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The Components of Job Satisfaction

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Achieving a healthy work-life balance depends in large part on the “work” part of the equation. When certain job satisfaction factors fall into place, a workplace environment becomes not only more palatable but, in fact, even enjoyable. But the causes of job satisfaction vary from worker to worker, even among workers in the same workplace. What one worker may rate as a high-contributing component to her job satisfaction, another worker may place further down the line of his priorities.

Job Satisfaction Survey Results

Water-cooler scuttlebutt aside, the vast majority of Americans are actually happy with their jobs, according to job satisfaction surveys. The percentage varies, depending on which survey you read, but numbers range in the window from approximately 50 percent to 90 percent tilting in favor of job satisfaction. For example, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that a combined 89 percent of workers had job satisfaction in 2017, with that number breaking down into 51 percent who are “satisfied” with their jobs, and 38 percent who are “very satisfied.”

A survey by The Conference Board in 2018 polled 1,500 workers. Results from this survey indicated that 51 percent of American workers generally are satisfied with their jobs.

Another survey by CNBC, as measured by the Survey Monkey Happiness Index, reveals a similar number as the 2017 SHRM survey – a total of 85 percent of workers who reported they were “somewhat” or “very” satisfied with their jobs. This represents 8,664 respondents in a March 2019 survey. The data represent the demographics of the U.S. workforce by considering age, gender, race, education, employment status and geography.

Types of Job Satisfaction Components

Different surveys provide different categories for respondents to rate their job satisfaction such as the CNBC survey, which included five components of job satisfaction: pay, opportunities for advancement, recognition, autonomy and meaning.

A survey from the Chopra Center also included five components of job satisfaction: engagement; respect, praise and recognition; fair compensation; motivation and life satisfaction.

Forbes reports that a Boston Consulting Group (BCG) survey offered 10 categories to rate employee happiness, which contributes to job satisfaction.

The components from each of these surveys – and other surveys – are similar, although they may vary slightly and be worded differently.

Employee-Centered Workplace Structure

Forbes notes that the "balance of power" in the workplace is gradually shifting from an employer-centered environment to an employee-centered environment. Because salary is not the sole lure for today’s employees, employers have been gradually making a paradigm shift to meet other hot-button job components to attract – and retain – valued workers. Job satisfaction surveys, whether on a national scale or at an in-house level, help employers make this shift. As organizations work toward creating a more engaging workplace, a glance at the top components of job satisfaction is a good starting point.

Pay Doesn't Always Rank First

Although a fair rate of pay is an unquestionable component of job satisfaction, surprisingly it doesn’t always rank first in surveys. The CNBC survey found that the category of Pay ranked third behind the categories of Job Meaning (first place) and Workplace Contribution and Autonomy (tied for second place). And in the BCG survey, an attractive fixed salary was ranked far down the hierarchy of job satisfaction components – coming in eighth in a 10-factor ranking order.

Fair Pay is Still Important

Regardless of your job, you want – and deserve – to be paid fairly for the work you do. But even though you may have a dollar figure in mind for determining your market value, it isn’t really an arbitrary designation. Market value is a combination of your specific job title, number of years of experience, education, specific skills and even your location.

Determining Your Market Value

Today’s digital accessibility makes your research a matter of a few keystrokes, clicks or taps. Although figuring each person’s market value has contributing factors that can’t always be determined by looking at a salary chart online, there are some solid online tools to help you get started.

Time recommends visiting three websites to access their databases. For starters, visit the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics at BLS.gov and search for “overview of BLS wage data” to view more than 100 occupations with their corresponding mean salaries. You can search their database by different parameters such as specific occupation, job characteristics and industries.

You can also visit the “Know Your Worth” tool at Glassdoor.com and “What Am I Worth?” tool at PayScale.com. Although you may not find the perfect fit for you and your specific job, these three tools offer a good starting point for figuring your market value to see if your pay is fairly aligned with industry averages.

Appreciation for Your Work

Ranked at or near the top of the list on most job satisfaction surveys, respect for you and praise for your work bring the payoff of appreciation. Although a manager does not have to heap lavish praise on an employee to show appreciation, even a simple thank you goes a long way. A consistent rating on job satisfaction surveys is the importance that employees place on a supervisor’s respect and acknowledgment.

