When I was growing up, I worked for my father in the evenings and during the summers. Mostly construction work: framing walls, digging foundations, hauling bricks – that kind of thing. I remember one day my dad asking me what career I was looking for. My answer probably wasn’t what he expected. “I want a job where I take a shower before I go to work, not after I get home,” I said. That was my primary measure of satisfaction and thus my guide to job selection.
If you read any literature on knowledge-sharing practices or knowledge management (or, honestly, any practice that has knowledge in the title), authors always highlight how their practices can affect employee satisfaction. According to these authors, team members are happier, more motivated and stay longer if they are in an organization that effectively shares knowledge.
So, what do these authors (like me) mean when they talk about employee satisfaction? It traces back to people like Jeremy Bentham, who famously claimed that push-pin (a child’s game) doesn’t make you as happy as poetry (I’m paraphrasing). Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs points in the same direction, that there are some needs that are higher than others.
The same can be said for work. Some kinds of work are more fulfilling than others. Less repetitious, more challenging work is more desirable than the alternative. It’s the reverse of Henry Ford’s approach. As humans (whether genetically or how society makes us), we don’t want to just drive in the same rivet on the same black Model T. It follows that a job that adds additional, meaningful tasks to the routine is more satisfying (Fredrick Herzberg’s concept of vertical loading). In the end, these jobs build greater employee satisfaction, overall.
There’s solid research that greater employee satisfaction both reduces turnover and increases profitability (see the Harvard Business Review article on Sears’ performance in the late-1990s).
So, how do knowledge-sharing practices affect employee satisfaction?
Fundamentally, sharing knowledge is a freeing function. It reduces the time each individual (and the entire organization) spends looking for knowledge, cursing when they don’t find it and, finally, just recreating it (even though it does exist somewhere in the organization).
Sharing knowledge lets each individual team member spend time building new knowledge, synthesizing existing knowledge or reorganizing knowledge to make it easier to find. That’s a lot more satisfying work. In addition, sharing knowledge opens opportunities for collaboration with members of other teams (which, according to HDI and Robert Half Technology in the research, Technical Support Center of the Future, 71% of team members rate as a critical component of their jobs).
How do you measure it?
There are lots of resources around measuring employee satisfaction (and now, employee engagement). All of them suggest that the way to measure it is to ask. Surveys are the tool of choice to baseline and track the trends in employee satisfaction. Harvard Business Review also offers a very straight-forward article on how to measure it.
But is there something weird going on?
So, if employee satisfaction is important, we can measure it and knowledge sharing can move the dial, why aren’t we all sharing? That’s the challenge of knowledge-sharing practices. The Klever community is dedicated to helping you overcome the challenge. We’d love to hear your questions.
So, do you measure employee satisfaction? Is it one of your main goals?
Interested in metrics? Check out our article– Metrics and Measures for Knowledge Management.