EMPLOYEE ATTITUDES AND JOB SATISFACTION - Lise M. Saari and Timothy A. Judge

 
EMPLOYEE ATTITUDES AND JOB
           SATISFACTION

                     Lise M. Saari and Timothy A. Judge

           This article identifies three major gaps between HR practice and the scientific research in the
           area of employee attitudes in general and the most focal employee attitude in particular—job
           satisfaction: (1) the causes of employee attitudes, (2) the results of positive or negative job satis-
           faction, and (3) how to measure and influence employee attitudes. Suggestions for practition-
           ers are provided on how to close the gaps in knowledge and for evaluating implemented prac-
           tices. Future research will likely focus on greater understanding of personal characteristics, such
           as emotion, in defining job satisfaction and how employee attitudes influence organizational
           performance. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

“Happy employees are productive employ-                      this area are: (1) the causes of employee at-
ees.” “Happy employees are not productive                    titudes, (2) the results of positive or negative
employees.” We hear these conflicting state-                 job satisfaction, and (3) how to measure and
ments made by HR professionals and man-                      influence employee attitudes. Within each
agers in organizations. There is confusion                   gap area, we provide a review of the scien-
and debate among practitioners on the topic                  tific research and recommendations for
of employee attitudes and job satisfaction—                  practitioners related to the research find-
even at a time when employees are increas-                   ings. In the final section, additional recom-
ingly important for organizational success                   mendations for enhancing organizational
and competitiveness. Therefore, the purpose                  practice in the area of employee attitudes
of this article is to provide greater under-                 and job satisfaction are described, along
standing of the research on this topic and                   with suggestions for evaluating the imple-
give recommendations related to the major                    mented practices.
practitioner knowledge gaps.                                      Before beginning, we should describe
    As indicated indirectly in a study of HR                 what we mean by employee attitudes and job
professionals (Rynes, Colbert, & Brown,                      satisfaction. Employees have attitudes or
2002), as well as based on our experience,                   viewpoints about many aspects of their jobs,
the major practitioner knowledge gaps in                     their careers, and their organizations. How-

Correspondence to: Lise M. Saari, IBM Corporation, Global Workforce Research, North Castle Drive MD
    149, Armonk, NY 10504-1785, tel: 914-765-4224, saari@us.ibm.com

Human Resource Management, Winter 2004, Vol. 43, No. 4, Pp. 395–407
© 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Published online in Wiley InterScience (www.interscience.wiley.com).
DOI: 10.1002/hrm.20032
396    •   HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT, Winter 2004

                  ever, from the perspective of research and         study, childhood temperament was found to
                  practice, the most focal employee attitude is      be statistically related to adult job satisfac-
                  job satisfaction. Thus, we often refer to em-      tion up to 40 years later (Staw, Bell, &
                  ployee attitudes broadly in this article, al-      Clausen, 1986). Evidence even indicates
                  though much of our specific focus will con-        that the job satisfaction of identical twins
Evidence even     cern job satisfaction.                             reared apart is statistically similar (see
indicates that         The most-used research definition of job      Arvey, Bouchard, Segal, & Abraham, 1989).
the job           satisfaction is by Locke (1976), who defined       Although this literature has had its critics
satisfaction of
identical twins
                  it as “. . . a pleasurable or positive emotional   (e.g., Davis-Blake & Pfeffer, 1989), an ac-
reared apart is   state resulting from the appraisal of one’s job    cumulating body of evidence indicates that
statistically     or job experiences” (p. 1304). Implicit in         differences in job satisfaction across em-
similar.          Locke’s definition is the importance of both       ployees can be traced, in part, to differences
                  affect, or feeling, and cognition, or thinking.    in their disposition or temperament (House,
                  When we think, we have feelings about what         Shane, & Herold, 1996).
                  we think. Conversely, when we have feelings,             Despite its contributions to our under-
                  we think about what we feel. Cognition and         standing of the causes of job satisfaction,
                  affect are thus inextricably linked, in our psy-   one of the limitations in this literature is that
                  chology and even in our biology. Thus, when        it is not yet informative as to how exactly dis-
                  evaluating our jobs, as when we assess most        positions affect job satisfaction (Erez, 1994).
                  anything important to us, both thinking and        Therefore, researchers have begun to explore
                  feeling are involved.                              the psychological processes that underlie dis-
                                                                     positional causes of job satisfaction. For ex-
                       Gap 1—The Causes of Employee                  ample, Weiss and Cropanzano (1996) sug-
                                Attitudes                            gest that disposition may influence the
                                                                     experience of emotionally significant events
                  The first major practitioner knowledge gap         at work, which in turn influences job satis-
                  we will address is the causes of employee at-      faction. Similarly, Brief (1998) and Mo-
                  titudes and job satisfaction. In general, HR       towidlo (1996) have developed theoretical
                  practitioners understand the importance of         models in an attempt to better understand
                  the work situation as a cause of employee at-      the relationship between dispositions and job
                  titudes, and it is an area HR can help influ-      satisfaction.
                  ence through organizational programs and                 Continuing this theoretical develop-
                  management practices. However, in the past         ment, Judge and his colleagues (Judge &
                  two decades, there have been significant re-       Bono, 2001; Judge, Locke, Durham, &
                  search gains in understanding dispositional        Kluger, 1998) found that a key personality
                  and cultural influences on job satisfaction as     trait, core self-evaluation, correlates with (is
                  well, which is not yet well understood by          statistically related to) employee job satisfac-
                  practitioners. In addition, one of the most        tion. They also found that one of the primary
                  important areas of the work situation to in-       causes of the relationship was through the
                  fluence job satisfaction—the work itself—is        perception of the job itself. Thus, it appears
                  often overlooked by practitioners when ad-         that the most important situational effect on
                  dressing job satisfaction.                         job satisfaction—the job itself—is linked to
                                                                     what may be the most important personality
                  Dispositional Influences                           trait to predict job satisfaction—core self-
                                                                     evaluation. Evidence also indicates that
                  Several innovative studies have shown the          some other personality traits, such as extra-
                  influences of a person’s disposition on job        version and conscientiousness, can also in-
                  satisfaction. One of the first studies in this     fluence job satisfaction (Judge, Heller, &
                  area (Staw & Ross, 1985) demonstrated              Mount, 2002).
                  that a person’s job satisfaction scores have             These various research findings indicate
                  stability over time, even when he or she           that there is in fact a relationship between
                  changes jobs or companies. In a related            disposition or personality and job satisfac-
Employee Attitudes and Job Satisfaction   •    397

