Turning the Tide on Worker Dissatisfaction

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Project Prioritization Steps

Before you can truly prioritize a business initiative, you have to know the cost and how it will meet business requirements, among other criteria.

My colleague Don Tennant has been wired in to the rising tide of worker dissatisfaction over the past couple of years as we try to emerge from the economic downturn. He's written that layoffs will come back to bite employers and how failure to properly reward high performers will, too.


From talking with Rick Dacri, a human resources consultant and author of the book, "Uncomplicating Management," he listed increased turnover as one of the top 10 workforce challenges of 2011.


A recent survey by job-placement firm Manpower bears that out. The survey found that 84 percent of workers plan to look for a new job in 2011, compared with 60 percent in the survey a year ago who said they would. They're tired of heavy workloads, cost-cutting, little opportunity for advancement and skimpy raises or bonuses-that is if wage freezes have been lifted at all. That doesn't mean there will be new jobs for all those people, but it does speak to their willingness to jump ship.


And that dissatisfaction extends to your key people, warns veteran management adviser and author Ram Charan in a Wall Street Journal interview. He advocates doing more to keep your top talent and rigorous quarterly reviews of key players to keep them and the company as a whole on track.


What can you do? In a Washington Post piece, Gilad Chen, a professor of management and organization at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, likens dissatisfaction to a stock:

If a stock you own is losing value, you will likely think it'll continue to drop in value and decide to sell now. The same goes for employees' view of their jobs-when they experience declining job satisfaction, they expect to become even less satisfied with their jobs in the future, and hence decide to leave their jobs.

He says you have to turn that perception around, because the inverse is also true. First measure satisfaction. Then any small improvement you can make will help. If you can't dole out raises or bonuses, try other performance-based incentives. Give employees more challenging, interesting work. But he warns "make sure you strike a balance and don't overload employees." He advises employers to make a commitment to improving satisfaction and to space out incentives at various intervals to maintain momentum.


He urges workers to tell their bosses they'd like a more challenging assignment as a route to improved engagement with the job.


And I think George Herrmann makes a good point in this Salt Lake Tribune article. He's executive vice president of Right Management, a part of Manpower.

... prioritize. Equip employees with decision rules to be able to identify what is important so they can focus their time appropriately. But remember that empowerment turns to abandonment if leaders aren't providing road maps for people to use in the decision process.