Employee Satisfaction: Is it as BAD as you think?

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It seems like a new employee job satisfaction survey is released every week.  The results of these often gloomy surveys are then blogged about, tweeted, and posted on social sites such as Linkedin.  I’ll admit that I’ve often blogged about such surveys and offered my opinion on how the results affected products our company offers to hiring managers and recruiters.  Yesterday while reading the results of yet another survey I paused as the results seem to contradict what I had been reading for the past year.  This made me re-consider the validity of the data in these surveys.  Here’s why I’m scratching my head. 

In January 2010 CNNMoney.com reported on a survey of 5,000 households conducted by the Conference Board.  This survey indicated that only 45% were satisfied in their jobs, the lowest level ever recorded since they began tracking employee satisfaction in 1987. 

In March 2011 MetLife released a study that indicated employee morale was at a three year low.  Now morale isn’t exactly the same as employee job satisfaction but I think we can make a connection between low morale and low satisfaction. 

In April 2011 consulting firm Blessing White’s survey of 11,000 employees revealed that only a third were actively engaged at work.  Again, we can probably make a connection between low engagement and low job satisfaction.  While these three studies don’t report on exactly the same variable, what we can glean from low satisfaction, low morale, and low engagement is that workers are not happy. 

In May 2011 the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index revealed that, despite job satisfaction being lower now than in 2008, still 87.5% of U.S. workers were satisfied in their jobs.  A contradictory data point? 

Finally a survey conducted by SHRM as recently as January 2012 revealed that 83% of employees were satisfied in their jobs even though only 43% were happy with their career development and opportunities. 

So on one side we have three surveys suggesting that employee satisfaction is at a 22 year low, that employee morale is at a three year low, and that only one in three employees are actively engaged at work.  But then we have two surveys revealing that job satisfaction isn’t below 50% but rather  hovers somewhere between 83% and 87%.    The SHRM study is particularly perplexing as it indicates high satisfaction but only 43% of employees were satisfied with their career development.  Can these seemingly contradictory results all be correct? 

What can we take from this conflicting data?  Well not all surveys are created equal and many results are skewed by the age of the employee, their tenure with the company and probably their career level.  While some surveys paint a gloomier picture than others one thing among all these surveys remains constant and that is employee satisfaction is declining despite some results showing that it is still very high.  Don’t ignore this sobering fact.  Your employees, even the ones actively disengaged, are your company’s most valuable commodity.   

For tips on how to boost your employee morale and increase employee retention, please visit one of my previous posts.   

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