Sunday, November 14, 2010

Job Satisfaction: A Realistic Expectation or a Utopian Myth?

One of many business topics most talked about in the 21st Century, so far, has been talent management, and how to attract and keep the best talent for your organisation. Attracting talent and keeping talent require two different strategies, but shouldn’t creating job satisfaction be at least part of the focus for talent retention?

Job satisfaction can mean different things to different people, though it is likely to include key elements like, recognition, reward, business environment, being treated with respect, meeting career aspirations, having the support from the organisation (in decision making), business challenges and personal development.

Linking job satisfaction to talent retention will lead to increased motivation and increased personal performance. Job satisfaction should become a strategic goal for the top team or organisation as a whole, ensuring you have a team of highly motivated, highly productive employees. It all seems logical; so is this happening in organisations today? Are today’s leaders interacting with their management teams and key employees to find and respond to their needs when it comes to job satisfaction and talent retention?

Many leaders may not even be aware of the different ‘theories and models’ in measuring job satisfaction. In a 2008 article Timothy Judge, Daniel Heller and Ryan Klinger wrote that “increasingly, (job satisfaction) research has coalesced around three theoretical approaches: positive affectivity (PA)/negative affectivity (NA), the five-factor model of personality (FFM), and, most recently, Judge, Locke, and colleagues’ core self-evaluations (CSE) taxonomy.
Each of these approaches has its merits. The PA/NA framework is advantaged by its affective nature, making it well suited to the affective nature of job satisfaction. The FFM has the advantage of being the most popular and widely investigated personality taxonomy, whose traits have proven their relevance to many criteria in organisational psychology, including job performance, leadership, and work motivation. Although CSE is the newest taxonomy, each of the core traits comprising the taxonomy; self-esteem, locus of control, generalised self-efficacy, and emotional stability have been shown to be conceptually and empirically relevant to job satisfaction. These theoretical frameworks have provided important support for the dispositional source of job satisfaction. At the same time, it is hard to know what to make of the results cumulatively, as researchers who test one framework rarely mention the other, much less formally compare the frameworks”, (p. 362).

But not knowing the current theories and research shouldn’t be an excuse for not being focused on understanding what creates job satisfaction with your employees, especially if your organisation really wants to retain its talent.

There have been numerous journal articles over the last ten years to help organisations understand job satisfaction, and how this has a positive impact on organisational culture, cooperation, motivation and performance - and most importantly how job satisfaction should be an integral part of your talent retention strategy.

These journal articles include titles like; Do What You Love and Love What You Do by William Locander and David Luechauer (Marketing Management, 2010); Linking Empowering Leadership and Employee Creativity: The Influence of Psychological Empowerment, Intrinsic Motivation and Creative Process Engagement by Xiaomeng Zhang and Kathryn Bartol (Academy of Management Journal, 2010); Surviving the Boss from Hell by David Silverman, Gini Scott, Brad Gilbreath and Lauren Sontag, (Harvard Business Review, 2009); Total Quality Management Now Applies to Managing Talent by Howard Stevens, (Journal for Quality and Participation, 2008); The Leadership Advantage: How Best Companies are Developing their Talent to Pave the Way for the Future by Robert Fullmer and Jared Bleak, (Personnel Psychology, 2008); Talent Management in the 21st Century: Help Your Company Find, Develop and Keep its Strongest, (Journal of Quality and Participation, 2006)…to name a few…

So if you really want to retain your talent and take talent management seriously, then spend the time to find out how your employees define job satisfaction. Re-quoting JFK, maybe organisations shouldn’t just be asking ‘what can our employees do for us?’ but also asking ‘what can we do for our employees?’


Judge, T.A., Heller, D. and Klinger, R. (2008) The Dispositional Sources of Job Satisfaction: A Comparative Test. Applied Psychology: An International Review; Vol. 57, Issue 3, p361-372.

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