The Nine Dimensions of Employee Motivation & Satisfaction

Instructor: Scott Tuning

Scott has been a faculty member in higher education for over 10 years. He holds an MBA in Management, an MA in counseling, and an M.Div. in Academic Biblical Studies.

High-quality research consistently indicates that employees base their feelings about work on essentially nine dimensions. This lesson lists these dimensions and discusses how they can be adjusted to improve satisfaction.

Turnover Matters

Turnover is what happens when employees currently filling a job role exit the organization for any reason. Turnover is costly in a variety of ways, but employers who address the nine dimensions of employee satisfaction will find that their turnover rates fall when satisfaction is high.

The Nine Dimensions

Work Content

The first dimension, work content, speaks to an employee's attitude toward their specific job duties and tasks within the organization. Dissatisfaction occurs when an employee's job duties are not commensurate with their experience or talent. To illustrate this concept, imagine a physician who is in a job role that focuses exclusively on providing patients vaccines. The physician is likely to be quite dissatisfied in the position because the role makes only minimal use of their extensive qualifications. This dynamic exists in nearly all job roles.


The dimension of payment refers to an employee's motivation relative to their compensation. It's important to differentiate compensation from wages and benefits. Compensation is essentially the sum total of all the remuneration an employee receives in consideration of their work. Wages are the money actually paid to the employee for their services, while benefits are the things provided to them through a third-party, such as health insurance, retirement plans, or other non-cash perks.

Research indicates that pay is not usually the primary driver of motivation or satisfaction.

Although it may seem obvious, compensation is actually rarely the primary or most significant source of satisfaction and motivation. Consider a registered nurse who teaches at a university rather than practicing in the field. Licensed professionals, like nurses who teach in educational institutions, are generally paid far less than what they would make if employed directly in their field. However, the rewarding nature of teaching often trumps the compensation package.


In contrast to employee attitudes toward compensation, the third dimension relating to upward mobility is very influential in an employee's attitude toward their job. Studies conducted in numerous developed nations indicate that a clear path to move up in the organization is rated much higher than compensation.

A consistent struggle for an organization is to provide people upward mobility when no promotional path is obvious. To illustrate this, let's compare two occupations. In the case of an architect or accountant, a promotional path is quite obvious. Employees in these professions generally join a partnership on the lowest level but with a clear path to becoming a full partner.

In contrast, consider a welder at an auto shop. No matter how good the welder is at his or her job, there is not a lot of opportunity to be promoted into a different role. For this reason, many organizations use a career ladder which allows employees to move up in their current roles without requiring them to move into management positions.


Like promotion, recognition is often rated as a more significant motivator than compensation. In fact, many employees find satisfaction in recognition even if it does not come in the form of a monetary reward. Simply put, many employees are motivated by the simple fact that the people around them are cognizant of their good work.

Even non-monetary recognition (like a certificate) is a substantial boost to motivation and satisfaction.

Working Conditions

Working conditions are the internal relationships between employees and their colleagues in the workplace. This is a fairly significant consideration; research has confirmed that, while positive working conditions rarely serve as a primary motivator to stay with a single employer, bad interpersonal relationships are a powerful factor to dissatisfaction and possibly departure from the organization.


Benefits, the sixth dimension, were briefly mentioned in the second dimension of payment. Satisfaction with benefits is an especially important consideration for employers who pay less than many of their competitors. To illustrate this, consider government employment. Employees working in government offices do not typically have the highest wages in the industry. However, many government jobs offer excellent retirement benefits, health insurance choices, and other forms of compensation. In these cases, benefits are utilized as a tool to keep employees stable and satisfied even when they might receive higher wages with a different employer.

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