How Can You Help Your Unhappy Employees – and Should You?

Given the extra work that many employees have been shouldering for the past few years, combined with the lack of raises, perhaps the results of a recent Accenture survey shouldn’t be surprising: More than half of employees responding were dissatisfied with their jobs.

What is surprising? Even as the economy picks up, just 30 percent of respondents said they plan to look for jobs elsewhere. Instead, 70 percent of women and 69 percent of men said they plan to stay at their current company. (Though I just wrote about another survey conducted by MarketTools that indicates nearly half of all Americans are thinking about leaving their jobs.)

How Can You Help Your Unhappy Employees

Why are employees dissatisfied?  Top reasons were:

  • Low pay (47 percent of women, 44 percent of men);
  • Lack of opportunity (36 percent of women, 32 percent of men);
  • No chance for career advancement (33 percent of women, 34 percent of men).

Given these factors, why are they staying? Fifty-nine percent of women and 57 percent of men say they plan to gain additional experience and seek career advancement in-house, rather than looking elsewhere.

“We’re seeing an unanticipated workplace dynamic,” says Adrian Lajtha, chief leadership officer at Accenture.  “Today’s professionals are not job hunting, despite expressing dissatisfaction.  Instead, they are focused on their skill sets and on seeking the training, the resources and the people that can help them achieve their goals.”

How can your company be a leader? Aside from better pay—which you may not yet be in a position to provide—the top things employees are seeking at their current workplace were:

  • New, challenging assignments (44 percent of women, 48 percent of men);
  • Flexible work arrangements (39 percent of women, 34 percent of men); and
  • Leadership positions within their companies (22 percent of women, 28 percent of men).

Lajtha suggest companies should support employees by listening to their needs and “providing them with innovative training, leadership development and clearly-defined career paths.”

Hearing that employees are dissatisfied can get a small business owner’s ire up. But there’s definitely a silver lining here. “There’s still a sense of commitment to take action with their current employer,” notes LaMae Allen deJongh, the author of the study and Accenture’s managing director for human capital and diversity. “We interpret that as an opportunity.”

How will you take advantage of that opportunity to keep talented people with your team?


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.

5 Reactions
  1. Good leadership & management can sometimes mean the difference between having poor, satisfactory, and phenomenal employees. Here are some ideas for encouraging employee excellence:

    1- Build a culture of productivity. From the moment you first interview a candidate, they should understand your expectations. Whether your culture is a high-stress, strict regime, or a laid back, go with the flow atmosphere, be sure your employees truly comprehend that you value and expect productivity.

    2- Offer performance incentives. Even the most dedicated and self-motivated worker needs an external incentive on occasion. Think of an incentive (such as Employee of the Month, or additional bonuses) that you can consistently offer based on performance.

    3- Have employees learn your Brand Foundation (values, mission, brand promise, non-negotiables). Make sure your staff is aware of the company’s purpose. When the entire company is united in a common purpose, more work and better work gets done.

    4- Give your employees a chance to grow. Too many business owners are tempted to do it all themselves. Relinquish your tight hold on the company and give your employees a chance to solve problems, try new ideas, and put their own thoughts and ideas to the test.

    5- Practice “lavish praise and quick corrections.” One of my favorite books is The One-Minute Manager. You should read it. The essence of it is to catch people doing well and point it out to them. But you also have to quickly correct and reprimand when you see something outside of what you expect.

    Whether you have 1 employee or 50, these suggestions will ensure a productive workplace and employee satisfaction while allowing to sleep better at night!


  2. I think that here goes the fallacy that money is the best motivator of them all. If it were, then we would see happy employees no matter what the odds are. A great example of this is the highest paid star on primetime TV ( intials C.S. ), who many would envy for his fat paycheck and yet we see him biting the very hands that feed him – and the fiasco is spreading like wildfire on the World Wide Web. I love your suggestions though on keeping employees satisfied at work.

  3. I think companies could do a lot to keep employees engaged by giving them greater ownership over projects, initiatives and campaigns. Whether it’s the greater scope of responsibility or the sense of satisfaction from producing a great result, I think this would help a lot of disgruntled employees.

  4. I think longevity with a company is something that isn’t as highly regarded as it used to be. Gone are the days of previous generations where one could (and would) build and entire career with the same company. In an unstable economy, people will hang onto whatever job they can, no matter how dissatisfied they may be. In a thriving economy – being rewarded for that longevity is critical. It’s not always about the money – but increased vacation time or bonuses will definitely be welcome! Happy employees are more productive and less concerned with taking their skills elsewhere – the key is to make sure they understand just how much their dedication is appreciated. A little appreciation goes a long, long way. Also, a company who understands (and encourages) employees to have solid family time outside of the office will also be rewarded with dedication even through the worst of financial times. Great post – thanks for the information!

  5. Thank you for the interesting insight. I agree with you on having challenging assignments at work. Jobs requiring mental stimulation and having a fast-paced environment are rather more satisfying than a slow dragging project where work is stagnant.