Recruiting News

More Workers Satisfied with Their Jobs

The struggle to find qualified candidates isn’t likely to get easier anytime soon. That’s the message from a new study.

Source: Todd Warnock / Getty

Job satisfaction improved for the sixth year in a row, according to a survey and related report from The Conference Board, a global, independent business membership and research association. For the first time since 2005, job satisfaction surpassed the 50 percent mark, meaning more than half of all U.S. workers are satisfied with their jobs.

Workers More Confident

The Conference Board Job Satisfaction survey is an annual barometer of satisfaction from the perspective of the U.S. worker. Survey results are based on workers’ perceptions of their current role and workplace environment.

The increase in job satisfaction is largely due to the improvement in the labor market in recent years.

“Workers are benefiting from historically low layoff rates, which adds to a greater sense of job security,” said Michelle Kan, associate director, knowledge organization at The Conference Board, and a coauthor of the survey report. “Employees have more opportunities at other companies and more confidence in pursuing those opportunities. And, as it becomes harder to find qualified workers and retain existing ones, employers are gradually accelerating wage growth and improving other job features.”

“The U.S. labor market will likely remain tight for most of the next 15 years,” said Gad Levanon, chief economist, North America at The Conference Board, and a coauthor of the survey report. “With the massive retirement of baby boomers continuing through 2030, we expect the U.S. labor market will be quite tight during that period, contributing to higher job satisfaction levels in the coming years.”

Still Not the Good Old Days

However, at least for the foreseeable future, job satisfaction is unlikely to reach the levels of two or three decades ago. The U.S. labor market is very different from what it was 30 years ago.

“Some of the structural trends in the U.S. labor market that led to lower job satisfaction in recent decades, such as a shift to outsourcing low-skill jobs, are unlikely to reverse,” said Levanon. “A stronger labor market can only take us so far.”

Several trends will continue to moderate satisfaction levels: the emphasis on maximizing shareholder value, declining unionization, outsourcing (both domestic and foreign), and market concentration.

Components that Contribute

In addition to overall job satisfaction, the report looks at 23 components that contribute to job satisfaction, including wages, job security, and health plans.

The report finds that workers are most satisfied with people at work (60.5 percent), their commute (59.2 percent), interest in work (58.4 percent), their supervisor (57.3 percent), and the physical work environment (56.1 percent).

The five components that U.S .workers are least satisfied with include promotion policies (25.4 percent), bonus plans (25.5 percent), educational/job training programs (30.8 percent), the performance review process (31.2 percent), and recognition/acknowledgement (34.3 percent).

The Conference Board notes that the bottom five components are each related to evaluating employee performance and incentives for performance, including whether employees can expect to advance in their company. Low satisfaction with these components suggests these are areas for improvement. Given weak U.S. productivity growth, companies should consider paying greater attention to incentive structures to motivate and improve worker productivity.