contains:
- 5 Best Practices for Measuring Job Satisfaction
- 3 Evidence-Based Questionnaires
- 2 Surveys and Scales to Measure Employees’ Satisfaction
- 2 Key Metrics to Consider
- 2 Tools for Measuring Employee Engagement
- A Note on Employee Health: Measuring Stress and Burnout in the Workplace
- Increasing Job Satisfaction: 6 PositivePsychology.com Tools
- A Take-Home Message
5 Best Practices for Measuring Job Satisfaction
What is meant by the term ‘job satisfaction,’ and how is it measured?
Challenges when measuring job satisfaction
As a psychological construct, job satisfaction is meant to reflect employees’ level of satisfaction with their work.
Questionnaires that measure job satisfaction ask questions about various attitudes and behaviors; the responses to these questions are totaled and reflect job satisfaction. This implies that an employee might have low job satisfaction, but their score might be explained by low scores on only one dimension.
Furthermore, job satisfaction develops slowly. It is a dynamic process, and job satisfaction now does not guarantee job satisfaction in five years. This is because job satisfaction is affected by many conditions within the workplace, and these conditions can change.
Therefore, job satisfaction as a measurable psychological construct describes the attitude of the employee to the current workplace conditions (Earl, Minbashian, Sukijjakhamin, & Bright, 2011).
Five best practices
Knowing this, the best practices for measuring job satisfaction are as follows:
- Measure job satisfaction regularly so that you have a baseline measurement for each employee or can calculate an average across employees. With a baseline measurement on hand, you can track changes in job satisfaction.
- Using questionnaires and surveys is one of the multiple ways to track job satisfaction. The advantage of these tools is that employees can respond privately, without the added pressure of social interaction. However, keep in mind that these responses are still self-reported, and employees may report in ways that appear socially desirable.
- Follow up questionnaires and surveys with interviews and discussions. Check in regularly with employees, address grievances, and provide feedback. Regular meetings require time and effort, but personal check-ins are very useful and can help develop positive relationships with employees.
- Check in with superiors, team leads, and managers to discuss the engagement of team members.
- Provide a way for employees to report grievances anonymously. Steps 2 and 3 are not anonymous, and therefore some employees may not feel comfortable raising thorny issues. An anonymous process, like a suggestion box, gives employees an avenue to report sensitive issues.
- Assure employees that their responses are confidential and their responses will not be shared with anyone except the people scoring the questionnaires.
3 Evidence-Based Questionnaires
Numerous questionnaires already exist to measure job satisfaction.
Van Saane, Sluiter, Verbeck, and Frings-Dresen (2003) evaluated 35 different tools that measure job satisfaction in a meta-analysis.
To be considered in the meta-analysis, the tools had to meet acceptable psychometric standards, including an internal reliability of 0.80 or higher, a test-retest coefficient of 0.70 or higher, and at least four measured work factors that were proposed to affect job satisfaction.
Although 29 items were included in the meta-analysis, only 7 met the criteria for reliability and validity. Of these, four items were developed for nurses and physicians. The remaining three tools were:
- The Job in General Scale (JIG) & Job Descriptive Index (JDI)
- The Job Satisfaction Survey (JSS)
- The Andrews and Withey Job Satisfaction Questionnaire
Job in General Scale & Job Descriptive Index
Of these three, the JIG Scale is one of the most well-used questionnaires to measure job satisfaction (Ironson, Smith, Brannick, Gibson, & Paul, 1989). The JIG was developed to accompany another worthwhile tool to measure job satisfaction: the JDI (Smith, Kendall, & Hulin, 1969).
Both tools can be administered together as a single tool. For these tools, employees select items that appropriately describe a particular aspect of their career. For example, employees must indicate if the item ‘Stimulating’ describes their colleagues, answering ‘yes,’ ‘no,’ or ‘cannot decide.’
The JDI and JIG are freely available, and the administrative manual, norms, and a scoring manual can be requested from the Bowling Green State University website.
Job Satisfaction Survey
Although the Job Satisfaction Survey (Spector, 1985) was designed to measure satisfaction among employees who work in the human service, public, and nonprofit sector organizations, Spector argues that the JSS applies to other industries as well. The JSS is also much shorter than other surveys, with 36 items in total.
Each item is a statement, and the employee must show their level of agreement on a scale from 1 to 6, where 1 indicates ‘disagree very much’ and 6 indicates ‘agree very much.’ The 36 items map onto 9 different dimensions, and responses to each subscale are summed. The items, administration, and scoring instructions can be found on Paul Spector’s website.
