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18 Critical Factors to Improve Employee Satisfaction and Engagement

Keys for Improving Employee Satisfaction and Engagement


Business Success
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Before you can improve employee satisfaction and employee engagement, you need to know what to improve. The annual Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) 2011 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey identifies the factors that are important in employee job satisfaction and employee engagement as perceived by employees.

The survey’s purpose is to assist employers to develop the right programs and practices when they seek to have an impact on these two factors that are critical to employee morale and motivation. Understanding employee preferences provides guidance for the knowledgeable allocation of resources.

The survey explored 35 aspects of employee job satisfaction, divided into four topic areas—career development, relationship with management, compensation and benefits, and work environment. Added in 2011, the survey also explored employee engagement.

Satisfaction Survey Results

According to this study, “83% of U.S. employees reported overall satisfaction with their current job, with 41% of employees indicating they were ‘very satisfied’ and 42% ‘somewhat satisfied.’ Despite this high percentage of satisfied employees, the level of overall satisfaction has been trending downward since 2009.”

Employees in organizations that had fewer than 100 employees expressed satisfaction more frequently than employers in larger organizations with 2500 or more employees. SHRM found no significant differences in overall job satisfaction by employee industry, job tenure, race or gender.

Engagement, however, is a different story. The U.S. has a problem with employee engagement. In this year’s SHRM survey, employees were only moderately engaged (3.6) on a scale of 1 to 5, where 5 is highly engaged. Findings by the Gallup organization about disengaged employees were highlighted in the Wall Street Journal. Gallup found 19% of 1,000 people interviewed "actively disengaged" at work. These workers complain that they don't have the tools they need to do their jobs. They don't know what is expected of them. Their bosses don't listen to them.

Top 10 Contributors to Employee Job Satisfaction

Employees identified these factors as their top 10 most important contributors to their job satisfaction.

  • Job security: 63%, for the fourth consecutive year, as the top most important determinant of job satisfaction. (67% of employees are very satisfied or satisfied with their job security.)

  • Opportunities to Use Skills and Abilities: 62%. (74% are satisfied or very satisfied in their workplace.)

  • Organization’s Financial Stability: 55%. (63% are satisfied or very satisfied.)

  • Relationship with Immediate Supervisor: 55%. (73% are satisfied or very satisfied.)

  • Compensation: 54%. (61% are satisfied or very satisfied.)

  • Benefits: 53%. (65% are satisfied or very satisfied.)

  • Communication between Employees and Senior Management: 53% (54% are satisfied or very satisfied.)

  • The Work Itself: 53%. (76% are satisfied or very satisfied.)

  • Autonomy and independence: 52%. (69% are satisfied or very satisfied.)

  • Management’s Recognition of Employee Performance: 49%. (57% are satisfied or very satisfied.)

  • Feeling Safe at Work: 48%. (78% are satisfied or very satisfied.)

  • Overall Corporate Culture: 46%. (60% are satisfied or very satisfied.)

  • Flexibility for Work-Life Balance: 38%. (65% are satisfied or very satisfied.)

  • Relationships with Coworkers: 38%. (76% are satisfied or very satisfied.)

SHRM Reports that Benefits which had been in the top two contributors to job satisfaction since 2002, slipped to fifth place. Relationship with immediate supervisor is new this year to the list of top five most important job satisfaction contributors. Among SHRM’s other results: Chance for career advancement (36%) has been declining since 2002. Coaching, mentoring, and succession planning are less important in companies with less than 100 employees.

18 Employee Engagement Conditions

Employee engagement, according to the SHRM report, is more likely to occur when certain conditions exist. Employers can maximize employee engagement via improving these factors. The percentages indicate the overall satisfaction of employees with the listed condition of engagement. The items are listed in order from the employee survey results: most satisfied to least satisfied with the condition in their organization.

  • The work itself: 76%

  • Relationships with co-workers: 76%

  • Opportunities to use skills and abilities: 74%

  • Relationship with immediate supervisor: 73%

  • Contribution of work to organization’s business goals: 71%

  • Autonomy and independence: 69%

  • Meaningfulness of job: 69%

  • Variety of work: 68%

  • Organization’s financial stability: 63%

  • Overall corporate culture: 60%

  • Management’s recognition of employee job performance: 57%

  • Job-specific training: 55%

  • Communication between employees and senior management: 54%

  • Organization’s commitment to professional development: 54%

  • Networking: 49%

  • Organization’s commitment to corporate social responsibility: 49%

  • Career development opportunities: 48%

  • Career advancement opportunities: 42%

With the percentages noted in both the satisfaction portion of the survey results and the engagement aspects of the survey, employers have some work to do to fully satisfy and, especially, engage employees. Note that four aspects of employee career and professional development fall in the bottom seven for employee satisfaction:

  • Job-specific training

  • Organization's committment to professional development

  • Career development opportunities

  • Career advancement opportunities

Members of SHRM can download the whole report at no cost.

How to Improve Employee Satisfaction and Engagement

Are you interested in how your organization can improve your employee engagement and employee satisfaction? Take a look at these additional resources.

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