tion. Even though organizations cannot di-       also been found in how employees are
rectly impact employee personality, the use      viewed and valued across countries/cultures
of sound selection methods and a good            (Jackson, 2002)—countries systematically
match between employees and jobs will en-        vary on the extent to which they view em-            Even though
sure people are selected and placed into jobs    ployees in instrumental versus humanistic            organizations
                                                                                                      cannot directly
most appropriate for them, which, in turn,       ways. In terms of practical recommenda-              impact
will help enhance their job satisfaction.        tions, an awareness of, and, whenever possi-         employee
                                                 ble, adjustments to, cultural factors that           personality, the
Cultural Influences                              influence employee attitudes and measure-            use of sound
                                                 ment are important for HR practitioners as           selection
                                                                                                      methods and a
In terms of other influences on employee at-     employee attitude surveys increasingly cross         good match
titudes, there is also a small, but growing      national boundaries.                                 between
body of research on the influences of culture                                                         employees and
or country on employee attitudes and job sat-    Work Situation Influences                            jobs will ensure
isfaction. The continued globalization of or-                                                         people are
                                                                                                      selected and
ganizations poses new challenges for HR          As discussed earlier, the work situation also
                                                                                                      placed into jobs
practitioners, and the available research on     matters in terms of job satisfaction and or-         most
cross-cultural organizational and human re-      ganization impact. Contrary to some com-             appropriate for
sources issues can help them better under-       monly held practitioner beliefs, the most no-        them, which, in
stand and guide practice (Erez, 1994; House,     table situational influence on job satisfaction      turn, will help
                                                                                                      enhance their
1995; Triandis, 1994).                           is the nature of the work itself—often called
                                                                                                      job satisfaction.
     The most cited cross-cultural work on       “intrinsic job characteristics.” Research stud-
employee attitudes is that of Hofstede (1980,    ies across many years, organizations, and
1985). He conducted research on employee         types of jobs show that when employees are
attitude data in 67 countries and found that     asked to evaluate different facets of their job
the data grouped into four major dimensions      such as supervision, pay, promotion opportu-
and that countries systematically varied         nities, coworkers, and so forth, the nature of
along these dimensions. The four cross-cul-      the work itself generally emerges as the most
tural dimensions are: (1) individualism-col-     important job facet (Judge & Church, 2000;
lectivism; (2) uncertainty avoidance versus      Jurgensen, 1978). This is not to say that
risk taking; (3) power distance, or the extent   well-designed compensation programs or ef-
to which power is unequally distributed; and     fective supervision are unimportant; rather,
(4) masculinity/femininity, more recently        it is that much can be done to influence job
called achievement orientation. For example,     satisfaction by ensuring work is as interest-
the United States was found to be high on        ing and challenging as possible. Unfortu-
individualism, low on power distance, and        nately, some managers think employees are
low on uncertainty avoidance (thus high on       most desirous of pay to the exclusion of other
risk taking), whereas Mexico was high on         job attributes such as interesting work. For
collectivism, high on power distance, and        example, in a study examining the impor-
high on uncertainty avoidance.                   tance of job attributes, employees ranked in-
     The four dimensions have been a useful      teresting work as the most important job at-
framework for understanding cross-cultural       tribute and good wages ranked fifth, whereas
differences in employee attitudes, as well as    when it came to what managers thought em-
recognizing the importance of cultural causes    ployees wanted, good wages ranked first
of employee attitudes. More recent analyses      while interesting work ranked fifth (Kovach,
have shown that country/culture is as strong     1995).
a predictor of employee attitudes as the type         Of all the major job satisfaction areas,
of job a person has (Saari, 2000; Saari &        satisfaction with the nature of the work it-
Erez, 2002; Saari & Schneider, 2001).            self—which includes job challenge, auton-
     There have been numerous replications       omy, variety, and scope—best predicts overall
of Hofstede’s research (reviewed by Sonder-      job satisfaction, as well as other important
gaard, 1994). The importance of culture has      outcomes like employee retention (e.g., Fried
398    •   HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT, Winter 2004

