Job Satisfaction In The U.S. Reaches 20-Year High

Job satisfaction among U.S. workers has reached its highest level in more than two decades. A survey conducted by The Conference Board found that approximately 54 percent of U.S. workers are satisfied with their employment, up by almost three percent from the prior year, marking a near-record increase in the survey’s history.

An improved labor market has played the main role in boosting job satisfaction, which has risen in each of the past eight years. Workers also report being much more at ease about their job security and Millennials have experienced a surge in confidence regarding their wages.

The Conference Board notes, however, that its results include some cautionary signs for management as well. Amid a strong job market where individuals can more easily find new work, survey participants gave weak marks to the most important driver of job satisfaction—their current position’s potential for future growth. In addition, more than 60 percent feel dissatisfied with their organization’s recognition practices, performance review process and communication channels. Also noteworthy, men generally feel better than women about multiple financial components of their work, including wages and bonus plans.

The survey gauged the job satisfaction of approximately 2,000 workers throughout the U.S., collectively representing a snapshot of the nation’s workforce. Highlights of the study include:

  • Survey participants ranked 23 components influencing satisfaction. Job security saw the biggest improvement, climbing by five percent from the prior year.
  • Satisfaction regarding wages rose 9.8 percent among those age 35 and under. However, workers in their peak earning years—between 33 and 54—remain the most satisfied.
  • Among the various aspects of job satisfaction, workers are most pleased with their commute to work, followed by the people at work, interest in work, physical environment, job security and their supervisor.
  • Workers are least satisfied with their bonus plan, followed by promotion policy, performance review process, educational/job training programs, recognition/acknowledgement and communication channels.

“In today’s strong jobs market, people are quitting their current positions at the fastest pace in over two decades,” says Gad Levanon, Ph.D., an author of the report and The Conference Board’s chief economist for North America. “It’s one of the many signs that illustrate improved opportunities for workers. They now have more leverage when it comes to increasing their paychecks and finding jobs that better align with their interests and skills.”

Once survey participants ranked how content they are with various aspects of their jobs, The Conference Board analyzed the extent to which each aspect influences their satisfaction, looking for which aspects are the strongest drivers with the most weight and pull. It found that the potential for future growth matters most. Other major job influencers include communication channels, recognition/acknowledgement, interest in work and the performance review process. Also, money can’t buy satisfaction as wages rank only 10th out of 23 drivers of satisfaction. The Conference Board notes that this finding agrees with the larger body of academic and corporate literature that states employees are not motivated purely by salary. And despite reports about workers experiencing more stressful, sometimes longer commutes, travel to and from work generally plays a minimal role in influencing overall job satisfaction. Commutes to work leading the way among areas in which workers are most satisfied may be because it was a known choice when they were hired.

“Our research reveals that workers place the biggest premium on a job’s potential for future growth, but at the moment 60 percent of U.S. workers feel dissatisfied with this component,” says Robin Erickson, Ph.D., an author of the report and a principal researcher at The Conference Board. “To help change course—and ultimately retain their employees so they gain an edge in this tight labor market—organizations should make a greater commitment to total talent mobility, a holistic approach to both internal and global mobility.”

 

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