Survey Shows Impact of Downturn on Job Satisfaction

Salary.com Inc. has released results from its fourth annual 2008/2009 Employee Satisfaction and Retention Survey. According to the survey, employee satisfaction levels are often overestimated by employers. A set of questions new to this year's survey found that the current economic climate was less of a deterrent to job seeking than employers anticipated, while variables such as income, job level, industry and age remained consistent factors that affect job satisfaction year-over-year.

Key data points:

• Overall, the survey showed that 65 percent of employees are at least somewhat satisfied in their jobs while employers estimated that figure to be 77 percent. 
• Approximately 65 percent of employees admitted to passively or actively looking for a new job, compared to employers' estimate of 37 percent. 
• While employers have a good sense of overall employee satisfaction, they often overestimate the degree of extremely satisfied employees nearly 2 to 1. 
• The levels of satisfaction among employees surveyed varied by job level and salary. Not surprisingly, the results of the survey suggest there is a direct link between pay and satisfaction -- the higher the salary and job level, the greater the number of extremely satisfied employees. 
• Age affects job satisfaction -- millennials report the lowest job satisfaction.

More than 7,141 employees and 363 human resources (HR) professionals participated in the survey which revealed new insights into who is happy, who is looking, why employees stay, where employers may be off target in their efforts to retain employees and where they may be at risk when economy recovers. The survey offers new insights to help employers align with what employee's value and be more effective in designing retention strategies that work.

"The most interesting result from the 2008 survey was the evidence that employers were out of touch with their employees' satisfaction levels and were overestimating the tough economic environment as a deterrent to job seeking," said Nicholas Camelio, senior vice president of human resources, Salary.com. "Consequently, many employers have not placed enough emphasis on important retention strategies. This could lead to their best employees' defecting during the next year, just when this talent will be most needed to help turn businesses around."

Job Searching Defies Economic Environment

Many employers believe that during tough economic times their employees will not be searching for a new job. According to the survey, employers are underestimating the number of employers searching for new jobs by nearly 2 to 1, revealing a potential blind spot for employers. The survey revealed that the majority of employees report they are looking and engaged in some form of search activity such as networking, surfing job listings, updating and posting their resume. Millennials are the most likely group to look for a job, followed closely by Gen X'ers and Baby Boomers. Industries including Financial Services, Construction and Retail topped the list of extremely dissatisfied employees, while Internet, Education/Government and Non-Profit, Software and Networking topped the list of extremely satisfied employees.

• 63 percent of employers believe their employees are not searching for a new job compared to 35 percent of employees who indicated they were not searching for a new job. 
• The survey indicates that 65 percent of employees are looking and are engaged in just-in-case job search activities, such as surfing jobs lists (63 percent), updating resumes (47 percent), networking with friends (40 percent) and posting resumes (33 percent). 
• Surfing job listings has increased dramatically -- up 17 percent from last year's results. 
• Nearly 80 percent of employers do not believe employees will begin a job search in next few months while nearly 60 percent of employees intend to intensify their job search in next 3 months.

Priorities Shift for Employees

Good relationships with co-Workers remains one of the top three reasons why people stay in their jobs. In this year's survey, employees cited new reasons why they choose to stay in their current jobs. Job Security, Desirable Commute and Desirable Hours have replaced Good Relationships with Managers and Adequate Benefits for the most influential reasons why people remain in a given job.

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