                   & Ferris, 1987; Parisi & Weiner, 1999;              between job satisfaction and performance
                   Weiner, 2000). Thus, to understand what             was trivial.
                   causes people to be satisfied with their jobs,           However, further research does not agree
                   the nature of the work itself is one of the first   with this conclusion. Organ (1988) suggests
                   places for practitioners to focus on.               that the failure to find a strong relationship
We hear                                                                between job satisfaction and performance is
debates and            Gap 2—The Results of Positive or                due to the narrow means often used to define
confusion about           Negative Job Satisfaction                    job performance. Organ argued that when
whether
satisfied
                                                                       performance is defined to include important
employees are      A second major practitioner knowledge gap           behaviors not generally reflected in perfor-
productive         is in the area of understanding the conse-          mance appraisals, such as organizational citi-
employees, and     quences of job satisfaction. We hear debates        zenship behaviors, its relationship with job
HR                 and confusion about whether satisfied em-           satisfaction improves. Research tends to sup-
practitioners
                   ployees are productive employees, and HR            port Organ’s proposition in that job satisfac-
rightfully
struggle as they   practitioners rightfully struggle as they must      tion correlates with organizational citizenship
must reduce        reduce costs and are concerned about the ef-        behaviors (Organ & Ryan, 1995).
costs and are      fects on job satisfaction and, in turn, the im-          In addition, in a more recent and com-
concerned          pact on performance and other outcomes.             prehensive review of 301 studies, Judge,
about the
                   The focus of our discussion in this section is      Thoresen, Bono, and Patton (2001) found
effects on job
satisfaction       on job satisfaction, because this is the em-        that when the correlations are appropriately
and, in turn,      ployee attitude that is most often related to       corrected (for sampling and measurement
the impact on      organizational outcomes. Other employee at-         errors), the average correlation between job
performance        titudes, such as organizational commitment,         satisfaction and job performance is a higher
and other          have been studied as well, although they            .30. In addition, the relationship between job
outcomes.
                   have similar relationships to outcomes as job       satisfaction and performance was found to
                   satisfaction.                                       be even higher for complex (e.g., profes-
                                                                       sional) jobs than for less complex jobs. Thus,
                   Job Satisfaction and Job Performance                contrary to earlier reviews, it does appear
                                                                       that job satisfaction is, in fact, predictive of
                   The study of the relationship between job sat-      performance, and the relationship is even
                   isfaction and job performance has a contro-         stronger for professional jobs.
                   versial history. The Hawthorne studies, con-
                   ducted in the 1930s, are often credited with        Job Satisfaction and Life Satisfaction
                   making researchers aware of the effects of
                   employee attitudes on performance. Shortly          An emerging area of study is the interplay be-
                   after the Hawthorne studies, researchers            tween job and life satisfaction. Researchers
                   began taking a critical look at the notion that     have speculated that there are three possible
                   a “happy worker is a productive worker.” Most       forms of the relationship between job satisfac-
                   of the earlier reviews of the literature sug-       tion and life satisfaction: (1) spillover, where
                   gested a weak and somewhat inconsistent re-         job experiences spill over into nonwork life
                   lationship between job satisfaction and per-        and vice versa; (2) segmentation, where job
                   formance. A review of the literature in 1985        and life experiences are separated and have
                   suggested that the statistical correlation be-      little to do with one another; and (3) compen-
                   tween job satisfaction and performance was          sation, where an individual seeks to compen-
                   about .17 (Iaffaldano & Muchinsky, 1985).           sate for a dissatisfying job by seeking fulfill-
                   Thus, these authors concluded that the pre-         ment and happiness in his or her nonwork life
                   sumed relationship between job satisfaction         and vice versa. Judge and Watanabe (1994)
                   and performance was a “management fad”              argued that these different models may exist
                   and “illusory.” This study had an important         for different individuals and were able to clas-
                   impact on researchers, and in some cases on         sify individuals into the three groups. On the
                   organizations, with some managers and HR            basis of a national sample of U.S. workers,
                   practitioners concluding that the relationship      they found 68% were the spillover group, 20%
Employee Attitudes and Job Satisfaction   •    399

