How happy are your employees?

June 3, 2011
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Job satisfaction of American workers is up from a low reached in late summer last year but hasn’t recovered to the peak hit just before the financial crisis, a Gallup survey shows.

In April, the survey found, 87.5 percent of employees were satisfied with their jobs. The low was 86.9 in July and August last year and the peak of 89.4 percent was set in February 2008.

The results get more interesting the further one goes into detail. Those whose job satisfaction eroded the most from the high point were Latinos, those lacking a high school diploma and those with vocational educations. People living in western states, Asians and young adults had steep declines, too.

Is anyone happier? Only blacks, the survey found. However, blacks are still comparatively unhappy; the demographic is least likely to enjoy its work.

Most happy with their jobs are people older than 65, those who have advanced degrees and those who make more than $90,000 a year.

How do these findings square with your observations?

  • Not surprising
    This, unfortunately, comes as no surprise. Some recent studies indicate that when the economy does start a steady rebound, companies are going to see a flight of talent, too. It will be interesting to see whether this talent flight will hurt recovery for some companies while help others rebound faster. Finally: I heard recently that companies with above average employee engagement exhibit above average revenue growth when compared to their peers. Hmmm... maybe companies should work harder at employee engagement. Money is only one part of that.
  • Survey results are deceptive
    The Gallup poll asked one question: "Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your job or the work you do?"

    That doesn't leave much room for interpretation. If your job is terrible, you'll pick "dissatisfied." If you generally find going to work bearable, your only option is "satisfied."

    Consider that another organization reported just last year that overall job satisfaction was *half* what Gallup suggested:

    If you really want to measure how much people enjoy their work, you need a true Likert scale with a range of options. One also needs to present secondary questions that provide context: after all, there's a reason why people work, and without knowing these reasons any questions about satisfaction aren't exactly meaningful.

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