Job Satisfaction is one of the most researched concepts in Industrial Psychology and in HR in general. And one of the most robust findings about it is that it correlates highly with productivity. To which degree varies quite a lot. A large meta-survey by Judge et al. suggests that the correlation is about 0.3, but I have seen it as high as 0.5. That is quite a lot.
I don’t dispute that ‘Job Satisfaction’ and ‘Productivity’ correlates highly. There is so much evidence to suggest that. I just wonder about the causality. I can think about three ways to explain the correlation:
The more satisfied you, the more productive you are in your job
The more productive you are, the happier you are with your job
A third element drives both e.g. if the match between job and employee is high then this employee will experience both a higher job satisfaction and be more productive.
In the end I believe that all three of the above are true. Which one of them is ‘the most true’, well I don’t know. However it matters a lot for HR practitioners.
If you believe the first explanation is more true then you would work hard on getting your employees to enjoy their work by increase autonomy, skill variety or give more feedback. If you believe the second to be true you would work on things which can increase productivity such as process optimisation. If you believe in the third explanation then you would work on your recruitment processes to optimize job-fit.
Before you measure job satisfaction in your organization, you must decide which of the three explanations you believe in and therefore how you should use the results.