“The Wheel” and the 5 Ps of Job Satisfaction

We’re going to have some summer interns in my group so I have been spending some time thinking about what makes people happy at work. A long time ago I had a really good co-worker who gave me a good little tool to think about what makes people happy at work. My co-worker, who shall remain nameless only because he’s too shy to take credit, introduced me to what he called “the wheel” and the 5 Ps of job satisfaction.

So how does it work? It’s pretty simple, actually. The basic theory is that there are 5 things that make career-oriented people happy at work and everyone has different weightings for the 5 factors. I’ll list the 5 factors out below in no particular order:

Pay – Does your compensation, including benefits, bonuses, and stock, feel fair to you?
Performance – Do you feel like you are doing a good job at work and making meaningful contributions?
Projects – Do you like the projects you’re working on?
People – Do you like your co-workers? Do you enjoy working with them?
Prospects – Do you see a future for yourself with the organization or have you topped out?

The next step is to draw a circle and allocate a portion of the pie to how important, on a relative basis, each of the 5 Ps is to you when it comes to job satisfaction. Are you a money person? Then allocate a larger share of the pie to Pay. All about the people? Allocate more of the pie toward people. The purpose of dividing the pie is to force rank what matters to you about work into a zero-sum but easy to visualize image. Once you fill out “the wheel” you’ll have a very handy visualization of what you care about at work. Once you finish it, stick it in a drawer for a quarter. At the end of the quarter, think about how you feel about your job and then see if you can map your own satisfaction against the wheel. For example, if project selection matters a lot to you and you have bad projects, chances are you’re unhappy at work. Alternatively, if you’re a people person and you really like the people you work with, you can tolerate a lot of other unpleasantness at work.

I think the wheel is a helpful construct for helping people figure out what makes them happy at work and is a good benchmark to consult when things are/aren’t going well. If you have any other tools or techniques you like, let me know in the comments — I’m looking for some good tools to use for our interns and newbies.

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