Job Satisfaction Rates Hit Highest Mark In a Decade

May 12, 2016 – More U.S. workers are satisfied with their jobs than at any time since 2005, according to new report issued by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

‘The Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey’ found that 88 percent of employees said they were satisfied overall with their job, with 37 percent reporting they were very satisfied and 51 percent reporting they were somewhat satisfied. This percentage marks the highest level of satisfaction over the last 10 years.

“What a difference a few years — and an improved economy — make in how workers view their jobs,” said Evren Esen, director of SHRM’s survey programs and author of the report.

Since 2013, the percentage of satisfied employees has been trending upwards. Nevertheless, it has been evident that a larger portion of employees are satisfied only to a certain extent, signaling the possibility for improvement. Similar attitudes were found with satisfaction toward employers, with 45 percent indicating they were somewhat satisfied and 40 percent indicating they were very satisfied with their organization.


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Not surprisingly, as the economy has remained relatively stable over the last couple of years, organizations may have found themselves being able to reintroduce incentives and perks that had been reduced or eliminated as a result of the Great Recession. Conversely, employees have more flexibility to seek out employment opportunities that better fit their needs rather than remaining in a position for its job security. Forty-five percent of employees reported that they would be likely or very likely to look for other jobs outside their current organization within the next year.

Not Just About Pay

Respectful treatment of all employees at all levels was rated as very important by 67 percent of employees, making it the top contributor to overall employee job satisfaction for the second year in a row. Its second consecutive appearance at the top of the job satisfaction contributors list supports the theory that although employees do place importance on financial features such as pay and benefits, they consider culture and connection to be more important.

At 63 percent, overall compensation / pay was the second most important contributor to job satisfaction, jumping from its previous fourth position. This has held a spot within the leading five job satisfaction contributors since 2002, when SHRM first began administering its job satisfaction survey.

Overall benefits were the third most important job satisfaction contributor, with 60 percent of employees rating it as very important. Similar to compensation / pay, benefits have also been among the top five contributors to job satisfaction since in 2002, with the exception of 2012.

Moving from the fifth position to fourth was job security, with 58 percent of employees citing it as very important to their job satisfaction; this aspect has moved around the five principal job satisfaction influencers since 2002.

Impacting Retention

“As the economy stabilized after the recession, employers began to focus again on factors that impact retention and employees found flexibility to seek out more compatible positions if they were ready to move on to new challenges,” Ms. Esen said. “The result: workers are happy with their jobs.”

“Employees consider culture and connection to be of utmost importance,” Ms. Esen added. Feeling appreciated for their time and efforts creates an obvious and lasting bond between employees, management and their organization, she surmised.

What do these findings mean for organizations? The SHRM report says this:

Employees still value culture, but compensation is increasing in importance. There is some evidence that after an extended period of wage stagnation, compensation is starting to improve for more workers. But this trend is not widespread and perhaps explains why more employees have ranked overall compensation / pay as very important for determining job satisfaction. HR professionals’ recruitment and retention strategies should be balanced with competitive compensation and a workplace culture that promotes respect.

Workers’ priorities are often similar across generations, but strategies should not reflect a one-size-fits-all approach. In what has become a challenging time for managing talent of all levels, HR professionals are frequently leveraging their organizations’ benefits as a means of recruiting and retaining high-performing employees. The results from this survey show that Millennials, members of Generation X and Baby Boomers all place a high level of importance on overall benefits when determining job satisfaction. However, they value a few other aspects of their jobs differently. Millennials (88 percent) placed greater importance on career development opportunities than Baby Boomers did (76 percent). As the proportions of Millennial and Baby Boomer workers in the labor force shift in the future, HR professionals should be aware of different factors that engage employees of all generations.

Employees want to feel valued and included. Employers should encourage constant communication and feedback among employees at all levels of the organization. Workers of all career levels and generations place high value on compensation- and benefit-related factors when determining job satisfaction, but non financial factors also weigh heavily in employees’ satisfaction with their careers. At least half of respondents to this survey found a variety of these factors to be very important, including trust between employees and senior management, relationship with immediate supervisor, and feeling safe in the work environment. By fostering a workplace environment that emphasizes communication, respect for others and collaboration among workers at all levels, HR professionals can expect higher levels of engagement from their employees.

With compensation still valued highly among employees, many feel the best way to gain a higher salary is ultimately through a new job.

More than half of employees globally (56 percent) believe they must switch companies in order to make a meaningful change in their compensation, according a study released by Glassdoor.

In addition, multiple reports have found that employees are willing to switch jobs in the coming months in order to achieve higher pay.

According to a study released by Penna48 percent of people claimed the main reason for a job change was that they were searching for better pay and benefits. Of those, the survey found that employees aged 18 to 24 were the most likely to be planning a move this year, while 25 percent of those aged 25 to 34 are considering leaving their posts.

And with hiring remaining competitive, companies themselves may be feeling increased pressure to stay competitive with compensation.

A recent study by CareerBuilder revealed that while 25 percent of employers anticipate no change in salary levels in the second quarter compared to the same period last year, 25 percent expect to boost salaries by at least five percent. Forty-four percent anticipate there will be an increase of four percent or less while two percent expect a decrease and four percent are undecided.

From the employee perspective, workers are confident looking ahead when it comes to the job market, job security and pay raises, according to Glassdoor’s first quarter ‘Employment Confidence Survey.’ Nearly half (46 percent) of U.S. employees expect a pay raise or cost-of-living increase in the next 12 months.

According to the Korn Ferry Hay Group ‘2016 Salary Forecast study,’ workers are expected to see wage increases of 2.5 percent, the highest in three years.

“This year’s global salary forecast shows that for the majority of countries real wage increases in 2016 are set to be the highest in three years,” said Philip Spriet, global managing director for productized services at Hay Group. “Differing macro-economic conditions means there are stark variations globally, but overall decent pay increases, coupled with extremely low (and in some cases, zero) inflation, mean that the outlook is positive for workers.”

Contributed by Scott A. Scanlon, Editor-in-Chief, Hunt Scanlon Media

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