Andrews and Withey Job Satisfaction Questionnaire
The Andrews and Withey Job Satisfaction Questionnaire was developed in 1976 and is outlined in the book Social Indicators of Well-Being: Americans’ Perceptions of Life Quality (Andrews & Withey, 2012). The almost 100-page questionnaire must be purchased from the authors.
Although the questionnaire has satisfactory psychometric properties, the questionnaire is extremely long to administer.
2 Surveys and Scales to Measure Employees’ Satisfaction
Let’s look at two surveys that can be used to measure employees’ job satisfaction.
The Gallup Workplace Audit
The Gallup Workplace Audit (GWA) measures various actionable aspects of the workplace, including work satisfaction (Gallup Organization, 1992–1999). In total, there are only 13 items. Employees respond on a scale from 1 to 5.
For the first item about workplace satisfaction, 1 indicates ‘extremely dissatisfied,’ and 5 indicates ‘extremely satisfied’; however, for the next 12 items, the anchors change to ‘extreme disagreement’ and ‘extreme agreement,’ respectively.
These 12 items comprise the Q12 (Harter, Schmidt, Killham, & Agrawal, 2009), which has been used extensively and has good psychometric properties. Although the items of the GWA are listed in Harter, Schmidt, and Hayes (2002), the GWA may not be used without permission from The Gallup Organization.
Job Diagnostic Survey
The Job Diagnostic Survey (JDS) has been used across various research (Hackman & Oldham, 1974, 1975). The JDS measures overall job satisfaction and satisfaction for five dimensions of work, such as
- Job security
- Growth opportunities
The survey is split into eight sections, and in the fourth, the employee rates their level of satisfaction with the five dimensions of work. The survey takes less than 30 minutes to administer. The full scoring instructions are listed in Hackman and Oldham’s (1974) research paper, which is available from the ERIC Institute of Education Sciences website.
2 Key Metrics to Consider
Multiple factors influence job satisfaction (Judge, Thoresen, Bono, & Patton, 2001) and we look at two key metrics to consider.
The relationship between job satisfaction and job performance is complicated; job satisfaction influences job performance, which in turn, influences job satisfaction.
Furthermore, the relationship between job satisfaction and job performance is also influenced by multiple factors.
Specifically, the effect of job satisfaction on job performance can be heightened by several variables including:
- Personality/self-concept of the employee
- Autonomy of the employee
- The level of analysis used for the questionnaires
When job satisfaction is measured using a questionnaire with multiple dimensions, the correlations between each dimension and job performance are weaker than when composite job satisfaction is constructed from all the dimensions.
Furthermore, the effect of job performance on job satisfaction is also influenced by several variables including:
- Rewards for good job performance
- The nature of the job
- How important achievement is to the individual
- How important work is to the employee
In summary, measuring other variables such as employee engagement, job performance, the personality of the employee, and psychological wellbeing could be very useful to understanding the full picture of employee job satisfaction (Wright & Cropanzano, 2000).
2 Tools for Measuring Employee Engagement
Although the terms ‘job satisfaction’ and ‘employee engagement’ are used interchangeably, there are subtle differences (Abraham, 2012; Harter et al., 2002).
Employee engagement as a concept
- Job satisfaction refers to how satisfied employees are with their work or how much they enjoy their work. Satisfied employees have a positive attitude toward their work.
- Employee engagement can be defined as the employee’s involvement with their work and includes their satisfaction and enthusiasm for their work. Employees who are engaged have a good work relationship with their colleagues, are interested in the company’s aim and products, are dedicated to their job, and will put in more time because they are committed to the work.
Although the concepts differ in definition, they are still related. Employee engagement is influenced by job satisfaction; employees with higher job satisfaction are more engaged (Garg & Kumar, 2012). Job satisfaction, however, is only one component of employee engagement. Despite these nuanced differences, satisfaction tools might be called employee engagement tools.
Similarly, some job satisfaction research investigates ‘work engagement’ (Attridge, 2009). Work engagement is defined as the level of commitment, involvement, and enthusiasm for one’s work (Attridge, 2009). This definition overlaps with those for job satisfaction and employee engagement.
Measuring tools for employee engagement
The Utrecht Work Engagement Scale (UWES) is a 17-item tool that measures work placement engagement across three dimensions: vigor, dedication, and absorption (Schaufeli & Bakker, 2003). Each item is a statement (e.g., ‘At my work, I feel bursting with energy’), and the employee responds how frequently they experience each statement on a scale from 0 (Never) to 6 (Always/Every day).