This component of job satisfaction is so important that a survey by the company BambooHR revealed that a whopping one-third of employees said they’d rather have the recognition of a company-wide email sent by a company executive that lauds their accomplishments than an unpublicized $500 bonus. Whether this is descriptive of you or not, it speaks to the important roles that appreciation and acknowledgment play in job satisfaction.

Good Relationships with Co-Workers

Workplace relationships are not just important contributors to job satisfaction; The Ohio State University notes that positive interpersonal relationships serve a “critical” role in your success at work as well as your career trajectory. The relationship with your supervisor certainly is of utmost importance, but it’s also the relationships you have with other co-workers that influence your level of job satisfaction.

By moving forward in the direction of your work team, instead of swimming against the current, you’ll grow into the “team player” that managers want. By implementing a few strategies, you can improve the relationships with your co-workers and help engineer your own job satisfaction. The qualities of being honest, showing respect, managing your emotions, maintaining boundaries and staying positive are basic interpersonal strategies.

Employee Workplace Engagement

Employees who simply clock in and out, routinely perform the minimum requirements of their jobs and generally lack motivation are characterized as disengaged. On the flip side, employees who have a passion for their work, go the extra mile and actively problem-solve are characterized as engaged. And it’s the engaged employees who thrive in their jobs and experience greater job satisfaction than their disengaged counterparts.

A Gallup poll reveals that only 33 percent of U.S. workers are engaged at work, and it’s no surprise that engaged workers have less absenteeism from their jobs and are more highly productive than disengaged co-workers. If you’re leaning away from the engaged side of the scale, it could be because of various reasons.

Gallup notes that management is primarily responsible for engaging the employees on their team, and not all managers are equipped for this task. One reason for disengagement is the inability to see how your specific job contributes to the company’s overall goals. Another reason is that your skills and experience may not be a good match for the job you have. When you find the perfect combination of a job that utilizes your skills and talents plus a proactive manager who actively engages employees, your job satisfaction will be boosted.

Opportunities for Advancement

Workers who feel as though they’re in a dead-end job with no opportunities for advancement in their future typically experience lower job satisfaction than workers who have advancement goals within reach. CNBC reports that only 13 percent of workers who have “excellent” opportunities to advance their careers thought of quitting their jobs.

But part of the advancement equation is the confidence – or lack thereof – that workers have in their company’s management to provide advancement opportunities. One of the CNBC’s workplace happiness survey questions was “How much do you trust your direct supervisor to provide you with the opportunities to advance your career?” Although 39 percent responded “a lot,” 33 percent responded “some,” 15 percent responded “just a little” and 13 percent responded, “not at all.”

Trust Between Employees and Management

Trust can make any relationship stronger, and this is also true of workplace relationships. One example of the lack of trust is the example given above. When workers do not even trust their direct supervisor to provide opportunities for advancement, their job satisfaction suffers. The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) equates the lack of trust between employees and management as an “atmosphere that lacks psychological safety.”

When the foundation of trust is not there, the result to a company and its workers manifests through various negative outcomes, including workers’ fear of challenging their supervisors, lack of employee initiative and declining morale.

Studies show that there’s even a connection between lack of trust between employees and their supervisors to different leadership styles. Transformational leaders, as opposed to transactional leaders, are more likely to build trust with their teams. Transactional leaders are heavy on the management side, using controlled processes, but transformational leaders relinquish some of their control by motivating and inspiring others.

Flexibility and Autonomy

As opposed to micromanaging employees, supervisors can boost their team’s job satisfaction by allowing their team the freedom to manage their own work schedules, develop strategies for meeting the team’s goals and develop initiatives. No two employees may perform tasks the same way, but bringing different methods to the table can benefit the whole team.

Forbes notes the benefits of flexible working. Employees who were allowed a flexible work schedule over a nine-month period took less time off for being sick, were more productive, worked more hours and had greater job satisfaction than their 9-to-5 co-workers. Flexible working includes flex hours, working from home (or another remote location) or a combination of both.

Some employees, however, benefited more from a traditional workplace environment. These employees had increased productivity and higher job satisfaction levels in this setting because of the social interaction they enjoyed with co-workers.

Finding Your Niche

The components of job satisfaction are unique to each worker. By identifying your preferences, strengths and weaknesses, and then pairing your contributions to a specific job that fulfills your needs, you can maximize your job satisfaction.