in the segmentation group, and 12% in the           jobs or be absent than satisfied employees
compensation group. Thus, the spillover             (e.g., Hackett & Guion, 1985; Hulin,
model, whereby job satisfaction spills into life    Roznowski, & Hachiya, 1985; Kohler &
satisfaction and vice versa, appears to charac-     Mathieu, 1993). Job satisfaction shows corre-         Numerous
terize most U.S. employees.                         lations with turnover and absenteeism in the          studies have
                                                                                                          shown that
     Consistent with the spillover model, a re-     –.25 range. Job dissatisfaction also appears to       dissatisfied
view of the research literature indicated that      be related to other withdrawal behaviors, in-         employees are
job and life satisfaction are correlated (aver-     cluding lateness, unionization, grievances,           more likely to
age true score correlation: .44; Tait, Padgett,     drug abuse, and decision to retire.                   quit their jobs
& Baldwin, 1989). Since a job is a significant           Hulin et al. (1985) have argued that             or be absent
                                                                                                          than satisfied
part of one’s life, the relationship between        these individual withdrawal behaviors are all         employees…
job satisfaction and life satisfaction makes        manifestations of “job adaptation” and have
sense—one’s job experiences spill over into         proposed that these individual behaviors be
one’s life. However, it also seems possible the     grouped together. Because the occurrence of
causality could go the other way—a happy or         most single withdrawal behaviors is quite
unhappy life spills over into one’s job experi-     low, looking at a variety of these behaviors
ences and evaluations. In fact, the research        improves the ability for showing the relation-
suggests that the relationship between job          ship between job attitudes and withdrawal
and life satisfaction is reciprocal—job satis-      behaviors (Hulin, 1991). Rather than pre-
faction does affect life satisfaction, but life     dicting isolated behaviors, withdrawal re-
satisfaction also affects job satisfaction          search and applied practice would do better,
(Judge & Watanabe, 1994).                           as this model suggests, to study patterns in
     Also in support of a spillover model for       withdrawal behaviors—such as turnover, ab-
job and life satisfaction, the research litera-     senteeism, lateness, decision to retire, etc.—
ture shows a consistent relationship between        together. Several studies have supported this,
job satisfaction and depression (Thomas &           showing that when various withdrawal be-
Ganster, 1995). One might speculate on the          haviors are grouped together, job satisfaction
possibility that the relationship is simply due     better predicts these behavioral groupings
to personality traits that cause both low job       than the individual behaviors.
satisfaction and depression. However, to                 Based on the research that shows job sat-
counter this, there is evidence that job loss       isfaction predicts withdrawal behaviors like
and other work events are in fact associated        turnover and absenteeism, researchers have
with depression (Wheaton, 1990). Thus, this         been able to statistically measure the finan-
research suggests that dissatisfaction result-      cial impact of employee attitudes on organi-
ing from one’s job can spill over into one’s        zations (e.g., Cascio, 1986; Mirvis & Lawler,
psychological well-being.                           1977). Using these methods can be a power-
     Based on this research, one conclusion is      ful way for practitioners to reveal the costs of
that organizations only have so much control        low job satisfaction and the value of im-
over a person’s job satisfaction, because for       proved employee attitudes on such outcomes
many people, their job satisfaction is a result,    as absenteeism and retention.
in part, of spillover of their life satisfaction.
However, continuing to take actions to ad-           Gap 3—How To Measure and Influence
dress low job satisfaction is not only impor-               Employee Attitudes
tant for organizational effectiveness, but by
not doing so, organizations can cause               The third major practitioner knowledge gap is
spillover of employees’ low job satisfaction        in the area of how to measure and influence
into their life satisfaction and well-being.        employee attitudes. There are a number of
                                                    possible methods for measuring employee at-
Job Satisfaction and Withdrawal Behaviors           titudes, such as conducting focus groups, in-
                                                    terviewing employees, or carrying out em-
Numerous studies have shown that dissatis-          ployee surveys. Of these methods, the most
fied employees are more likely to quit their        accurate measure is a well-constructed em-
400    •    HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT, Winter 2004

