Most Employees Satisfied with Jobs but Fewer Happy with Career Development and Advancement

Dec 19, 2011

Most Employees Satisfied with Their Jobs but Fewer Happy with Career Development and Advancement

SHRM survey shows job security is the top concern of employees for the fourth year

Alexandria, Va., Dec. 19, 2011 — More than three-quarters of U.S. employees are satisfied overall with their jobs, but fewer than one-half of them are happy with opportunities for career development and advancement, according to the 2011 Job Satisfaction and Engagement Research Report released by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

The significance of the research results, according to Mark Schmit, SHRM’s vice president for research: “As we slowly come out of the recession, the war for talent will be back on. When that happens, there is the potential for turnover given the dissatisfaction that employees seem to have with the real or perceived lack of advancement opportunities.”

SHRM’s new research showed that 83 percent of U.S. employees reported overall satisfaction with their current jobs. Although declining slightly since 2009, the percent of satisfied employees hasn’t changed significantly in the last 10 years, Schmit noted. “In general, people find ways to be satisfied at work,” he said.

But only slightly more than 40 percent were satisfied with their career development and advancement opportunities.

For the first time since SHRM’s annual job satisfaction survey began almost 10 years ago, the research also examined employee engagement — how connected or committed employees are to their organization.

About seven out of 10 employees reported being moderately engaged in their work, determined to accomplish work goals and completely focused on work projects. They also reported putting extra effort into their work. At the same time, however, only about one-half of employees felt completely plugged in at work (52 percent) or enjoyed volunteering for activities beyond what the job requires (53 percent).

“Employees seem to be saying: I’m not getting training or opportunities for development, so why would I volunteer to do extra things to advance my career by helping out the organization,” Schmit said. “But it’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that has implications not only for employees but for HR professionals and business leaders who manage the talent in their organizations.”

The survey polled 600 randomly selected employees at small to large companies. The survey produced industry-specific data that is available in SHRM’s new employee job satisfaction and engagement survey service for employers, People Insight®.The survey also showed:

  • Job security remains the biggest driver of job satisfaction for the fourth year, with 63 percent of respondents saying it was very important to them. But only 28 percent of respondents were very satisfied with their job security. Women felt less satisfied with job security than men.
  • Employees also value communication with senior managers, but less than one-third of employees reported feeling very satisfied with that communication. “This is driven in part by economic conditions,” Schmit said. “If employers don’t have good news, it’s hard for them to be communicative with their employees.”
  • Employees were moderately engaged in 2011. Seventy percent frequently felt that they were putting all their effort into their work and were completely focused on work projects.

The survey report is available on SHRM Online at

Media: For more information about the survey or People Insight® or to schedule an interview, contact Kate Kennedy of SHRM Media Relations at 703-535-6260 and or Jennifer Hughes at 703-535-6072 or

Follow the Research Department on Twitter @SHRM_Research and SHRM Media Relations @SHRMPress.

About the Society for Human Resource Management
The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Representing more than 250,000 members in more than 140 countries, the Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China and India. Visit SHRM Online at and follow us on Twitter @SHRMPress.


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