Survey: Respect at Work Boosts Job Satisfaction

Intangible quality outweighs take-home compensation, benefits for employee happiness

By Kathy Gurchiek Apr 18, 2016
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ORLANDO, Fla.—Respectful treatment of all employees at all levels is the most important factor contributing to employee job satisfaction, according to the SHRM Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement survey. The annual survey results were released April 18 during the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) Talent Management Conference & Exposition.

Other factors employees ranked as being very important to their job satisfaction included, in order of importance:

  • Overall compensation and pay. This has ranked among the top five contributors in SHRM’s survey since 2002.
  • Overall benefits. This has ranked among the top five contributors nearly every year since 2002.
  • Job security. This has ranked among the top five contributors since 2002. After the Great Recession began in 2007, job security was the No. 1 factor in job satisfaction from 2008-11.
  • Opportunities to use skills and abilities and trust between employees and senior management tied for fifth place among the top contributors to job satisfaction.

While compensation and pay, benefits, and job security “undeniably” shape employee job satisfaction, the report noted, “the extent of their importance fluctuates as a result of external factors such as changing economic conditions.”

2016 Talent Management Conference & Exposition
2016 SHRM Talent Management Conference

In 2015, employees’ overall satisfaction level with their current job—at 88 percent—was the highest satisfaction level seen on the SHRM survey in the last 10 years. Among that percentage, 37 percent indicated they were “very satisfied” and 51 percent “somewhat satisfied” with their jobs.

The satisfaction level has been trending upward since 2013, according to SHRM. In its report, though, it advised employers that, as the employment scene improves and employees have more opportunities to find employment elsewhere, “organizations may need to tailor their retention and recruitment strategies around multiple elements, creating a total rewards program,” rather than relying only on a robust compensation and benefits program, for example.

Showing appreciation for employees’ time and efforts creates a bond, and part of that respectful treatment includes showing appreciation for employees’ ideas. Nearly half of employees surveyed ranked their immediate supervisor’s respect for their ideas as “very important” to job satisfaction.

One way to foster this appreciation is through constant feedback and communication that emphasizes respect and collaboration with employees at all levels of the organization, SHRM advised in its report.

Employee Engagement

For more than three-fourths of the 600 employees surveyed, their satisfaction with their relationships with co-workers, the opportunity to use their skills and abilities, and their satisfaction with the meaningfulness of their job were the top conditions for their engagement.

There are low-cost business practices that organizations can incorporate to foster employee engagement, SHRM suggested in its report. For example, 70 percent of employees ranked being empowered to take action at work when a problem or opportunity arose as an important element of their engagement.

Additionally, repetitive tasks can lead to boredom and worker disengagement; providing stretch goals and implementing business practices such as job rotation and expansion can enrich the organization while boosting engagement levels, the report noted.

Other ways organizations can promote engagement: providing more feedback and recognition, offering employees the flexibility and autonomy to decide how and when they complete goals, and emphasizing how employees’ work supports the organization’s goals.

Generational Differences

SHRM found little difference among generations as to what factors contributed to job satisfaction and engagement—Baby Boomers, members of Generation X and Millennials all highly value overall benefits, for example. However, there were a few differences. One of the most notable was that Millennials placed greater importance on the following career development factors as job satisfaction contributors, compared with Baby Boomers: job-specific training, career development opportunities and career advancement opportunities. Organizations can conduct their own surveys of their employees to find out what is most valued, which can then help employers tailor their benefits and policies to increase worker satisfaction.

The SHRM survey findings are based on a survey conducted in November and December 2015 among U.S. employees with the aim of identifying factors that influence employee satisfaction and engagement.

The survey assessed 43 aspects of employee job satisfaction and 37 aspects of employee engagement.

The aspects of job satisfaction and engagement were categorized into eight groupings: career development, compensation, benefits, employee relationships with management, work environment, conditions for engagement, engagement opinions and engagement behaviors.

Kathy Gurchiek is the associate editor at HR News. Follow her @SHRMwriter.

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