                   ployee attitude survey. Thus, we first provide          There are two additional issues with
                   an overview of the major research on em-           measuring employee attitudes that have
                   ployee attitude surveys. To positively influ-      been researched and provide potentially use-
                   ence employee attitudes, understanding of          ful knowledge for practitioners. First, mea-
                   some of the research already discussed is im-      sures of job satisfaction can be faceted (such
…measures of       portant. In addition, knowledge of important       as the JDI)—whereby they measure various
job satisfaction   considerations for analyzing employee survey       dimensions of the job—while others are
can be faceted     results is essential for taking appropriate        global—or measure a single, overall feeling
(such as the
JDI)—whereby
                   steps to improve attitudes. Finally, practition-   toward the job. An example of a global mea-
they measure       ers often use survey feedback discussion           sure is “Overall, how satisfied are you with
various            meetings as a means for acting on employee         your job?” If a measure is facet-based, over-
dimensions of      attitude surveys—the final part of this section    all job satisfaction is typically defined as a
the job—while      addresses research related to this topic and       sum of the facets. Scarpello and Campbell
others are
                   the most important ways to support action.         (1983) found that individual questions
global—or
measure a                                                             about various aspects of the job did not cor-
single, overall    Employee Attitude Surveys                          relate well with a global measure of overall
feeling toward                                                        job satisfaction. However, if one uses job
the job.           Two major research areas on employee atti-         satisfaction facet scores—based on groups
                   tude surveys are discussed below: employee         of questions on the same facet or dimension
                   attitude measures used in research and facet       rather than individual questions—to predict
                   versus global measures. The areas discussed        an independent measure of overall job satis-
                   are not meant to provide knowledge of all rel-     faction, the relationship is considerably
                   evant considerations for designing employee        higher. As has been noted elsewhere (e.g.,
                   surveys, but rather provide background on          Judge & Hulin, 1993), job satisfaction facets
                   the research and an overview of some major         are sufficiently related to suggest that they
                   areas of study.                                    are measuring a common construct—overall
                        In the research literature, the two most      job satisfaction.
                   extensively validated employee attitude sur-            Second, while most job satisfaction re-
                   vey measures are the Job Descriptive Index         searchers have assumed that overall, single-
                   (JDI; Smith, Kendall, & Hulin, 1969) and the       item measures are unreliable and therefore
                   Minnesota Satisfaction Questionnaire               should not be used, this view has not gone
                   (MSQ; Weiss, Dawis, England, & Lofquist,           unchallenged. Wanous, Reichers, and Hudy
                   1967). The JDI assesses satisfaction with five     (1997) found that the reliability of single-
                   different job areas: pay, promotion, cowork-       item measures of job satisfaction is .67. For
                   ers, supervision, and the work itself. The JDI     the G. M. Faces scale, another single-item
                   is reliable and has an impressive array of val-    measure of job satisfaction that asks individ-
                   idation evidence. The MSQ has the advan-           uals to check one of five faces that best de-
                   tage of versatility—long and short forms are       scribes their overall satisfaction (Kunin,
                   available, as well as faceted and overall mea-     1955), the reliability was estimated to be .66.
                   sures. Another measure used in job satisfac-       Therefore, respectable levels of reliability
                   tion research (e.g., Judge, Erez, Bono, &          can be obtained with an overall measure of
                   Thoresen, in press) is an updated and reliable     job satisfaction, although these levels are
                   five-item version of an earlier scale by Bray-     somewhat lower than most multiple-item
                   field and Rothe (1951). All of these measures      measures of job satisfaction.
                   have led to greater scientific understanding of         Based on the research reviewed, there is
                   employee attitudes, and their greatest value       support for measuring job satisfaction with
                   may be for research purposes, yet these mea-       either a global satisfaction question or by
                   sures may be useful for practitioners as well.     summing scores on various aspects of the
                   In practice, organizations often wish to ob-       job. Therefore, in terms of practice, by mea-
                   tain a more detailed assessment of employee        suring facets of job satisfaction, organiza-
                   attitudes and/or customize their surveys to as-    tions can obtain a complete picture of their
                   sess issues unique to their firm.                  specific strengths and weaknesses related to
Employee Attitudes and Job Satisfaction   •   401

