Today's focus: Job satisfaction on the rise

A surprising - and great - piece of news landed in my inbox recently: the Network Professionals' Job Satisfaction Survey, conducted by Lucent. Despite industry upheaval and economic uncertainty, more network professionals are happier with their jobs than last year. That's nothing short of amazing.

Think about it - this has been a time of unprecedented difficulty in our industry. Budgets have been slashed, training and travel are nonexistent, coworkers have been let go, and people are more satisfied? We must be doing something right.

Managers, pat yourselves on the back - then promptly get to work discerning what we are doing so right and how we can continue it.

Here are some of the highlights:

* Job satisfaction has been on the rise since 1998. In 1998, 56% were satisfied with their jobs. Today more than 75% say they're satisfied. The percentage of those who say they're "Very satisfied" (the highest level) rose from 16% last year to 23% this year.

* The top four factors that heavily influence satisfaction: opportunity to learn new skills, type of work, achievement opportunities and opportunity to take responsibility. Out of the 16 factors listed, money came in at No. 7. The least important factor: the opportunity to telecommute at least part- time.

* Those most likely to be satisfied feel that they have the opportunity for advancement. Yet only half of those surveyed are satisfied with their opportunities for advancement.

* The leading cause of job dissatisfaction: poor communication.

"A majority of respondents believe that communications from senior management are poor and that their employers do a poor job of motivating employees," the survey says. "A majority of respondents also feel that managers in their organizations do a poor job of communicating performance criteria and providing helpful feedback on performance."

While these facts are interesting, we can put them into action to improve our managerial skills and the happiness of our folks. Just from these four highlights, we can craft our own minisurvey and action plan. For instance:

* Get the list of the 16 job factors, type them out and ask your staff to anonymously rate them in order of importance.

That should give you an idea of what they value the most.

* Ask your staff if they're happy with their opportunities for promotions and advancement. Given that we're halfway through the year, they may have a review coming up. Ask them where they want to go and do they feel like they can get there from your department or company.

* Examine your communication skills. Are you clear and timely in your communications efforts? Do you listen well? Are you clearly spelling out what is expected of your employees (another good review-time opportunity)? Do you give them consistent feedback?

The Lucent survey has a ton of great information that you could find useful for improving your environment. It is available as a free PDF download under the related links section of this newsletter. Check it out.

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