To score the tool, an average response for each subscale and an overall average are calculated. This tool has been used extensively across different industries and has sound psychometric properties. The psychometric properties can be found in the test manual, which is available from Wilmar Schaufeli’s website, where the English version and other translations of the test can be found as well.
In a shortened version of the UWES, the 17-item tool was reduced to 9 items (Schaufeli, Bakker, & Salanova, 2006). The items that comprise the UWES-9 are labeled with asterisks in the UWES test manual referred to above.
Another tool that measures employee engagement is the Job Engagement Scale (JES; Rich, Lepine, & Crawford, 2010). This scale was developed to incorporate the job satisfaction theory of workplace engagement proposed by Kahn (1990). Rich et al. (2010) argue that some items of the UWES did not properly capture Kahn’s theory, and they developed a new scale to account for this.
More information about the validation process and psychometric properties of the tool can be found in Rich et al. (2010).
The JES comprises 18 items, which are answered on a scale from 1 ‘strongly disagree’ to 5 ‘strongly agree.’ The items in the JES measure engagement in three domains: physical, emotional, and cognitive. Domain scores are calculated by averaging responses across each domain, and an overall average is calculated by averaging across all items. Higher scores indicate higher engagement.
The full test can be found in Bruce Rich’s PhD thesis.
A Note on Employee Health: Measuring Stress and Burnout in the Workplace
An inverse relationship exists between work engagement and burnout; more engaged workers are at less risk of burnout, whereas less engaged workers are at higher risk of burnout (Schaufeli, Taris, & Van Rhenen, 2008).
Regularly measuring work engagement can help identify workers who are at higher risk of burnout.
These measurements are more useful if there is a baseline for comparison. If you know what the employee’s baseline engagement score is before burnout is a possibility, then there is a useful comparison score for subsequent measurements.
Faragher et al. (2013) conducted a meta-analysis on the relationship between job satisfaction and health, and showed that:
- Higher job satisfaction was correlated with better physical health.
- Lower job satisfaction was strongly correlated with the presence of mental/psychosocial problems.
- Lower job satisfaction was strongly correlated with more experiences of burnout.
- Lower job satisfaction was moderately correlated with higher levels of depression, higher levels of anxiety, lower levels of self-esteem, and worse general mental health.
The main predictors of burnout and exhaustion are difficult job demands and a stressful working environment (Attridge, 2009). Here is a list of strategies that can be put into place to ease worker dissatisfaction (Grawitch, Gottschalk, & Munz, 2006; Warr, 2005):
- Remove or solve problems related to tasks, processes, and operations.
- Improve the ergonomics of the workplace.
- Add flexibility to workplace schedules.
- Promote and support work–life balance.
- Define tasks and roles more clearly.
- Allow employees to take part in decision making.
- Improve social relationships at work, and create opportunities for these relationships to be fostered.
- Praise, recognize, and reward hard work.
- Foster skill development.
Increasing Job Satisfaction: 6 PositivePsychology.com Tools
We have several useful resources that can be used to increase job satisfaction.
The Avoidance Plan Worksheet can be used to help identify avoidant behaviors, which impede goal setting and planning.
The EQ 5-Point Tool, Anger Exit and Re-Entry Routines, and the Conflict Resolution Checklist are useful tools to assist with conflict resolution and difficult conversations. These three tools teach clients how to rely on empathetic techniques when having a potentially difficult conversation, as well as how to navigate these conversations without relying on reactionary emotions such as anger, frustration, and annoyance.
If you’re looking for more science-based ways to help others manage stress without spending hours on research and session prep, this collection contains 17 validated stress management tools for practitioners. Use them to help others identify signs of burnout and create more balance in their lives.
A Take-Home Message
By measuring job satisfaction, employers are better prepared to make the changes that result in a healthier, happier work environment for their employees.
When measuring job satisfaction, remember the following:
- Don’t rely on only one measurement at one point in time. Try to measure job satisfaction over time so that you can track changes.
- Several variables can affect job satisfaction, including situational variables such as the work environment. Adjustments to these situational variables can improve job satisfaction for all employees.
- All measurements should be followed up with meetings and interviews so that you can better understand the employee’s situation.
A variety of job satisfaction tools are listed in this post. However, this list is not exhaustive. If you use a different tool in your workplace, then please share your experience and the name of the tool in the comments section. We love hearing from you and learning more about your work.
We hope you enjoyed reading this article. Don’t forget to download our three Work & Career Coaching Exercises for free.
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