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Making sense of employee satisfaction measurement

New research unveils that the use of employee satisfaction measures to manage employee alignment and morale does not per se support the employee perspective and is therefore not as straightforward as previously suggested.

New research co-authored by Lukas Goretzki and Marek Reuter at the SSE Department of Accounting invites a more critical reflection on employee satisfaction measurement as a means to manage employee morale. The measurement of employee satisfaction has assumed a status as a taken-for-granted representation of an organization’s “social bottom-line”. This study, however, highlights how the organizational role of an employee satisfaction measurement system is not determined a priori by its intended purpose or inscribed structural features, but subject to actors' sensemaking.

Based on a qualitative case study investigating the application of a new employee satisfaction measurement system in a company undergoing a post-merger integration, this study provides an in-depth perspective that illuminates how different groups of actors can interpret and enact the means and ends of employee satisfaction measures in various and at times conflicting ways.

This research demonstrates how employee satisfaction measurement systems can be subject to actors’ incongruent sensemaking, eventually leading to tensions within the organization. More specifically, it illustrates how actors might interpret employee satisfaction measurement as a form of non-traditional results control, as an empowerment tool, or a merely ceremonial practice with little or no significance. The study furthermore shows how for employees who interpret employee satisfaction measures as empowerment tools, the application of such systems is prone to elicit members' hopes, desires, and expectations vis-à-vis management relating to their ‘voice’ within the organization. The realization that an employee satisfaction measurement system does not trigger the hoped-for discussions among managers about employee wellbeing might spur dissolution and frustration amongst employees. The study in this sense cautions us that one should be careful assuming that both subordinates and superiors or even different (groups of) subordinates engage with an employee satisfaction measurement system with similar motives in mind.

Access the research article here



Involved SSE Researchers:

Lukas Goretzki (lukas.goretzki@hhs.se)

Department of Accounting, Stockholm School of Economics


Marek Reuter (marek.reuter@hhs.se )

Department of Accounting, Stockholm School of Economics


Dept. of Accounting Accounting Management Article Paper Research