How Job Satisfaction Is Measured

Measuring job satisfaction is like taking a reading of the wind.

A century ago Louis Leon Thurstone taught us that “attitudes can be measured” and Robert Hoppock showed us how we could apply that technology to job satisfaction. Since then, organizations have routinely assessed their employees’ satisfaction with work, and researchers have published thousands of academic articles about it. In fact it is the most often measured variable in the field of industrial-organizational psychology and business management. Below I will explain how job satisfaction is measured, and at the end provide a link to where you can self-appraise your own satisfaction and compare it to others.

What It Is

Job satisfaction is simply the extent to which people like their jobs and different aspects (called facets) of the job. Common facets include:

  • Compensation—pay and fringe benefits.
  • Nature of the job—the things you do at work.
  • Peers—the coworkers you work with.
  • Promotion opportunities.
  • Supervisors.

People can have an overall feeling about the job–a bottom line like it or hate it. They can have different opinions about facets. For Americans it is common for someone to be satisfied with the nature of what they do and the people they work with, but be unhappy with pay and rewards.

Why It Is Important for People to Be Satisfied

Job satisfaction is an indicator of how well employees are suited to their jobs and job environments. It can be considered a general measure of work adjustment. People who are well adjusted to a particular job will be satisfied. This is important because job satisfaction is linked to a variety of important outcomes for employees and their organizations. People who are satisfied with their jobs:

  • Are less likely to quit. Dissatisfaction is one of the best predictors of future turnover.
  • Are less likely to miss work. One way people can cope with a dissatisfying job is to avoid it through absence and lateness.
  • Are more motivated to work. People who are satisfied with their jobs are likely to be engaged.
  • Experience less stress. It can be stressful to come to work when you don’t like your job.
  • If they are customer facing, their customers are more satisfied. Customers can often sense when customer service representatives are unhappy, and that translates into a less than ideal customer experience.
  • Perform better. It can work in both directions. Individuals who are satisfied are more engaged and this can result in better performance. On the other hand, high performers enjoy the benefits of that performance that can lead to better satisfaction.

How Job Satisfaction Is Measured

Job satisfaction is measured with survey instruments. There are many formats that can be used, but the most common is the summated rating (Likert) scale. Employees are asked to read a list of statements about the job and make ratings from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree”. Those responses are numbered from low to high, and total scores are the sum of the items.

There are many existing job satisfaction instruments that are available. I developed the Job Satisfaction Survey to measure 9 facets of the job, but many other scales exist, as well (see my assessment archive). Most scales can be used free for noncommercial educational and research purposes.

Self-Assess Your Job Own Satisfaction

Generally when employers (or researchers) conduct job satisfaction surveys, individuals are not given their personal scores. A company might share the overall results with employees, but no one knows how they compare to their peers. To remedy this, I added a new feature to my website. Anyone can take the Job Satisfaction Survey online and have it instantly scored. You can compare your scores to those from more than 36,000 Americans. This will enable you to see if you are more or less satisfied than most people on each of the nine facets, as well as the overall score. The best part is that it is free, and you do not have to create a login or provide an email address. Details about the self-assessment are on my website.

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