- In 1976, "The Handbook of Industrial/Organizational Psychology," the professional's bible, summarized 3,300 job satisfaction studies dating back to 1955 and found, "... negligible relationships between satisfaction and level of performance or productivity."
In 2009, Ed Lawler of the University of Southern California the world's most respected HR researcher and author of "Talent," said definitively: "Satisfaction does not lead to performance; it is caused by it."
In a 2009 CFO Magazine article, Richard Beatty of Rutgers University, one of the today's most influential organizational psychologists was quoted, "HR people try to perpetuate the idea that job satisfaction is critical, but there is no evidence that engaging employees impacts financial returns."
Job Satisfaction, Employee EngagementYou might hear from your HR team, "Job satisfaction is an old concept, we use employee engagement." Don't be confused with "state-of-the-art" programs or new buzzwords. The fact is, employee engagement and job satisfaction surveys measure the same thing. The current world leader in employee engagement is the Gallup Organization. In a 2002 article in "Journal of Applied Psychology," arguably the most prestigious management journal, researchers used data from 7,900 business units to compare a 1951 job satisfaction survey to Gallup's current employee engagement tool. Their findings? "High convergent validity." It doesn't matter which you use, the result is the same. This may sound like academic drivel. But getting causality right is critical. We all know that winning basketball games and celebrations are correlated. But get causality wrong and fans will invest in celebrations to win more games. That's a waste of time and money. Employee satisfaction initiatives are no different.
We all know that indulging children does not make them happy -- at least in the mid- to long-term. However, it's fast becoming an annual tradition to celebrate companies that indulge their employees. The pioneer has been Fortune magazine's annual "Best Companies to Work For" list.In the 2009 edition, each recognized company was given a few sentences to describe why the company won. No. 5 ranked Wegman's reason was free yoga classes. Google ( GOOG - Get Report) dropped to No. 4. The stated reason, "Google recently cut frills like afternoon tea and an annual ski trip." Do these benefits create a foundation for greatness? Let's look more closely at the data. Only two companies (i.e., Google and Goldman Sachs ( GS - Get Report)) on the "Best Companies to Work For" list made the top 25 of Fortune's "Most Admired Companies." It's hard to imagine that GE ( GE - Get Report), Berkshire Hathaway ( BRK-A), Johnson & Johnson ( JNJ - Get Report) and Toyota ( TM - Get Report) are not great places to work. But it's not hard to image that they don't indulge their employees. Several years ago I asked a friend who joined Merck ( MRK - Get Report) as a research scientist if he chose Merck because of its laser eye surgery benefit. He said, "Do we have that?" I asked him about other Merck benefits reported in Fortune to which he seemed equally unfamiliar. Then I asked, "So, why did you join?" His eyes sparkled as he talked about Merck's research culture and how he could become a renowned scientist. My friend wanted to be successful. Make him successful and he will be happy.