employee job satisfaction and use those facet      company externally to other companies and
scores for an overall satisfaction measure, or     the competition.
they can reliably use overall satisfaction
questions for that purpose.                        Comparisons and Numerical Accuracy. Com-             …it is helpful
                                                   paring data is one of the most useful survey         when
                                                                                                        interpreting
Analyzing and Interpreting Survey Results for      analysis techniques, such as described above         survey data to
Action                                             for using norms to compare a company’s sur-          know how the
                                                   vey results to other companies. Comparisons          survey results
Effective analysis and interpretation of em-       for the same organization or unit over time          compare to
ployee attitude survey data is necessary in        with a trended survey are also valuable to           industry norms
                                                                                                        or country
order to understand the results and, in turn,      measure progress. At the same time, compar-          norms.
take appropriate actions to improve em-            isons must be done with professional care,
ployee attitudes and job satisfaction. Re-         taking into account measurement issues
search on employee attitude measurement            (Cascio, 1986). This is one of the major
and statistical analyses is a key contribution     areas of practitioner misinterpretation in our
of the field of psychology (e.g., Edwards,         experience.
2001; Macey, 1996). Highlights of the re-               Of particular concern are organizations
search on survey analyses and the most im-         using unreliable survey data, based on low
portant issues for HR practitioners to con-        numbers of survey respondents and/or de-
sider are reviewed below.                          partment size, to compare departments/man-
                                                   agers or to inappropriately measure change
The Use of Norms. Ratings made by employ-          over time. In general, the lower the number,
ees on survey questions can systematically         the greater the effects of random error on
vary—and vary widely—no matter what com-           data, like the differences between flipping a
pany they work for. For example, ratings of        coin 10 times versus 1,000 times. Thus,
pay are typically low and ratings of workgroup     comparisons of groups or departments with
cooperation are typically rated very high.         small numbers generally should not be done,
Similar systematic variations are found when       especially when the survey is a sample survey
comparing survey data for many companies           and designed to provide data only at higher
across countries. For example, Switzerland         levels. Even for surveys of all employees that
tends to have some of the highest ratings,         provide survey results to each manager/de-
Italy some of the lowest. Therefore, it is help-   partment, numerical accuracy is still of con-
ful when interpreting survey data to know          cern and comparisons across time or be-
how the survey results compare to industry         tween managers should be avoided—data at
norms or country norms. Survey norms are           the workgroup level is best provided to each
descriptive statistics that are compiled from      manager for department feedback and local
data on the same survey questions from a           actions. To avoid these measurement issues,
number of companies and are obtained by            it is helpful to have a lower limit on the or-
joining a consortium. Comparability of the         ganization size and/or number of respon-
companies, company size, and number of             dents needed to create reports for compar-
companies are important factors in the value       isons (most organizations we have worked
of the norms (Morris & LoVerde, 1993). In          with set this at a maximum margin of error of
addition, the professionalism in the norms         plus/minus 9 percentage points, which is
process and the age of the norms will affect       generally around 100 respondents). Numeri-
their relevance and accuracy (Bracken, 1992;       cal accuracy and appropriate comparisons
R. H. Johnson, 1996). If survey norms are not      are especially important when using survey
an option, overall company or unit results can     data for performance targets and employ-
serve as internal norms, although they en-         ment-related decisions.
courage an inward focus and potentially in-
ternal competition. Actions determined             Global Considerations. For organizations op-
through normed-based comparisons can be            erating in more than one country, under-
strong drivers of change and help focus a          standing survey data by country is also valu-
402     •    HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT, Winter 2004

