stock-photo-employees-in-a-data-center-s-382679-078702-edited.pngCompanies sometimes have a number of theories about what makes their employees happy and engaged — and there’s no shortage of research on the subject.

The sheer amount of potential influencing factors that leadership members, researchers and other parties have identified in recent years can leave employers completely confused.

If, at some point, enthusiasm wanes within their organization, how can they tell which findings would be the most relevant resources to help pinpoint effective ways to increase their employee satisfaction level?

Before anyone in your department starts shifting through the sea of related studies, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Different things influence employee job satisfaction for different generations

In a 2016 report that examined 43 job satisfaction aspects, the Society for Human Resource Management found respectful treatment at all levels, compensation/pay, benefits and job security were the leading employee satisfaction drivers for U.S. workers.

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Baby boomers and millennials, however, didn’t weigh all elements the same way. Ninety-five percent of millennials felt job-specific training was an important component of employee job satisfaction, compared to 83 percent of baby boomers; a greater percentage of millennials also viewed career development and advancement opportunities as key.

If your workplace — like many — includes an increasingly diverse amount of age groups, research relating to the workplace features different generations value may help you address any employee satisfaction issues.

Make sure you’re offering what workers want

A number of studies have shown employees value benefits — such as this one from Glassdoor and this one from the Employee Benefit Research Institute. However, if your spending is going toward programs or features they aren’t using, you cant expect your benefits to have a considerable influence on employee job satisfaction.

Some studies have identified which items are generally popular. In the U.S., for example, both Glassdoor and EBRI found workers ranked health insurance and retirement savings programs as two of the most favorable. The top picks can vary, though, per organization. Checking in with your workforce periodically to confirm you’re investing in offerings employees feel are worthwhile can help you avoid misdirecting resources.

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Remember that employee satisfaction doesn’t necessarily equate to employee engagement

Although the terms may seem interchangeable, workers who are happy don’t have to be engaged — they can, for example, not mind performing their daily tasks, and complete them adequately, but make no extra effort to contribute to the company’s productivity goals or show any particular interest in its overall success. 

Take SHRM’s 2016 report, for example. U.S. workers were found to be modestly engaged — measuring 3.8 on a scale of 1 to 5, with 1 being the least engaged. The amount was similar to previous years’ totals.

Employee satisfaction, on the other hand, has been trending upward since 2013 and in 2015 reached its highest level in a decade. Eighty-eight percent of employees reported they were satisfied with their job; 37 percent said they were very satisfied.

A strong satisfaction level estimate doesn’t mean people are working up to their full potential, or that you’ve done all you can do to connect with them.

Companies focusing on measuring employee satisfaction levels instead of involving employees in a collective future for both themselves and their employer was one of the factors Gallup cited as contributing to  the alarmingly low amount of workers worldwide who are engaged — just 13 percent.

Employees often appreciate generous benefits, free lunches and other in-office perks; however, several studies have indicated they also place significant value on their physical work environment and their relationship with their employer.

To find out more about how you can build a stronger sense of engagement within your organization — with employees who are satisfied and ones who aren’t ­— read our blog posts on how company pride can invigorate engagement, the ways innovation can inspire employees, three methods to effectively bring off-site workers into the fold and why it’s important to also disarm your most disengaged employees.

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