It’s official. As the recession clouds begin to give way to better days, the mood of the American worker has brightened a bit….but not by much.
The Conference Board’s Job Satisfaction 2012 Edition shows a continuation of the long, slow downward trend we’ve seen for decades. While the 47.2 percent satisfaction rate recorded in 2011 is up 4.6 percentage points from 2010, the rate is still very low compared to the 61.1 percent worker satisfaction level recorded in 1987—the first year The Conference Board survey was conducted—and remains the high-water mark. Despite the business publication headlines and workshops that urge us to be engaged, discover our passion and purpose in our work, or, heaven forbid, find happiness in the workplace, most of the respondents are likely relieved to be employed, eager to stay employed, stretched to the max at work, and praying for a winning lottery ticket.
The subtitle for this year’s report, So, We’re Slightly Less Miserable at Work … Shall We Break Open the Bubbly? says it all. Workers in America are unsatisfied with their jobs. More workers are involuntarily working part time, many older workers are in the workforce longer than they anticipated, financial portfolios are often significantly diminished, many have mortgages “under water” and the cost of living continues to rise. These factors are well outside the human capital professional’s span of control. But the good news is that there are bright spots here, particularly regarding the internal initiatives and actions that CHROs and their teams can drive through the organization that can have a big impact. The report highlights American workers responses about health care and pension plans, job security, wages, promotion policy, educational/job training, the work environment, the boss, co-workers, equipment and many other aspects of the work environment.
Many readers of this report, especially those in the human capital profession, should take heart that many of their initiatives undertaken to improve the work life of employees seem to have taken root. Managers, pressed as they are in the day-to-day struggle to drive the business, should be pleased that employees appear to have noticed their efforts to provide improved guidance, development, and rewards. A takeaway from the 2011 survey is that workers are significantly more positive about the future, with their satisfaction rate for this category up 9 percentage points from 2010. Their optimism and faith may, in turn, mean there are even better days ahead for American workers, who are already among the most productive in the world. Workers’ positive feelings bode well for them, the companies they serve, and the country.
And that’s worth celebrating.
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