Saturday, April 21, 2012

Are Quality Professionals Happy on the Job?

Forbes Magazine recently named the software quality assurance engineer as the “happiest job” in the U.S.  Forbes says, “Professionals with this job title are typically involved in the entire software development process to ensure the quality of the final product…Software quality assurance engineers feel rewarded at work, as they are typically the last stop before software goes live and correctly feel that they are an integral part of the job being done at the company.”

ASQ CEO Paul Borawski asks if other quality professionals are happy on the job, and what we might do to raise the voice of quality.

In a summary reported by Susan Heathfield (Human Resources expert): "According to a 2009 report by The Conference Board, based on a survey of 5,000 U.S. households, only 45% of those surveyed say that they are satisfied with their jobs, down from 61.1% in 1987, the first year in which the survey was conducted. While overall employee satisfaction has declined to 45%, the percentage of employees satisfied with their jobs is lowest in the under 25 age group with only 35.7% satisfied. Among employees in the age group 25-34, 47.2% are satisfied; employees in the age group 35-44 scored 43.4% in job satisfaction. Employees in the 45-54 age range scored 46.8%; employees 55-64 scored 45.6% in employee satisfaction and, of those employees age 65 and over, 43.4% are satisfied."

A Society for Human Resources Management (SHRM) study found that employees identified these five factors as most important:
  • job security,
  • benefits (especially health care) with the importance of retirement benefits rising with the age of the employee,
  • compensation/pay,
  • opportunities to use skills and abilities, and
  • feeling safe in the work environment.
The next five most important factors affecting employee satisfaction were:
  • the employee's relationship with his or her immediate supervisor,
  • management recognition of employee job performance,
  • communication between employees and senior management,
  • the work itself, and
  • autonomy and independence in their job.
Susan Heathfield states that more important than decreasing employee satisfaction is the fact that "The U.S. has a problem with employee engagement." In this year’s SHRM survey, U.S. employees were only moderately engaged (3.6) on a scale of 1 to 5, where 5 is highly engaged.

A book that I recommend to every supervisor, manager and executive interested in increasing their employees' morale and engagement - and increased organizational performance-  is John Fleming's Human Sigma. Engaged employees create engaged customers who foster organizational success by delivering positive financial outcomes. Employee engagement is the ability to capture the heads, hearts, and souls of employees to instill an intrinsic desire and passion for excellence. Engaged employees want their organization to succeed because they feel connected emotionally, socially, and even spiritually to its mission, vision, and purpose.

So, am I happy on the job?  I have enjoyed many diverse experiences as a quality professional over my 30 year career, progressing from an entry-level QA engineer to Sr. Mgr. of Corporate Quality Services and Lean Six Sigma Operations in a $30 B multinational company. I also dabbled in product development, process development, and technical service. Most days, yes, I actually look forward to coming to work. To what do I attribute my success and satisfaction? From very early in my career I had a role model and mentor who encouraged me to continue my professional development while pursuing stretch growth opportunities. Through this mentor I became involved with the ASQ Statistics Division where I was able to develop and hone my leadership and strategic planning skills - skills that would be highly valued by my employer. 3M has a strong culture of innovation. My supervisors and managers have consistently provided me the autonomy and independence to pursue my genius and develop my personal brand ('QualityBob'), while rewarding me with roles of increasing responsibility. Over the years my professional focus has shifted from a decided technical methods and tools focus to leadership, strategy, people and systems focus. I still enjoy teaching, coaching and consulting but I also take great pride in developing my direct reports and helping them succeed to leadership positions.

Building a network of friends and colleagues in my chosen profession is an important contributor to my satisfaction and engagement. I take great pride in my membership with ASQ (Fellow, Past chair ASQ Statistics Division, Chair-elect MNASQ), my participation with the MN Council for Quality (MN Baldrige Evaluator), and the enduring friendships I have cultivated in Quality worldwide.

I believe that raising the voice of Quality to build employee engagement requires a commitment to enhancing the "Total Customer Experience"; continuous improvement of business processes; and, employee recognition and development.