Asian woman smiling at camera while her colleagues are working

Did you know that in 2009, only 45% of Americans reported that they were satisfied with their jobs? That made it the lowest it has ever been, according to the Conference Board – a global market research company that has been studying employment and consumer trends since 1916. They have been surveying employee satisfaction since 1987.

A simple search of “American job satisfaction” brings up a slew of articles over the past year stating that employee satisfaction is at an all-time low. Not only that, but half of the population doesn’t even find their job interesting (the number was only 30% when the survey was first introduced in 1987). They found that we like our co-workers and our bosses less, as well.

What gives? Part of this significant decrease in employee satisfaction is that people are desperate for work in a down economy and will take whatever they can get – it doesn’t mean that they will like it.

I see another side of this issue as well: companies aren’t using the selection process to their advantage.

When companies are faced with difficult financial times, they are forced to cut corners. That often means layoffs for employees, departments and even entire regional operation centers. But what happens when it’s time to hire again? Does that mean that these companies on the rebound will place time, effort, and dollars back into the selection process? Too often, the answer is no.

In the wake of an economic depression, it is critical to take steps to ensure that the selection process will provide the most qualified, most motivated employee for every position. Selecting candidates for hire who are blatantly over- or under-qualified is leading us on a slippery slope of falling employee satisfaction, innovation, and productivity. Steps to bolster the section process include

    • Performing an in-depth job analysis of every position for hire. Talk to current employees in this position to determine what their day-to-day truly consists of. Talk to direct managers to find out what is expected from this position. Talk to higher-level managers to examine how this position may change in the coming years.
    • Using a validated hiring assessment for all candidates being considered to add a layer of knowledge about the candidate that they may not be willing or able to explain about themselves in an interview.
    • Examining assessment results and forming behavioral interview questions to guide the interview. Confirm that assessment results match up with the person you are interviewing. Do the results make sense? Are there any red flags worth exploring? Does this person exhibit both the motivation and the aptitude to perform the work you would be asking them to do?

Only after these steps have been taken should you make a hiring decision. And if none of your candidates fit the position, don’t be afraid to keep looking – and certainly don’t settle for less than you need! More effort on the front end of the selection process can lead to significantly better hires – which means better productivity, innovation, and employee satisfaction. And that employee satisfaction is contagious as you hire additional workers who are both motivated and capable of doing the work you’re asking them to do.

The key to improving employee satisfaction is finding the right person to fill every position – the wrong person may never be satisfied or interested in their job. And the key to finding the right person is to ensure that your selection is as robust and accurate as it can be by using all the tools available to you.

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