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Employee Satisfaction Plummets

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Here’s a double whammy for the working professional. You hate your job and want to quit, but the economy is bad so you’re afraid to leave.

There’s no need to prove the second part of that statement—everyone knows that unemployment is high and finding a position is tough. But a recent survey shows that in one industry, people despise their current job more than ever:

[The] survey found that the willingness of IT employees to “exert high levels of discretionary effort” — put in extra hours to solve a problem, make suggestions for improving processes, and generally seek to play a key role in an organization — has plummeted to its lowest levels since the survey was launched 10 years ago.

In 2007, about 12% of the IT employees fit in category of “highly engaged” workers, but that has since fallen to 4%.

These are literally the most critical employees,” said Jaime Capella, a managing director in [survey company] CEB’s information technology practice. Moreover, such critical workers are 2.5 times more likely than the average employee to be looking for new opportunities.

Similarly, the Conference Board Inc., a non-profit research group, said Tuesday that occupants of 45% of 5,000 U.S. households it surveyed last year were satisfied with their jobs, down from 61% in 1987, the first year the survey was conducted. The Conference Board said that the job issues found in its survey, which cover all occupations, could cause multiple workplace ills, including declines in employee engagement, productivity and retention.

“When the economy starts to head in the right direction, the employees are going to vote with their feet,” said Mike Hagan, a vice president of infrastructure at a health insurance firm he asked not to be identified…

To keep employees, Capella said they are advising managers to take performance reviews very seriously, work on motivating teams and communicating more consistently and openly, as well as give employees more of a say in the jobs they want. If employees don’t believe that companies are being honest, they are more likely to become disaffected, he said.

employee retention is low

© Flickr user jyri

Although the data from this study is fairly dire, the language used in the story is equally concerning. That first paragraph seems to imply that employees ought to be willing to “put in extra hours.” Yet, shouldn’t we characterize these unusual situations not as a sign of engagement but a failure of management? With proper management, the number of hours that should be allotted for a problem should be adequate, and not require extra hours.

Likewise, the drop of “highly engaged” workers from 12% to 4% ought to upset any business owner. Does that mean almost all of the people we hire are not “highly engaged” to begin with, or does their level of engagement start to drop after the interview? Either way, it’s not good.

It might seem bold, but don’t we want to strive to have all our employees “highly engaged” while expecting none of them to work overtime?  And in a tight economy, can’t we afford to let people go who aren’t committed to the organization?

These are hard questions and can’t be answered in a single blog post. But in general, we cannot just focus on job satisfaction. We have to instead study the connection between satisfaction and productivity. Because if employees really don’t feel engaged and valued, there’s truth that “the employees are going to vote with their feet.”

If you’re struggling to engage employees, consider contacting our consultants at AccelaWork. We’ll help you figure out how to empower employees to be productive so they enjoy work and achieve more without the fear of being swallowed by the troubled economy.

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