                     able for improving employee attitudes. How-        are predictive of important financial perfor-
                     ever, making comparisons across countries is       mance measures, such as market share (e.g.,
                     another type of analysis that should be con-       Ashworth, Higgs, Schneider, Shepherd, &
                     ducted with caution. As stated earlier, there      Carr, 1995; Colihan & Saari, 2000; Harter,
                     are country/cultural influences on employee        Schmidt, & Hayes, 2002).
One of the           attitudes, and the use of country norms is              Linkage research can be done in any or-
newest areas of      preferable. In other words, comparisons are        ganization where there is some way to group
research that        best made against an appropriate country           enough survey data—such as in stores,
assists with
identifying
                     norm rather than comparing one country’s           branches, districts, and even countries—and
important areas      survey results to another country’s results. In    then correlate it with financial and/or cus-
for survey           addition to cultural factors, linguistic factors   tomer data for the same groups. This type of
action is to         across countries can affect survey results         survey measurement and analysis helps prac-
statistically link   (Ryan, Chan, Ployhart, & Slade, 1999). Con-        titioners demonstrate the impact of em-
employee
                     cepts—such as “employee recognition”—can           ployee attitudes on the business, as well as
attitudes to
business             have different meanings due to different cul-      identify key levers for action.
outcomes.            tural meanings (Hui, 1990; Hui & Triandis,
                     1985), and this can affect the equivalence of      Survey Feedback and Action
                     the measurements of employee attitudes
                     across countries. To help minimize linguistic      Employee surveys, used effectively, can be
                     and other issues, professional translations,       catalysts for improving employee attittudes
                     back translations (translations back into          and producing organizational change. This
                     English then checked against the original          statement is based on two important as-
                     English), and country reviews are recom-           sumptions, both supported by research al-
                     mended. Other guidance on administrative           ready reviewed in this article: first, that em-
                     and practical issues when conducting a             ployee attitudes affect behavior and second,
                     multinational employee attitude survey is          that employee attitudes are important levers
                     also available (e.g., S. R. Johnson, 1996).        of organizational performance.
                                                                            Survey feedback and action help support
                     Linking Employee Attitudes to Business Mea-        and drive organizational change, and the
                     sures. One of the newest areas of research that    “ability to manage change” is evaluated by
                     assists with identifying important areas for       line managers as the most important compe-
                     survey action is to statistically link employee    tency for HR professionals (Ulrich, Brock-
                     attitudes to business outcomes. This research      bank, Yeung, & Lake, 1995). There are many
                     is an extension of the research discussed ear-     variations of survey feedback and action,
                     lier that correlated job satisfaction with job     though an important research finding is that
                     performance. Schneider and his colleagues          participation in feedback sessions alone will
                     carried out the groundbreaking studies in this     not result in change—and this is often where
                     area, showing how employee attitudes about         organizations fall short. In fact, Rynes et al.
                     various human resources practices correlated       (2002) found that one of the highest per-
                     with customer satisfaction measures, thus in-      centages of HR professionals responding
                     dicating key levers to improve customer satis-     contrary to the research facts was to the
                     faction. For example, they found that when         statement “Ensuring employees participate
                     employees reported higher satisfaction with        in decision making is more important for im-
                     work facilitation and career development, cus-     proving organizational performance than set-
                     tomers reported higher service quality             ting performance goals.” Extensive research
                     (Schneider & Bowen, 1985). Other re-               does not support this statement, yet 82% of
                     searchers (e.g., Wiley, 1996) have developed       HR professionals marked it as true. In fact,
                     linkage models that identify the organizational    actual action, not just involvement in survey
                     practices—as rated by employee attitude sur-       feedback discussions and the development of
                     veys—that relate to high levels of organiza-       plans, is critical for an employee survey to re-
                     tional performance. In addition, a variety of      sult in improved performance. Feedback ses-
                     studies have shown how employee attitudes          sions that result in concrete goals and result-
Employee Attitudes and Job Satisfaction   •   403

