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Sources of Employee Satisfaction Data

19 January, 2016 - 15:28

After we have an understanding of why employees leave and employee satisfaction theories, research is our next step in developing a retention plan that will work for your organization. There isn’t a “one size fits all” approach to retention planning, so the research component is essential to formulate a plan that will make a difference in turnover rates.

Research can be performed in two ways. First, exit interviews of employees who are leaving the organization can provide important retention information. Anexit interview is an interview performed by HR or a manager that seeks information as to what the employee liked at the organization and what they see should be improved. Exit interviews can be a valuable way to gather information about employee satisfaction and can serve as a starting point for determining any retention issues that may exist in the organization. However, the exit survey data should be reviewed over longer periods of time with several employees, so we can be sure we are not making retention plans based on the feedback of only a few people.

Sample Exit Interview Questions

  1. What is your primary reason for leaving?
  2. What did you like most about your job?
  3. What did you like least about your job?
  4. Did you feel there was room for growth in your job?
  5. What incentives did you utilize while at our company?
  6. Which incentives would you change and why?
  7. Did you have enough training to do your job effectively?

The second way to perform research is through employee satisfaction surveys. A standardized and widely used measure of job satisfaction is thejob descriptive index (JDI) survey. While JDI was initially developed in 1969 at Bowling Green State University, it has gone through extensive revisions, the most recent one in 2009. JDI looks at five aspects of job satisfaction, including present job, present pay, opportunities for promotion, supervision, and coworkers. 1 Each of the five facets contains nine or eighteen questions; the survey can be given in whole or measure only one facet. The value of the scale is that an HR manager can measure job satisfaction over a period of time and compare current results to past results and even compare job satisfaction at their company versus their industry. This allows the HR manager to consider changes in the organization, such as a change in compensation structure, and see how job satisfaction is impacted by the change.

Any type of survey can provide information on the employee’s satisfaction with their manager, workload, and other satisfaction and motivational issues. An example of a general employee satisfaction survey is shown in Figure 7.7 "A Sample Employee Satisfaction Survey". However, a few things should be considered when developing an employee satisfaction survey:

  1. Communicate the purpose and goal of the survey.
  2. Once the survey is complete, communicate what changes have been made as a result of the survey.
  3. Assure employees their responses will be anonymous and private.
  4. Involve management and leadership in the survey development.
  5. Ask clear, concise questions that get at the root of morale issues.

Once data have been gathered and analyzed, we can formulate our retention plans. Our plan should always be tied to the strategic goals of the organization and the HPWS previously developed, and awareness of motivational theories should be coupled with the plans. Here are the components of a retention plan:

  1. JDI survey results, other survey results, and exit interview findings
  2. Current retention plans, strengths, and weaknesses
  3. Goals of a retention plan (e.g., reduce turnover by 10 percent)
  4. Individual strategies to meet retention and turnover reduction goals.
  5. Budgeting. An understanding of how your retention plans will impact the payroll budget is important. See Video 7.2 for an example on how to calculate turnover costs and compare those to costs saved with an effective retention strategy.

In "Implementing Retention Strategies", we will discuss the implementation of specific retention strategies.

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Figure 7.5 A Sample Employee Satisfaction Survey 


  • A high-performance work system (HPWS) is a set of systematic HR practices that create an environment where the employee has greater involvement and responsibility for the success of the organization. The overall company strategy should impact the HPWS HR develops in regard to retention.
  • Retention plans are developed to address employee turnover, resulting in a more effective organization.
  • The first step in developing a retention plan is to use exit interviews and/or surveys to find out the satisfaction level of employees. Once you have the data, you can begin to write the plan, making sure it is tied to the organizational objectives.
  • A standardized and widely used measure of job satisfaction is the JDI survey, or the Job Descriptive Index. While JDI was initially developed in 1969 at Bowling Green State University, it has gone through extensive revisions, the most recent one in 2009. JDI looks at five aspects of job satisfaction, including present job, present pay, opportunities for promotion, supervision, and coworkers. 2
  • A retention plan normally consists of survey and exit interview analysis, any current plans and strengths and weaknesses of those plans, the goal of the retention plan, and finally, the specific strategies to be implemented.
  • There are many motivation theories that attempt to explain people’s motivation or lack of motivation at work.
  • The Hawthorne studies were a series of studies beginning in 1927 that initially looked at physical environments but found that people tended to be more motivated when they felt cared about. The implications to retention are clear, in that employees should feel cared about and developed within the organization.
  • Maslow’s theory on motivation says that if someone already has a need met, giving them something to meet more of that need will no longer motivate. Maslow divided the needs into physiological, safety, social, esteem, and self-actualization needs. Many companies only motivate based on the low-level needs, such as pay. Development of training opportunities, for example, can motivate employees on high-level self-actualization needs.
  • Herzberg developed motivational theories based on actual motivation factors and hygiene factors. Hygiene factors are those things that are expected in the workplace and will demotivate employees when absent but will not actually motivate when present. If managers try to motivate only on the basis of hygiene factors, turnover can be high. Motivation on both of his factors is key to a good retention plan.
  • McGregor’s theory on motivation looked at managers’ attitudes toward employees. He found that theory X managers had more of a negative view of employees, while theory Y managers had a more positive view. Providing training to the managers in our organization can be a key retention strategy based on McGregor’s theory.
  • The carrot-and-stick approach means you can get someone to do something by prodding or by offering some incentive to motivate them to do the work. This theory implies these are the only two methods to motivate, which of course, we know isn’t true. The implication of this in our retention plan is such that we must utilize a variety of methods to retain employees.


  1. What types of things will motivate you in your career? Name at least five things. Where would these fit on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and Herzberg’s two-factor theory?
  2. How can you apply each of these motivation techniques to motivation theories?
  • Training
  • Employee recognition programs
  • Bonuses
  • Management training for your current managers
  • Profit sharing