January 09, 2020
SHRM’s annual Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey identifies factors that influence employee satisfaction, provides insights on employee preferences, and highlights potential areas for organizational action.20
38% of U.S. employees reported they are very satisfied with their current job and a majority (51%) stated they were somewhat satisfied, marking the highest level of satisfaction in the last 10 years
40% of U.S. employees indicated they were likely or very likely to look for jobs outside of their current organization within the next year
Top Job Satisfaction Contributors
Respectful treatment of all employees at all levels was a very important contributor to job satisfaction for the most respondents—65%. Trust between employees and senior management and feeling safe in your work place both rose in importance by 6% in from 2015 to 2016. While benefits and relationship with immediate supervisor are still top contributors to job satisfaction, less respondents found them very important to job satisfaction in 2016. Benefits went from 60% in 2015 to 56% in 2016; supervisor relationship went from 53% to 50%. 20
Differences in Importance and Satisfaction
The blue markers in the chart below indicate the percent of employees who are very satisfied with top job satisfaction contributors. Compensation has the largest discrepancy between importance to employees and satisfaction. The other top contributors with the most room for improvement: trust between employees and senior management, respectful treatment of all employees at all levels, benefits and job security.20
Popular Job Satisfaction Theories
Job satisfaction has been recognized as a business priority since the beginning of the 20th century. Its research and theories, which overlap with theories explaining motivation, can help change agents better understand the employee experience, identify factors impacting job satisfaction, and develop potential solutions for positive change. Oftentimes, real world situations call for the application of more than one theory.
Maslow’s Needs Hierarchy
Key Concept: A hierarchy of needs motivates human behavior; the five-tier model is divided into deficiency needs (physiological, safety, love/belonging and esteem) and the top level known as growth or being needs (self-actualization).
Put It In Action:
- Offer supports for physical and emotional health
- Encourage a sense of physical and psychological safety and security
- Provide opportunities to socialize and build comradery
- Offer respect, recognize accomplishments, and provide an environment to learn
- Communicate how one’s work is tied to organization’s mission
- Understand employees’ personal and professional goals and support their success
Herzberg’s Two Factor Theory
Key Concept: Factors causing job satisfaction (motivators) are different from those causing job dissatisfaction (dissatisfiers-also referred to as hygiene factors).
Put It In Action:
- Eliminate factors that cause dissatisfaction
- Fix poor and obstructive company policies
- Create and support a culture of respect and inclusion for all employees
- Ensure wages are competitive and fair
- Create conditions for job satisfaction
- Provide opportunities for achievement
- Recognize and reward contributions
- Give employees appropriate responsibility and autonomy
- Provide opportunities for career development and advancement
McClelland’s Motivation Theory
Key Concept: People possess three motivational needs (achievement, power and affiliation) and exhibit a combination of these characteristics; some employees have a strong bias towards a particular motivational need(s).
- Achievement. Strives to succeed. Desires more feedback and job advancement.
- Power. Desires to lead and for their ideas to prevail. Gets things done to make an impact.
- Affiliation. Desires to teach and coach. Values interaction. Focused on accomplishing group goals.
Put It In Action:
Understand the combination or rank of the three motivational needs for each employee
- High need for achievement: Give these individuals challenging projects with reachable goals; frequent feedback may be a more important motivator than money
- High need for affiliation: Create a cooperative environment and provide opportunities to collaborate and work with others
- High need for power: Give opportunities to lead; status and recognition are important
Job Design (or Characteristics) Model
Key Concept: Hackman and Oldman identified five core job dimensions that prompt three psychological states which lead to personal and work-related outcomes, including job satisfaction. If any three psychological states are not present, outcomes will be weakened. The theory also emphasizes that internal motivation is the most important outcome variable.
- 1 | Knowledge & skill
- 2 | Growth need strength
- 2 | Context satisfaction
Put It In Action
- Add variety and challenge through stretch assignments and/or job rotations
- Enable job crafting by encouraging employees to “customize their jobs to better fit their motives, strengths and passions”24
- Change the organizational structure and procedures so employees have more power
- Delegate responsibility and give autonomy
- Share information that affects one’s work
- Assign work to teams, not individuals
- Set high, attainable goals and give feedback
- Explain how employees’ role fits into the big picture and success of the company
Job Crafting for Improved Satisfaction
Job crafting, which elaborates on the job design model, is the process of reframing and altering work to incorporate one’s strengths and passions. Job crafting is motivated by a need or desire to enhance the meaning of work, increase control, or fulfill a passion.
Altering the number, type or nature of tasks (e.g., taking on additional tasks), interactions with others (e.g., building relationships) and cognitive perception of work (e.g., aligning work with passions) are job crafting techniques. The outcomes of job crafting include changes to one’s work identity, positive experiences (e.g., achievement), resilience, personal growth, engagement and job satisfaction. Leaders should also beware of and mitigate potential unintended negative outcomes of job crafting, such as additional stress.25
Other Job Satisfaction Theories to Explore...
Theories X & Y
A manager’s perception of people influences their leadership style. Theory X assumes people don’t want to work, leading to an authoritarian style. Theory Y assumes people are inherently happy to work but have different needs, leading to a participative management style. Theory Y highlights the motivating role of job satisfaction and encourages more autonomy and trust in the workplace.26
Employees try to maintain a balance between what they give an organization and what they receive from the organization. Satisfaction is based on how this input/output ratio compares to those around them. When an employee perceives there is a balance of what they give to the organization and what they get, and this ratio is similar to others, the employee is likely to be very satisfied.27
This theory simplifies and broadens Maslow’s hierarchy into three needs—existence (physiological and safety needs); relatedness (social needs); and growth (self-development and advancement). An individual can work on growth needs while existence or relatedness needs remain unsatisfied. Also, if a need is not being met, an individual will try to increase satisfaction with another need.28
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