What matters most to employees?

Addressing the drivers of job satisfaction enhances employee retention, performance

By Claudine Kapel

As another year winds to a close, it can be helpful to pause and reflect – to take stock of what’s working and what could be enhanced.

Two of the most fundamental questions any organization can ask are:

  • What really matters to our employees?
  • How well are we delivering on that?

These questions are important because they can illuminate priorities around an organization’s employment proposition or total rewards offering. Gaps in how an organization responds to employee needs and preferences can impact the organization’s ability to retain talent and achieve desired performance and results.

A new study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) offers some insights on what’s top of mind with employees. Entitled 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement, the study reports reasonably strong scores – with 38 per cent of employees indicating they are “very satisfied” with their current jobs, and an additional 43 per cent indicating they are “somewhat satisfied.”

The top five contributors to employee job satisfaction identified in the 2012 study are:

1)    Opportunities to use skills/abilities (63 per cent).

2)    Job security (61 per cent).

3)    Compensation/pay (60 per cent).

4)    Communication between employees and senior management (57 per cent).

5)    Relationship with immediate supervisor (54 per cent).

The 2012 study marks the first time opportunities to use skills and abilities emerged as the number one contributor to employee job satisfaction since that element was added to the items surveyed in 2004. In 2011, it ranked second, after job security, which was ranked number one. Job security also ranked number one in 2008, 2009 and 2010.

Further, SHRM notes in most cases opportunities to use skills and abilities ranked among the top two aspects of job satisfaction “regardless of employees’ tenure, age, gender or organization staff size.”

The study findings suggest that as the economy improves, employee focus is shifting more towards the quality of the work experience, although concerns about job security have not abated. Job security has been ranked in the top five aspects of job satisfaction since SHRM launched its annual study in 2002.

SHRM suggests its study findings highlight three key areas of focus for employers to help them enhance employee satisfaction levels:

  • Develop existing employees.
  • Communicate about the total rewards package.
  • Build a bridge between employees and senior management.

While employees rated compensation as the third most important aspect of job satisfaction, SHRM notes this aspect “received a low rating when it came to employees’ actual level of satisfaction.” While 60 per cent rated compensation as very important, only 22 per cent indicated they were very satisfied with their pay. This gave compensation the biggest gap between importance and satisfaction (38 per cent) of all the job satisfaction drivers.

SHRM suggested employers can take steps to close this gap by:

  • Sharing information on the organization’s compensation philosophy.
  • Helping employees understand how their compensation is determined.
  • Frequently communicating to employees about what their total rewards package includes.

When it comes to developing a total rewards offering, organizations need to balance a number of considerations, including the need to manage costs and risks and the need to align programs with organizational goals and priorities.

Understanding employee priorities, however, can help organizations make more informed decisions around the elements of their total rewards offering to maximize the value of this offering to employees and the organization alike.

Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a Toronto-based human resources and communications consulting firm specializing in the design and implementation of compensation and total rewards programs. For more information, visit www.kapelandassociates.com.

© Copyright Canadian HR Reporter, Thomson Reuters Canada Limited. All rights reserved.

Claudine Kapel

Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a human resources consulting firm specializing in compensation design, performance management, and employee communications. Claudine is also the co-author of The HR Manager’s Guide to Total Rewards and Straight Talk on Managing Human Resources.
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