Employee Satisfaction vs. Productivity

I think I have to agree on some levels with the claims made by Scott and Davis that there is little evidence to support the theory that employee satisfaction leads to higher productivity.  I believe that while employee satisfaction is necessary for employee’s mental health and their duration in any one job, employee satisfaction will not lead to higher productivity.

I have had two jobs on campus and while they are very similar in scope the work environments are very different.  Both jobs require me to market Bucknell, to prospective students for one job and for another job to Bucknell alumni in order to obtain donations.  Both jobs require me to talk about my experiences at Bucknell as well as answer questions.  One job had very strict guidelines and policies for conduct at work and in my opinion the employees were not treated with as much respect as they deserved.  The other job constantly praised the employees and did not have as strict policies regarding employee conduct in the office.  While one office was a much more enjoyable place to work, I would not say that I was any more productive in that job than in the other.  However, I was so miserable at the one job that I quit, whereas I am still working at the other job.  In an organization that can afford to constantly replace employees who aren’t satisfied, then employee satisfaction might not be as important as a company where it is more beneficial to have employees stay at the organization for longer periods of time.

The human relations school perspective on organizations focused on the “complexity of human motivation and the importance of informal structure.”(Scott, Davis, 65)  Many organizations used the research of the human relations school to restructure their organizations to have more informal structure and to motivate their employees.  There have been many critics of the idea that employee satisfaction leads to higher productivity.  One of the arguments has been that there is little to no evidence to support the idea that employee satisfaction leads to higher productivity.  I agree that while it might not lead directly to higher productivity, employee satisfaction has other positive impacts on an organization.  Organizations which have a better work culture, one where the employee is happy and feels that they are important to the organization, is more likely to have an easy time recruiting some of the best and the brightest new employees in comparison to an organization where the employees are not satisfied.  Also when employees have a higher satisfaction they are more likely to stay with a particular organization saving that organization the cost of constantly training new employees.    There is also the benefit that when employees are satisfied they are more likely to accept a lower pay then when they are unhappy with their job.

While I agree that there might not be much evidence to support the theory that employee satisfaction leads to higher productivity, I believe that employee satisfaction will benefit organizations in other ways.

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5 Responses

  1. Many studies definitely link employee satisfaction and productivity. But, is it simply correlation, or can we say that it is causation? This document summarizes many studies that address the relationship between these variables: http://www.keepem.com/doc_files/clc_articl_on_productivity.pdf. There is a ton of data to indicate that employee satisfaction may cause increased productivity, but it is hard to establish causation. This post brings up an interesting point, in that even if little can be proved regarding productivity, there are certainly benefits to employee satisfaction. Your personal experiences highlight this very well.

  2. From a personal standpoint, I can see the benefits of employee satisfaction in the workplace. If I am happy, and if I enjoy what I am doing, I can see myself going above and beyond expectations. I can see myself more inclined to think creatively about what I am doing and to present my ideas and opinions to my coworkers. I would want to become more involved in what is going on around the workplace. So it can be argued that my “productivity” remains unchanged: I am still working at the same rate as I would if I were not satisfied, but I can see how my efforts would transgress past my designated duties. These efforts could stimulate the business in a number of different ways. So to conclude, I agree with Emily, worker satisfaction may not necessarily increase work rate and productivity, but it can lead to other benefits and ultimately make the work environment more enjoyable.

  3. I think that you touched on something very important. While productivity may not increase with employee satisfaction, the employee turnover rate for organizations with high employee satisfaction probably have a lower turnover rate. Also, unemployment rates also play a role in this. When there are not many job opportunities people are more likely to stay in a job that they are not satisfied at because they fear not having a job at all. There are also psychological studies done to see whether people react better to rewards and punishments. I read about a study examined on a psychology blog http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/family-affair/200809/rewards-are-better-punishment-here-s-why. It mentioned that younger children react better to positive rewards, while older children and adults have a stronger reaction to punishments. While they don’t know why the switch occurs, one theory is that as adults we analyze what we did more thoroughly when punished. I wonder if this plays into productivity and satisfaction.

  4. I agree that employee satisfaction and productivity are closely related, but just how closely? Some may think that employee satisfaction doesn’t increase productivity, whereas others may say it does. I think that it has to do with the kind of work ethic the person has, what field of work he/she is in as well as other variables. I’ve worked at a grocery store for the last four years and I’ve had numerous bosses. I have enjoyed working for certain people more than others. When working for one person that I may not have liked as much as another, I can admit that I didn’t work as fast, nor as much (I would hide in the back, within giant boxes of cereal and whatnot) in hopes that it would make the day go faster. For me, and many of my co-workers at the great and fantastic superstore that is Weis Markets, I think that employee satisfaction and productivity were closely related.

  5. These are all great points. Thanks for the studies Brooke and Jess. I agree with your points that regardless of whether or not employee satisfaction and productivity are related, employee satisfaction is something that employers should strive for, because ultimately it will benefit the company.

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