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Retention Aid: Employees Identify Top Factors in Job Satisfaction

How employees feel about their job, work environment, pay, benefits, security and so forth directly impacts their daily performance. In turn, their performance is what drives an employer’s competitive advantage. High job satisfaction translates into retention of valuable employees, lower absenteeism, and improved productivity.

For the past five years, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has conducted a job satisfaction survey that offers helpful insights into understanding employee preferences. Interestingly, the top aspects of employee satisfaction have been consistent since 2004 with either compensation or benefits topping the list. Rounding out the top ten “very important” job satisfaction aspects are: job security, work/life balance, communication between employees and senior management, feeling safe in the work environment, management recognition of job performance, relationship with immediate supervisor, autonomy and independence and opportunities to use skills/abilities.

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Given the trend to shift health care costs and retirement planning to employees, compensation and benefits are likely to remain the top issues for employees.

Age and gender of the workforce, as well as the economy, will influence priorities. For example, women place a high priority on feeling safe in the workforce, while it’s a lower priority for men. Job security that was rated #1 at the height of the recession in 2002 is less important for employees with two years or less of job tenure, compared with employees having six to eight years.

One-half of preretirees and 41% of young families rate benefits as an important reason to remain with an employer, whereas only 24% of singles and 36% of baby boomers do so (Metlife Study of Employee Benefit Trends). Moreover, Generation Y has a reputation for high employment expectations and places greater importance on more factors than older workers do.

What will help employers most in their recruitment and retention efforts is to understand the expectations of their workforce. Unfortunately, there is often a disconnect.

Examining what factors HR professionals identified as employees’ most important determinants of job satisfaction, the SHRM study found that the results did not completely align with employee responses. HR professionals rated relationship with supervisor #1, whereas employees rated it #8; compensation #2, whereas employees rated it #1; management recognition of job performance #3, whereas employees rated it #7; and benefits #4 whereas it tied for #1 among employees.

Similarly, another study by Watson Wyatt, a global consultancy, found that employers and employees offer different reasons for turnover. While an overwhelming majority of employees (71%) say they change jobs for better pay, most employers (68%) believe employees leave for a promotion opportunity. Employers also underestimate the importance of benefits to their employees.

The Wyatt study also found that only one-half of employees (55%) think businesses do a good job of treating their employees well, whereas six out of seven businesses (86%) think that they do a good job of treating their employees.