How to Measure and Improve Employee Satisfaction as Your Business Grows Jonathan Herrick It’s not easy to compete for talent these days. With unemployment at 4% and many big companies recruiting aggressively, small business owners need to raise their game to a whole new level to hold onto their best employees. Measuring employee satisfaction as your business grows can make a big difference, enabling you to continue building on what you’re doing well and to shore up any weak spots in your culture. Employees may be hesitant to tell you directly that they’re unhappy but might be willing to share that information anonymously through other measures, like a survey. Here are some tips on how to measure employee satisfaction and improve it as you scale up. Look at turnover. One of the most powerful measures of employee satisfaction is whether team members stick around for more than a few months. Holding onto a high percentage of your team from year to year is often a good indicator of employee happiness. What if you have high turnover? Losing people frequently doesn’t necessarily mean your team is unhappy. It depends on who you usually hire. If you’re hiring mid-career professionals and have high turnover, losing them quickly may be related to an issue in your workplace culture, since they generally don’t change jobs quickly. But if you mainly hire recent college graduates, they may still be trying to figure out what career to pursue, and their departure may simply mean they opted for another industry. You’ll have to bake that into your hiring and retention plans. Still, some companies do better than others at attracting and keeping top talent, even if they’re in high-churn industries. If you suspect some of the team members who’ve left your business have been unhappy, think back to what might have caused that. Did they have enough opportunities to put their talents to good use? Was their manager supportive? Was their pay adequate? Did they have enough work-life balance? Ask a trusted team member to give you honest feedback. If you listen carefully that what you’re hearing – and what the team member might not be saying, out of tact – you may find some areas you can improve upon. Consider a formal survey. Many companies that are scaling up gravitate to third-party measures of employee happiness such as the Employee Net Promoter Score, often called the eNPS. The Employee Net Promoter Score measures how likely an employee is to recommend a company to others as a place to work, on a scale of one to 10. For smaller companies, programs such as TINYpulse Engage or Survey Monkey’s templated employee satisfaction surveys can be helpful. Just make sure you follow the rules on how to keep the survey anonymous. Employees in a very small company may wonder, understandably, if you will figure out who spoke up about any gripes. (The providers offer instructions on how to do this). Some companies find that doing exit interviews when employees leave is helpful. Ask employees what motivate them to move on to another job or situation. If you’ve just lost five people from your accounting firm because the other firms in your city are paying more, you may need to adjust your compensation. Put an improvement plan in action. Knowing how employees feel about your workplace is a good starting point, but you also need to act on what you’ve learned. Create some key performance indicators (KPIs) for the areas where you would like to improve. For instance, if employees are unhappy because of lack of work-life balance, your KPI might be the results on a TINYpulse survey every month about whether they actually did feel they had good work-life balance. If you find you’re not able to improve the situation, you might look at solutions such as bringing in a temp or contractor to help tackle the workload, so you don’t lose good people to overwork. It all starts with knowing where you stand. Once you do, you’ll be in a strong position to start finding the solutions that will allow you to scale up successfully.