Employees Are Satisfied With Their Jobs: Or Are They?

How do your employees feel about their jobs? For a small business owner, the answer to this question is crucial. Employees who are happy at work and passionately engaged with their jobs are more loyal to their employers, more productive and just plain better for your business.

small business employee

A recent study of employee job satisfaction and engagement has some useful insights for entrepreneurs. The Society for Human Resource Management’s 2011 Job Satisfaction and Engagement Research Report, which surveyed companies of all sizes in late 2011, found that while more than 75 percent of U.S. employees are satisfied with their jobs overall, there are some key areas of dissatisfaction.

Paying attention to these areas could mean the difference between keeping and losing valuable workers.

A whopping 83 percent of U.S. employees said that overall, they are satisfied with their current jobs. SHRM vice president for research Mark Schmit notes that in general, this percentage hasn’t changed significantly in the last 10 years. Schmit says:

“In general, people find ways to be satisfied at work.”

But while you might think that in a tough job market, people would feel that just having a job at all is reason to be satisfied, in reality the percentage of satisfied employees has decreased slightly since 2009.

One key area where employees are less than satisfied is career development. Only about 40 percent of respondents say they are satisfied with the career development and advancement opportunities at their current jobs.

For the first time, the survey also looked at employee engagement. Engagement differs from satisfaction. While satisfaction depends primarily on job security, engagement measures how committed employees are to the workplace and how connected they feel. When it comes to engagement, there’s room for improvement. Just 52 percent of employees feel completely engaged at work; only 53 percent say they enjoy going above and beyond what their jobs require.

While these aren’t horrible numbers, I’m sure you agree that having all of your employees fully engaged in their work is the ideal state. So how can you improve things?

Schmit theorizes the disengagement is because employees feel they aren’t being groomed for the future:

“Employees seem to be saying, “I’m not getting training or opportunities for development, so why would I volunteer to do extra things to advance my career by helping out the organization?”

Small business owners often worry that the only thing their employees care about is raises and other financial rewards—which are tough for a small business to offer in this economy. The good news from the SHRM findings is that training and advancement opportunities are easier to offer.

True, you may not have immediate advancement opportunities for employees. But you can offer training. Here are some ideas:

  • Cross-train employees so they learn new skills. This also benefits your business, since employees can fill in for each other when there’s an absence or vacation.
  • Set up informal mentorships where more experienced employees show younger ones the ropes.
  • Look into free or low-cost training and education programs at local community colleges or adult education centers.
  • Meet with employees to figure out their career paths. As a small business owner, you have more flexibility to design jobs that take advantage of your team’s skills and desires.

Are you worried that you’ll institute training efforts, only to see those employees leave for greener pastures? Dissatisfied employees will leave when the job market improves—whether you’ve trained them or not. Then you’ll have to train their replacements. Isn’t it better to invest the time and effort in the employees you have now and keep them on your team?

Engage with your employees, and their engagement will increase, too.

Employee Training Photo via Shutterstock


Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.

7 Reactions
  1. When I was working a typical job I felt demotivated by the lack of ownership over my work. I could be doing a great job for 10 clients and wouldn’t get paid any better than if I did an okay job for 5 clients. That was a horrible feeling and I left to find it on my own.

  2. I think there’s more to motivation than giving cash incentives/bonuses. Sometimes, a simple note of appreciation can go a very long way. What you shared here is intriguing and not without reason – makes me consider including training/improvement programs in my team. To answer your question – yes, it makes sense to invest in your employees now as hiring someone new means starting from scratch, whether you hire full-time, part-time or even contractual work.

  3. So the 83 percent that are satisfied with their jobs just means that they are happy to be employed, because what I see when I engage with employees at various businesses I frequent, appears to coincide a lot more towards the 52 percent that don’t feel engaged at their job. It is a shame how many employees seem downright miserable at their job, which poorly reflects on the company they work for. I wonder how many business owners realize that their employees are miserable, and thus are a poor reflection of their company?

  4. I agree with you. Employee engagement can only be accomplished if employers give them a reason to be simulated. Promotion, perks, training, even performance feedback can go a long way in accomplishing a healthy and productive employer-employee relationship. Thank you for sharing.

  5. We shouldn’t overlook the fact that employees with an eye to their own future can often see the value in going the extra mile for the company, as it benefits them in the longer term – regardless of what incentives or recognition comes from the employer. These are the ones likely to set up their own businesses in due course, having learnt all they can on someone else’s turf.

  6. Unmotivated employees can really hurt a business, usually unintentionally. A little effort on the business owner’s part, can go a long way towards not only helping the employee, but boosting your whole business as well.