A new study looks at why a large portion of employees in the U.S. are only somewhat engaged and satisfied with their work environment.
Answers Corp., a platform leveraging answers.com and its cloud-based solutions to help businesses improve and improve customer experience, has announced key findings from its comprehensive study identifying factors that drive employee satisfaction in America.
American Employee Study: A New Perspective on Employee Attitudes and Behaviors included feedback from more than 4,000 employees across a number of employment positions, organization sizes and industries. Using its “Structural Equation Model,” a cause-and-effect methodology, the Answers study was designed to examine underlying issues behind employee dissatisfaction and the American workplace.
In the 2014 study, Answers indicated overall worker satisfaction is rated at 65 out of 100; a score of 80 is considered the rate at which a company meets or exceeds employee expectations, according to the press release. The study further analyzed the satisfaction level by examining employee engagement in daily operations, which indicated 27 percent of employees are highly engaged, 28 percent are not engaged, and 45 percent are in the middle.
Eric Feinberg, senior director of product strategy at Answers Cloud Services, said the study puts a spotlight on a very disturbing phenomenon: Employers don’t understand their employees and are not doing nearly enough to address the issue.
“Improving employee satisfaction leads to desirable employee behaviors, such as recommending the company to others, supporting its products and satisfying its customers,” said Feinberg. “Considering the high cost of replacing employees — anywhere from a fifth to 200 percent of the person’s salary — a true commitment to measuring and improving the employee experience should be an operational imperative for American employers.”
With 45 percent of employees surveyed falling halfway between disengaged and engaged in their work, Answers noted the group presents an opportunity for employers “to take action to move these employees from indifference to engagement, and in turn reap the rewards of a more committed workforce.”
Other key findings included: 48 percent don’t think their employers understand their career goals; 55 percent work with someone who annoys them and impacts their satisfaction; 86 percent of them like their boss; and employees feel the top three priority areas for improvement are leadership, compensation and relationship with a supervisor.
Beth Kelly, senior professional in human resources and owner of Grand Rapids firm HR Collaborative, said very few people don’t aspire to do their best work, and when they are unhappy it tends to stem from lack of support from managers, being undermined or bullied by a coworker, or not receiving the training or tools they need to be successful.
“That does kind of resonate with me, with the people that we talk to,” said Kelly. “Folks just really want to do a good job and be recognized for the contributions that they make to a company. That is a pretty simple equation when you think about it. It is just the implementing and the executing it that makes it so difficult.”
HR Collaborative provides consulting and management services for small to medium-sized businesses to build their human resource systems, and has worked with a number of area organizations such as The Right Place, John Ball Zoo and Experience Grand Rapids.
One of the trends Kelly noted in the West Michigan region is, despite having great employers, there is a lot of movement in the workplace, which could be attributed to employees feeling more secure in changing positions in the current environment.
“Folks who didn’t want to change positions during the recession because they figured that job they knew well was a safer bet than going to one where it might not work out, and then they would be out on the street without any opportunity in front of them,” said Kelly. “Now as the market has loosened up and more employers are hiring, folks who were unhappy in their jobs but hung on just because of security are now taking that leap and trying new positions.”
The Answers study also mentioned the high level of engagement and satisfaction of millennials. Of the respondents, 62 percent felt engaged in their work compared to 56 to 59 percent of all generations, and 66 percent were satisfied with their job.
With so much discussion about how to manage and engage a millennial workforce in the same market as baby boomers, Kelly said it was a shock to see the loyalty rate as high as it is, but says it is consistent with where millennials are in their lifecycle.
“This data indicates millennials just want to do good work. They want to do work they can be proud of and where they get recognized for doing that good work,” said Kelly. “It is a typical lifecycle for people who are between 20 to 25 and 35, that they want to sink their teeth in, put roots down and practice their craft. … We have been spending all this time (talking) about how mobile and finicky millennials are, and this survey says this is just not true.”
Kelly said her firm has worked with a lot of organizations hiring young professionals and views the overall demographic as “talented — they are skilled, they are fluent in technology” and hardworking.
Although West Michigan has great employers willing to invest in quality work environments, Kelly said the region lags behind the rest of the country in terms of pay, and employers have gotten a bargain on talent for a while.
“In West Michigan we are really fortunate to have a lot of employers who understand the secrets of keeping talent engaged and who are willing to invest in creating good working environments so people can do their best work. I think in some regards, we are spoiled that way,” said Kelly. “It is very difficult to match people’s pay and be competitive in the area. I would say we could continue to look at our pay practices and be willing to put our money where our interests are when it comes to talent.”