Factors of Employee Job SatisfactionArticle

Alegre, Inés; Mas-Machuca, Marta; Berbegal-Mirabent, Jasmina. “Antecedents of employee job satisfaction: Do they matter?” Journal of Business Research 69 (2016): 1390-1395.


Dr. Allan Gray, Executive Director and Professor


This study examined the importance of the key factors that lead to high job satisfaction. The five key areas are teamwork, work/life balance, identification with the company strategy, supervisor support and autonomy in decision-making. Previous studies of job satisfaction have focused on the relationship between one of the five factors and job satisfaction. In this case, the authors were seeking to find combinations of the factors that might lead to job satisfaction. They used a survey of 374 employees to evaluate the importance of and relationship among the factors. Through their analysis they discovered that no single factor was a good predictor of job satisfaction, suggesting that it is combinations of the factors that lead to job satisfaction. They identified 23 initial combinations of factors and then used a statistical technique to find the three combinations with the most significant impact on job satisfaction, including: teamwork/strategy/(work-family), autonomy/strategy/work-family, and supervisor/strategy. The first combination represents employees that found high job satisfaction in high levels of teamwork and high levels of identification with the company strategy even in the presence of a low level of work-family balance; hence the reason work-family is in parentheses. The second combination represents employees that found high job satisfaction in high levels of autonomy in decision-making, high levels of identification with the company strategy and higher levels of work-family balance. The final combination represents employees that find higher job satisfaction in high levels of supervisor support and high levels of identification with the company strategy.

What this means for food and agricultural businesses

There is a very clear indication that alignment between the employee and the company strategy is critical to employee satisfaction as this factor was present across all three combinations. The food and agribusiness industries are increasingly having to attract and retain talent with little to no agricultural background. With the increasing diversity of human talent, the need to clearly and effectively communicate the company’s objectives in ways that resonate with the employee base is becoming more challenging than in the past. Have we thought carefully about how we communicate the company’s strategy and what our employees hear and think about those strategies? It might no longer be good enough to assume that everybody is on the same page because they all come from similar backgrounds with an inherit motivation to work in the food and agribusiness industry. Creating a clear, concise message about what the company is trying to accomplish in ways that resonate with the broader spectrum of employees—and repeating that message at all levels of the company—might be a more valuable endeavor of senior management than we realize.

The second notable outcome of this study was the tradeoff between work-life balance and the sense of belonging to a team with a commitment to the company’s strategy. As I contemplated the implications of this finding it struck me how many times I have had discussions with folks in the agribusiness industry about the difficulty getting people with little background in agriculture to understand the seasonal nature of the business and the need to work long hours at times. This study suggests that creating high-functioning teams with a shared sense of ownership of the company’s strategy is key to overcoming the objections that come with those unavoidable peak times of the year. How much time, as managers, do we spend developing strong teams, creating a sense of shared ownership, and preparing the teams for those demanding times?

One final takeaway from this study was the recognition of how empowering it can be for employees to have a sense of autonomy in managing their projects, while still having a sense of strong support from their supervisors. As simple as the idea may seem, it has proven difficult in many agribusinesses to get to this level of autonomy, particularly for the younger generation of talent. Part of the reason I see for this is that often people are promoted to management positions as result of the outstanding job they were doing in their individual projects. However, many of those same people were not properly prepared for the transition from doing the work themselves to coaching and mentoring others who do the work. To compensate for this lack of preparation, these managers will sometimes resort to doing the work themselves or micromanaging the people under them. This management style can lead employees to the feeling of having no autonomy in managing their projects, a lack of growth in their own professional development, and a sense of no support from their supervisor—exactly the opposite of what this study suggests is a critical combination in employee satisfaction. What processes do we have in place to help our managers transition from doing the projects to coaching and mentoring others to manage the projects themselves?

The competitive landscape for attracting, retaining, developing, and engaging talent in the agribusiness industries has never been keener than it is today. Assuming that employee satisfaction comes solely from personal satisfaction in a job well done seems risky to me. Understanding that critical factors about the environment in which a talented employee is allowed to do a job well likely sets apart those companies that excel in talent from those that don’t. This study has helped us understand that key combinations of factors create the cocktails that can allow our companies to be the preferred place for talented people to build their careers.