When I was at Microsoft in the 1990’s, we did an annual employee survey that was a very valuable tool in understanding numerous personnel issues. To generate valid readings, you need broad participation in such a survey. We achieved 100% participation by administering the survey online. The system kept the respondent’s identity confidential, but importantly, it would automatically generate reminders to individuals and their bosses if they were tardy in filling it out. Armed with this tool, we could investigate all kinds of key issues.
One big issue in the technology industry was and still is retaining talent and in the survey we asked the following question: “Are you thinking of leaving Microsoft within the next 18 months?” We also asked the question: “Do you believe you have a good job?” The respondent answered each question on a five point scale: strongly agree(5), agree(4), Neutral(3), disagree(2), and strongly disagree(1). Not surprisingly, we found the answers to these two questions highly positively correlated.
That was helpful, but we needed to know what employees generally thought a “good” job was. Other parts of the survey, along with lots of focus groups with employees, told us that the following five characteristics were clearly front and center when it comes to believing you have a good job:
1.) I Have Very Clear Responsibilities and the Key Measures Are Agreed Upon – People want to know what is expected of them. If everything is always up in the air, and nobody can consistently tell you what success looks like, it is a big problem.
2.) There Aren’t Any Overlapping Responsibilities that Typically Cause Turf Battles – It is frustrating and time-wasting to have two different organizations believe they have the same responsibilities. Often this occurs with staff groups thinking they have an equal vote versus the line organizations.
3.) I Have the Authority to Do My Job – It is very frustrating to have to constantly argue with your boss or some other competing group in order to make on-going decisions when executing your responsibilities.
4.) I Am Held Accountable for My Results – People like to be held accountable; otherwise success is not nearly as fulfilling. Generally, people want to contribute, and they want that acknowledged when it occurs.
5.) My Boss is Readily Available to Help When I Ask, But Otherwise Leaves Me Alone – Bosses that are never around, and bosses that are always meddling, are a real pain for employees.
Strong leaders push hard to make sure that the jobs in their organization are good ones. They know that is the secret to attracting and retaining talent. People rarely leave “good” jobs!