Job Satisfaction Drivers Depend on Demographics

By Jennifer Schramm Apr 1, 2014
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April 2014 CoverHappy, engaged employees are every HR professional’s dream, but when it comes to what makes people feel content at work, it appears to be different strokes for different folks. The factors driving job satisfaction differ based on an employee’s gender and age, according to the Society for Human Resource Management’s (SHRM) latest Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement survey report, which is scheduled for release in early 2014.

Overall, the survey found that 81 percent of employees reported being satisfied with their jobs in 2013—the same percentage as in 2012. Respondents rated compensation/pay as the top factor that led to their job satisfaction.

The last time employees ranked pay as the top driver was in 2007. In subsequent survey data from 2008 through 2011, job security had been first on employees’ list. The change in priorities is no surprise given the turmoil of the recession and its aftermath, when many people lost their jobs or witnessed family members, friends or colleagues lose theirs. After years of stagnant wage growth, employees appear to be refocusing on their pay.

Top Drivers of Job Satisfaction, by Gender

Women Men
Compensation/pay Opportunity to use skills/abilities
Job security Job security
Relationship with immediate supervisor Compensation/pay
Opportunity to use skills/abilities Organization’s financial stability

However, when the survey results were broken down by gender, pay was the primary satisfaction driver for women only. Sixty-five percent said it was very important to their job satisfaction, compared with 56 percent of men. In fact, men ranked pay their third most important factor overall.

For men, the top driver was the opportunity to use their skills and abilities, with 59 percent ranking that highly. While the same percentage of women identified that factor as very important, it was only fourth on their list because women rated more factors as very important overall. For men and women, job security was the second most important driver of job satisfaction—at 57 percent and 61 percent, respectively.

Professional relationships were also critical for both genders. Sixty percent of women and 49 percent of men ranked their relationship with their immediate supervisor as very important to job satisfaction.

The results differed among various age groups, as well. Sixty-seven percent of the Veterans generation (the oldest in the workforce) rated compensation/pay as an important factor of job satisfaction. Millennials, who are just embarking on their working lives, shared that focus, but to a lesser degree: 58 percent identified it as a key driver of job satisfaction. Meanwhile, it ranked as the second most important driver of job satisfaction for Generation X employees (59 percent) and Baby Boomers (62 percent). Job security and the opportunity to use skills and experience topped the list for Generation X (67 percent) and Boomers (63 percent), respectively.

Engagement has become a hot topic for HR. The SHRM survey offers HR professionals key insights into how to foster engagement, job satisfaction and a positive culture at work.


Jennifer Schramm is manager of the Workforce Trends program at SHRM.

Web Extras

SHRM web page: Workplace Trends and Forecasting home page

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