You’re likely familiar with the saying people don’t leave their jobs, people leave their leaders. Although it may be overused, there is ample evidence to support that the relationship between an individual and their leader is key to employee satisfaction and engagement.

There are many reasons for an employee’s departure that can be attributed to their leader – poor communication, lack of growth opportunities, lack of appreciation, etc. Beyond those obvious examples, Gallup has also found that the manager’s engagement level – or lack thereof – affects their employee’s engagement, creating a cascade effect. While it’s true all employees can be empowered to be leaders in their work, people who manage others have a specific responsibility to influence the engagement levels of those who report to them.

To increase employee satisfaction, the best leaders also hold up the mirror and reflect on their own engagement and behaviors in addition to developing people and building relationships. These leaders recognize the importance of putting people first by building their capacity and benefit from a high-performing workforce ready to preserve through leadership transitions and challenges.


In most organizations, from person to person, job roles and responsibilities can vary greatly. However, there is one thing we all have in common; for most of us, work is where we spend most of our time. Regardless of the industry, job responsibilities or an individual’s education level, there are a few underlying aspects influencing employee satisfaction. Keep in mind, each of these factors can be a motivator to a different degree for each individual. What increases satisfaction for one individual may not work as well for another.

Employees want to…

  • Do work that matters.
  • Do work that is challenging and/or interesting.
  • Provide input – and feel that others value and appreciate that input.
  • Have opportunities to grow and develop.
  • Engage with leaders in conversations about their performance.

Listen to employees, uncover their strengths, align the right work to the right people – these are the responsibilities of leaders. How can leaders focus on these factors to increase employee satisfaction? Provide work that is meaningful, challenging and helps develop people to their greatest potential while acknowledging their ideas, efforts, and accomplishments.


These behaviors are most effective in organizations that believe in implementing them from the organization’s executive leader all the way to the front-line supervisors. Each leader affects the satisfaction and engagement level of the team surrounding them. This emphasizes an earlier point – to sustain success as an organization, we build the capacity of all people.


  • During monthly rounding conversations, leaders gain input on areas working well and processes to be improved. We ask employees if they have working tools and equipment to do their jobs. As a result of these conversations, leaders can help remove barriers for people, which can immediately increase employee satisfaction.
  • After completing connections with all employees, it’s helpful to summarize and prioritize the information to determine the next steps.
  • When leaders commit to following up with employees after these connections rounding becomes a valuable relationship and trust building tool. In fact, if all we do is listen and don’t act on the information, we risk breaking trust and damaging relationships with employees.
  • Communicate to all employees what actions you will take based on the information collected during rounding connections and be sure to follow through.


  • People want to give input about their work, their work environment and even the future needs and challenges of the organization. Employees closest to the work often have suggestions that can improve services and processes for customers and internal teams.
  • Leaders increase employee satisfaction when people feel like their ideas are useful and contribute to the organization or the people it serves, in a meaningful way.
  • Also, employees are more likely to support a change or decision if we first offer people an opportunity to provide input.
  • Collecting ideas from employees can be done organization-wide, at the team level and during leader rounding conversations.


  • Evidence indicates that an overwhelming reason employees leave their jobs is due to lack of progression in their careers and learning and development opportunities. According to LinkedIn’s 2019 Workforce Learning Report, “94% of employees say that they would stay at a company longer if it invested in helping them learn.”
  • When professionals were asked why they were seeking a new job, 33% responded, “due to boredom and the desire for a new challenge.” Why is this important for leaders? Behavioral economist, Dan Ariely was curious about what motivates people to work. In his Ted Talk, he discusses several studies that demonstrate people want to contribute in a meaningful way, want someone to acknowledge their work, and develop a greater sense of ownership and pride in their work when challenged with harder tasks.
  • While business doesn’t necessarily allow for continuous promotions and raises, leaders can provide employees a multitude of opportunities for development. The people we lead deserve our support.
  • Engage employees in conversations about their strengths and career goals. Provide feedback to people in real time about their performance. Employees want support in understanding their gaps and how to better develop as professionals. Don’t wait for yearly reviews to talk to people about their performance. Pause multiple times per year to connect and provide employees with feedback.
  • Offer on the job training and experience. As opportunities arise, align individuals with work that stretches their skills.
  • Growth and development opportunities may include a new project, area of responsibility, time to learn a new skill, mentor a colleague, work on a team within a different area of the organization, etc.


  • Employees appreciate the opportunity to provide input and help select their new team members. New colleagues can directly influence a person’s work environment and satisfaction with their working relationships.
  • Peer-interviews have multiple benefits. A new colleagues’ peers are often closest to the work and can provide valuable insight into the role and the skills necessary to be successful.
  • People who help select their new colleagues are also more likely to want that person to be successful. When we include people in the process, they take accountability for helping new employees adapt to the organization.
  • Including current team members in the interview process demonstrates we value their opinion. This is one of many ways we can listen to people and allow them to make a meaningful contribution to their work, increasing employee satisfaction and engagement.


  • As humans we want to feel appreciated. We want to feel like we make a difference, and that people value us for the skills we can contribute.
  • Communicating to employees that we notice their efforts and they make a difference turns the organization’s flywheel. People continue to be committed to the mission and willing to exert effort to serve others. Recognition also serves as an accelerator for employee performance. When employees hear the recognition of others, they are motivated to repeat those behaviors. For some, this is done in hopes that they can make a meaningful contribution as well.
  • A simple way to let people know they are appreciated is to send thank you notes. We can also spend time during team meetings and utilize the organization’s social media accounts to share recognition.
  • Another way to reward and recognize employees, it to award them with additional responsibilities or opportunities. High performers are often willing to take on additional responsibilities as a reward for meaningful contributions to the team.
  • In times of challenge, a few kind words and the acknowledgment of people’s efforts can often help others persevere. Appreciation is the glue that holds organizations together.


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