Want Higher Performing Co-Op Employees?

Here’s The Key.

The desire to enhance employee job performance and job satisfaction is a hallmark of good co-op leadership. However, employee life satisfaction is often overlooked by leaders who fail to recognize how much an employee’s overall view of life affects his/her performance on the job.

Below, we address the components of employee life satisfaction, how those components can be improved through effective co-op leadership, and how life satisfaction can affect your employees’ performance at work.

Key Points:


Many co-op leaders forget the critical importance of balancing the competing demands of life, both for themselves and their employees. Quality of work life, quality of life outside work, and self-esteem are key factors affecting life satisfaction. And, life satisfaction can have major effects on the performance of employees. As the co-op industry matures and becomes more complex, it is more important now than ever that employee life satisfaction be considered by co-op leaders. Research from Portland State University shows that a focus on employee life satisfaction can yield superior performance, and that life satisfaction is complex.

Extensive research has been conducted over the past two decades exploring employee job satisfaction and its effects on performance at work. This research has shown clearly that more satisfied employees perform better at work. This is not surprising. What is surprising, however, is the extent to which the spillovers from both work and personal life affect performance on the job and satisfaction outside work. Perhaps it is a sign of our times that work life and non-work life are difficult to separate. As a result, business research is now turning attention to satisfaction that includes job satisfaction, but is more encompassing, namely life satisfaction.

Research by Erdogan and colleagues appearing in the Journal of Management in 2012 is a fascinating “study of studies”, or what the researchers refer to as a “meta analysis.” In their work, they examined almost 7,700 studies dealing with employee satisfaction, and they narrowed those down to a more manageable sample of just under 200 key ones. Their review of the vast body of knowledge on employee life satisfaction revealed some interesting results.

For starters, their research found that certain aspects of work can be either beneficial to, or detrimental to, life satisfaction. Work can satisfy our financial, interpersonal, and status-related needs. It can provide “mindful activities” that challenges us, give us meaning, and cause us to grow. 

But tensions at work and conflict between work and family can significantly reduce our quality of life. These components of work affect the quality of work life, personal/family life, and feelings of self-worth, all of which have been shown statistically to drive satisfaction with life in general, which itself then affects employee performance and organizational commitment.

In aggregating data from prior studies of thousands of working adults, Erdogan and colleagues found that the data strongly support the idea that satisfaction with life has tremendous spillover effects at work. 

The strongest correlation of all was between career satisfaction and life satisfaction. Career satisfaction refers to longer-term satisfaction with one’s work experiences and one’s optimism about career trajectory.

So, what does this mean for co-op leaders? It means that the most effective leaders will be those who focus on developing the “whole person” within their employees. If life satisfaction affects individual performance at work, then improving life satisfaction for employees has to be of paramount importance for leaders. 

A number of issues driving life satisfaction are within the control of management. As a result, co-op managers should:

This does not mean that co-op leaders must surrender to the fads of our times or the whims of the workforce. What it does mean, however, is that leadership must be mindful of the factors driving employees to strengthen their psychological bond to the organization and achieve lasting meaning through their work. People want to find deep personal meaning in their work, and they want their work to enhance their personal lives and vice versa. Helping employees find this deeper sense of satisfaction because of their relationship with the co-op can be the ultimate source of competitive advantage.

Many leading companies are realizing this and are designing their jobs and cultures to maximize employee life satisfaction. And they’re seeing outstanding results. The tech company Adobe Systems is among the leaders in this area, and their efforts at employee life satisfaction have led them to be listed on Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” for over a decade. What makes them unique? They provide flexible work schedules, work-from-home opportunities, matching of employees’ charitable contributions, a wide variety of professional development opportunities, and tuition reimbursements. They have a unique culture, but their success isn’t all about bringing a surfboard to work or having a bread machine in the office. It’s about allowing people to be expressive and pursue their dreams.

In short, to achieve the highest levels of employee performance, evidence shows that co-op leaders must focus on helping employees achieve higher levels of life satisfaction. Such satisfaction is driven by multiple aspects of their work, including work’s ability to fulfill interpersonal, financial, and status needs; challenge the mind; and provide opportunities to help others achieve their goals. 

How can your co-op adapt to meet the life satisfaction needs of its employees? Doing so could yield big results.