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Employee satisfaction wanes as economy improves

Eighty-one percent of employees are still happy in their jobs, but less than half were satisfied with their career development.

The majority of U.S. employees are satisfied with their current jobs, but a new survey shows that satisfaction levels are falling as the economy continues to recover.

In 2009, 86 percent of workers said they were content with their work, according to the Job Satisfaction and Engagement Research Report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). This was the highest level of satisfaction reported in the survey's 10-year history, and it coincided with the largest economic recession since the 1930s. This year's results show that 81 percent of employees are still happy in their jobs, but less than half were satisfied with their career development.

"Satisfaction peaked in 2009 when employees were just glad to have a job," said Mark Schmit, SHRM's vice president for research. "Now we are seeing it trend down some, which may be an indication that employees are starting to look at other opportunities again as the job market is starting to turn a bit more positive. Proactive employers will monitor job satisfaction and introduce change to retain top talent ahead of the trend." 

Employee recognition programs can help organizations keep worker satisfaction high and build engagement among staff. Taking the time to acknowledge performance may be especially helpful to keeping top staff members, as 71 percent of respondents said they frequently felt they put all of their effort into their work. Letting this level of dedication go unnoticed could lead to lower overall satisfaction as employees become demotivated and disengaged.

The survey shows that encouraging workers to develop new skills could help companies keep them excited about their jobs. Opportunities to use abilities overtook job security as the top influencer on job satisfaction. Employees are looking for chances to expand their knowledge base and take on more new challenges. Companies that have training incentive programs could build cultures that encourage the development and use of new skills.

Other top influencers were compensation and communication with management. Businesses that address these issues can cultivate engaged workforces that will deliver quality products and strong customer service. Indeed, Call Centre Focus reports that staff engagement is one of the main drivers of customer satisfaction. When employees have pride in their work, they show positive and proactive attitudes that allow them to solve consumer problems in a friendly and efficient way.

Businesses that focus on achievement, recognition and development are likely to maintain a high level of satisfaction and engagement among staff members. Using incentive programs or employee recommendation initiatives enables organizations to encourage cultures that foster employee satisfaction.

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