ing actions have the most impact. This is              In terms of evaluating the practices dis-
supported by extensive research on goal-set-       cussed in this article, the most rigorous and
ting theory, which shows that having specific      defensible methods are to apply return on
goals is a major factor for motivation and         investment (ROI) principles. These involve           Today,
performance (Locke, Feren, McCaleb, Shaw,          defining the objectives of a program—such            organizations
                                                                                                        need more from
& Denny, 1980; Locke & Latham, 2002).              as assess employee attitudes that predict or-        HR than
                                                   ganizational performance and improve em-             someone to
How To Close the Gaps and Evaluate the             ployee attitudes and job satisfaction—and            administer the
       Effectiveness of Practice                   then evaluating, through appropriate re-             tactical aspects
                                                   search designs and measurements, whether             of an employee
                                                                                                        survey and to
Throughout this article, as we discussed the       these objectives were met. Approaches for            check that
relevant research for each of the three            carrying out ROI and cost-based evaluations          managers are
knowledge gaps, we provided suggestions            are described in the literature (e.g., Cascio,       holding
for closing the gaps. In this section, we          1986). These evaluation approaches are the           feedback
offer some final suggestions, as well as           most rigorous, yet can be resource- and              discussions and
                                                                                                        have action
ideas for evaluating the effectiveness of im-      time-intensive.
                                                                                                        plans.
plemented practices.                                   In terms of more straightforward sugges-
     One important way to close the gap be-        tions for evaluating the practices imple-
tween research and practice is to be better        mented, we offer the following questions
informed about the research. Given the de-         that HR practitioners can ask themselves:
mands on HR practitioners’ time, this is a         “Do we have an employee attitude survey
difficult task, yet one that is increasingly ex-   that measures areas important for employee
pected of HR professionals. Today, organi-         job satisfaction as well as organizational suc-
zations need more from HR than someone             cess?” “How do we know this and make this
to administer the tactical aspects of an em-       case to line management?” “Is the survey
ployee survey and to check that managers           routinely used as part of decision making?”
are holding feedback discussions and have          “Is the survey a respected source of infor-
action plans. Organizations need HR practi-        mation about the people side of the busi-
tioners who know how to develop effective          ness?” “Am I at the table with line manage-
and research-based employee attitude mea-          ment using the survey insights for needed
sures, understand and derive valuable in-          action and organizational change?” “Can I
sights from the data, and use the results to       discuss these measures in light of other key
improve employee attitudes and job perfor-         business measures?” These may be new eval-
mance and help lead organizational change.         uation criteria for many HR professionals
There are many excellent and emerging              who have traditionally evaluated themselves
ways to gain this knowledge—professional           in areas such as attitude survey response
HR organizations (e.g., the Society for            rates, timeliness of action plans submitted
Human Resource Management) are in-                 by managers, and the number of reports dis-
creasingly offering ways to get summarized         tributed. In the end, the evaluation of the
research information, and new ways to gain         practices implemented should consider
knowledge through online and other meth-           these two important points: Are measures of
ods are emerging.                                  employee attitude used as important infor-
     Another suggestion relates to improving       mation for the business? Ultimately, do em-
knowledge of basic statistics. The need to         ployee attitudes and job satisfaction move in
measure, understand, and improve employee          the desired direction?
attitudes is essential for organizations of
today. Yet, without the numeric comfort               Conclusions and Future Directions
needed to fully understand and discuss em-
ployee attitude measurements, what they            The field of industrial/organizational psy-
mean, and how they relate to other business        chology has a long, rich, and, at times, con-
measures, HR cannot be at the table to assist      troversial history related to the study and un-
with achieving this goal.                          derstanding of employee attitudes and job
404   •   HUMAN RESOURCE MANAGEMENT, Winter 2004

                satisfaction. Some of this research is very             impacts, is needed and has been largely over-
                specific and aimed primarily at other re-               looked in past research.
                searchers, while other publications provide                 In addition, ongoing research will pro-
                practical guidance on understanding, mea-               vide more in-depth understanding of the ef-
                suring, and improving employee attitudes                fects of employee attitudes and job satisfac-
                (e.g., Edwards & Fisher, 2004; Kraut, 1996).            tion on organizational measures, such as
                     One likely future direction of employee            customer satisfaction and financial mea-
                attitude research will be to better understand          sures. Greater insights on the relationship
                the interplay between the person and the sit-           between employee attitudes and business
                uation and the various internal and external            performance will assist HR professionals as
                factors that influence employee attitudes. In           they strive to enhance the essential people
                particular, a better understanding of the role          side of the business in a highly competitive,
                of emotion, as well as broader environmental            global arena.

                          Lise M. Saari, PhD, is the director of global workforce research for IBM. Previously,
                          she was the senior manager of people research at Boeing and, prior to that, a research
                          scientist at the Battelle Research Institute. Dr. Saari has authored numerous articles,
                          chapters, and presentations on employee attitudes and motivation. She served on the
                          board of the Mayflower Group, a consortium of companies engaged in professional
                          surveys. She also has served on the editorial boards for the Journal of Applied Psy-
                          chology and Personnel Psychology. Dr. Saari is a member of the International Associa-
                          tion of Applied Psychology, the European Congress of Work and Organizational Psy-
                          chologists, and the Society for I-O Psychology.

                          Timothy A. Judge, PhD, is the Matherly-McKethan Eminent Scholar, Department
                          of Management, Warrington College of Business, University of Florida. He holds a
                          bachelor of business administration degree from the University of Iowa, and master’s
                          and doctoral degrees from the University of Illinois. Dr. Judge worked as a manager
                          at Kohl’s Department Stores and was formerly a full professor at the University of
                          Iowa and associate professor at Cornell University. His research interests are in per-
                          sonality, leadership and influence behaviors, staffing, and job attitudes. He serves on
                          the editorial review boards of the Journal of Applied Psychology, Personnel Psychology,
                          and Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

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