Job Satisfaction High, but Employees Not Content with Pay or Workplace Trust Level

SHRM survey finds differences between men and women, executives and the rank-and-file

By Dana Wilkie Apr 24, 2017
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​CHICAGO—Nearly 9 in 10 employees say they're satisfied overall with their jobs, with workers noting that respectful treatment of employees—at all levels—is the leading contributor to satisfaction, according to the Society for Human Resource Management's (SHRM's) Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey.

Women—more than men—say respectful treatment at work is a very important component of job satisfaction. Millennials—more than members of Generation X—say they are very satisfied with the level of respect at work. Employees who aren't in management are far less likely than executives to be satisfied with the respect shown to all workers.

"Fairness and transparency are significant themes that repeatedly appeared throughout the top job satisfaction contributors and employee engagement," said Evren Esen, SHRM director of workforce analytics. "This indicates the importance of these concepts when creating a workplace culture that thrives and inspires continuous success."

The survey, released April 24, polled 600 randomly selected U.S. employees in December 2016. The survey has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.5 percentage points.

[SHRM members-only toolkit: Developing and Sustaining Employee Engagement]

Eighty-nine percent of employees said they were satisfied overall with their jobs (38 percent reported being very satisfied and 51 percent somewhat satisfied).

SHRM has observed similar levels of employee job satisfaction in recent years: In its 2014 survey, it found that a combined 86 percent of respondents were satisfied at work; in 2015, it found that a combined 88 percent were.

Respect in the Workplace

For the third year in a row, the largest percentage of respondents (65 percent) said that respectful treatment of employees at all levels was a very important contributor to their job satisfaction.

However, there were clear differences among workers when it came to this aspect:

Female employees (72 percent) were more likely to report this as a very important contributor to job satisfaction than male employees (57 percent) were.

A greater proportion of Millennials (45 percent) were very satisfied with this aspect compared with members of Generation X (31 percent).

Individual contributors (31 percent) were less likely to be very satisfied with the level of respect shown to all employees compared with executives (52 percent).

Other top contributors to job satisfaction were compensation/pay, the trust between employees and senior management, job security, and opportunities to use skills and abilities.

However, the survey found a significant gap when it came to some of the factors that workers cited as being important to their satisfaction—and their actual experiences with their employer. 

For instance, when it comes to compensation, there was a 35-percentage-point discrepancy between those who believed it was important for job satisfaction, and those who were actually satisfied with their compensation.

There was also a 28-percentage-point gap between those who said it was important to have trust between employees and senior managers, and those who were content with the level of trust between the two.

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