25 Jun. 2013 | Comments (0)

The annual survey of Job Satisfaction was released last week by The Conference board. A survey of 5,000 households conducted by The Nielsen Company in the fall of 2012 indicates that 47.3 percent of currently employed Americans are satisfied with their position—a negligible change (less than 0.1 percentage points) from 2011 to 2012. The 47.3 percent of satisfied respondents this year remains low compared to the observed levels in 1987— the first year the survey was run—when 61.1 percent of respondents indicated satisfaction with their jobs. Since that survey, overall satisfaction had steadily declined before leveling off in recent years. Specifically, since 2006, results remain consistently below the halfway mark, indicating the majority of U.S. workers are not satisfied with their jobs.

In this blog, I would like to focus on the section related to the determinants of job satisfaction. The unique data set allows The Conference Board to use individual respondents’ information to study the determinants of job satisfaction and potential turnover. In addition to the questions asked about overall job satisfaction and the intention to remain with the current employer 12 months from now, the survey also asks about satisfaction rates for specific features related to job satisfaction. Using regression analysis, we ranked the importance of each factor on job satisfaction.

Table 1 compares the rankings of the factors for job satisfaction with the rankings for turnover. These rankings are based on separate regressions for job satisfaction and turnover. While growth potential and interesting work are ranked highly for both satisfaction and turnover, several factors are important for job satisfaction – but not as important for turnover. The first group of these factors is related to communication and recognition of the worker. The other is related to workload and work-life balance. These factors seem to make a difference in how satisfied workers are overall with their job and could impact the quality of their work and productivity. However, when it comes to deciding whether to look for another job, these factors do not seem to be very important.

When we separate the rankings for men and women, the top six determinants are identical. However, promotion policy, quality of equipment, and wages are more important for men than for women, while work-life balance, satisfaction with people at work, and flex time are more important for women than for men.

When we separate the rankings for workers by age (under 35, 35–54, and 55 and over), and compare the determinants of job satisfaction, we find that the three age groups share some of the most important determinants. However, for workers under 35, satisfaction with their supervisor and people at work are especially important. For people over 55, workload and job security are especially important. For those 35–55 years old (the group most likely to care for children), work-life balance is especially important.

Given that job satisfaction is a key element of engagement that, in turn, partially determines business performance, retention, and a host of other business metrics, improving job satisfaction should be on the top of the agenda for business leaders. This study suggests that different factors play different roles across gender and age groups in determining overall job satisfaction and retention. It turns out that understanding these subtleties could make a big difference.  


View our complete listing of Employee Engagement, Labor Markets, and Talent Management blogs.

  • About the Author: Gad Levanon, Ph.D.

    Gad Levanon, Ph.D.

    Gad Levanon serves as chief economist, North America at The Conference Board. He oversees the labor market program, the U.S forecasting program, and the Help Wanted OnLine© program. Le…

    Full Bio | More from Gad Levanon, Ph.D.


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