What comes first – Satisfaction or Performance?

A very interesting article was published  recently on the TheStreet.com –  “Satisfaction Does Not Boost Performance”.  The article outlines the outcomes from a number of studies that overwhelmingly show that satisfaction programs will not only help business performance, they may not even improve satisfaction.  Some key points from the article:

  • In 1976, “The Handbook of Industrial/Organizational Psychology,” 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 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, stated that “HR people try to perpetuate the idea that job satisfaction is critical, but there is no evidence that engaging employees impacts financial returns.”

Many companies see satisfaction as an input to performance not recognizing that it is an output. By aiming to seek performance from satisfied employees (rather than realizing that high performing employees tend to be satisfied) most such programmes leave performance to chance.  It is based on flawed logic seeking the simple solution.  Organisations that try to create one size fits all engagement programmes often end up with very happy employees that may have no desire to perform.

The final line from the article sums it up. “Find the right people, put them in roles that use their talents and give them support to be successful. Happiness will take care of itself.”

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