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A Research Repor t by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction


and Engagement
How Employees Are Dealing With Uncertainty

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12-0537

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction


and Engagement
A Research Report by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM)

Table of Contents
About This Research Report 1
Executive Summary: Employees Are Focused
on Meeting Goals and Using Their Skills at Work2
Survey Results: Employee Job Satisfaction8
Career Development9
Opportunities to Use Skills and Abilities9
Career Advancement Opportunities Within Organization10
Organizations Commitment to Professional Development11
Job-specific Training12
Career Development Opportunities12
Paid Training and Tuition Reimbursement Programs13
Networking13
Employee Relationship with Management 15
Communication Between Employees and Senior Management 15
Relationship with Immediate Supervisor 16
Managements Recognition of Employee Job Performance 16
Autonomy and Independence 17
Compensation and Benefits24
Compensation/pay 24
Benefits 26
Flexibility to Balance Life and Work Issues 28
Work Environment32
Job Security 32
Organizations Financial Stability 33
The Work Itself 33
Feeling Safe in the Work Environment 33
Overall Corporate Culture 34
Relationships with Co-workers 34
Meaningfulness of Job35
Contribution of Work to Organizations Business Goals 36
Variety of Work 36
Organizations Commitment to Corporate Social Responsibility37
Organizations Commitment to a Diverse and Inclusive Workplace 38
Organizations Commitment to a Green Workplace 39
Survey Results: Employee Engagement 40
Engagement Opinions 41

Engagement Behaviors42
Conditions for Engagement43
Conclusions48
About the Research 51
Methodology 51
Notations 51
About the Respondents53
Appendix56
Endnotes 75
Additional SHRM Resources 76

About This Research Report

The following report presents the results of the 2012 SHRM Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement survey of U.S. employees. The objective of this annual
survey is to identify and understand the factors important to overall employee
job satisfaction and engagement. This knowledge helps organizations better
understand and appreciate employee preferences when developing programs
and policies designated to influence job satisfaction and engagement. The survey
examined 35 aspects of employee job satisfaction and 34 aspects of employee
engagement. The job satisfaction and employee engagement aspects are divided
into seven topic areascareer development, relationship with management,
compensation and benefits, work environment, engagement opinions, engagement behaviors, and conditions for engagement.
The overall results, illustrated in figures, are included throughout the report
along with corresponding text. More in-depth analyses are shown in tables
found in the Appendix; these include the following:
A comparison of the level of importance of certain aspects to job satisfaction,
including statistically significant differences.
A comparison of the level of employee satisfaction with certain aspects of job
satisfaction.
An analysis of the top five job satisfaction aspects by demographic variables,
including organization size, employee job tenure, age, race, education and
gender.
An analysis of the top five engagement aspects by demographic variables,
including employee age and gender.
Additional analyses by demographic variables, including employee job tenure,
gender, race and age.
Overall results for every year the survey was conducted to determine if there
have been significant changes in the span of a decade.

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 1

Executive Summary

Employees Are Focused on Meeting


Goals and Using Their Skills at Work

Several internal and external factors can influence employee job satisfaction
and engagement, and these factors may change over time. In the 10 years that
the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) has been conducting
its job satisfaction survey, there has been a noticeable fluctuation in employees
overall satisfaction with their jobs. This fluctuation could be attributed to
changes within the workplace as well as economic, demographic and social
trends. According to this study, in 2012 81% of U.S. employees reported overall
satisfaction with their current job, with 38% of employees indicating they were
very satisfied and 43% somewhat satisfied. Employees overall satisfaction
with their jobs is down five percentage points from its peak of 86% in 2009 and
four percentage points above its low in 2002 (77%). Figure 1 illustrates the data
on overall employee job satisfaction from 2002 to 2012.

In 2012, 81% of U.S. employees


reported overall satisfaction
with their current job, with 38%
of employees indicating they
were very satisfied and
43% somewhat satisfied.

When it comes to employee engagement at work in 2012, on average, employees were only moderately engaged (3.6, on a scale of 1 to 5, where 1 is highly
disengaged, 3 is moderately engaged and 5 is highly engaged). Employee
engagement levels have not changed in the two years that SHRM has been
collecting this metric.
Figure 1 | Overall Employee Job Satisfaction Over the Years

86%
84%
82%
80%
77%

2002
(n = 604)

77%

2004
(n = 604)

83%
81%

79%

77%

2005
(n = 600)

2006
(n = 604)

2007
(n = 604)

2008
(n = 601)

2009
(n = 602)

2010
(n = 605)

2011
(n = 596)

2012
(n = 600)

Note: Figure represents those employees who answered somewhat satisfied or very satisfied.
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 3

Top Aspects Contributing to Employee


Engagement in 2012
Employee engagement, which may or may not be aligned with employee job
satisfaction, is about the employees connection and commitment to the organization. The top five aspects contributing to employee engagement in 2012 were
very similar to the 2011 results; the main difference among the lists was that the
aspect employees frequently feel that they are putting all their effort into their
work made the top five list in 2012.

83% of employees reported


that they are determined
to accomplish their work
goals and confident they
can meet their goals.

83% of employees reported that they are determined to accomplish their work
goals and confident they can meet their goals.
79% of employees reported satisfaction with their relationship with their
co-workers.
75% of employees were satisfied with opportunities to use their skills and
abilities at work.
72% of employees were satisfied with how their work contributed to their
organizations business goals.
71% of employees reported that they frequently felt that they were putting all
their effort into their work and that they were satisfied with their relationship
with their immediate supervisor.

Table 1 | Top Five Employee Engagement Aspects


2011
(n = 600)

2012
(n = 600)

I am determined to accomplish my work goals and confident I can meet them

83% (1)

83% (1)

Relationship with co-workers

76% (2)

79% (2)

Opportunities to use skills/abilities

74% (3)

75% (3)

Contribution of work to organization's business goals

71% (5)

72% (4)

Relationship with immediate supervisor

73% (4)

71% (5)

70%

71% (5)

I frequently feel that Im putting all my effort into my work


Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

The top five aspects contributing to employee engagement were also analyzed by
employee gender and age. Respondents from the Veterans generation and older
were the only group that placed relationship with their immediate supervisor
as the top factor contributing to their engagement. These data are shown in the
Appendix.

Top Five Contributors to Employee


Job Satisfaction in 2012
Although many factors contribute to employee job satisfaction, only two have
remained among the top five aspects since 2002. In a recovering economy, none
of the aspects employees selected as the top five contributors to their job satisfaction was a surprise.1
Opportunities to use skills and abilities (63%) displaced job security (61%) for
the number one spot of aspects most important to job satisfaction, placing job
security second in the list. Other aspects that rounded off employees top five
very important factors contributing to job satisfaction were:

4 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

Compensation/pay (60%).
Communication between employees and senior management (57%).
Relationship with immediate supervisor (54%).
For the ranking of other aspects most important to employee job satisfaction,
refer to Figure 2 on page 7 and Table 6 in the Appendix.
Table 2 | Top Five Aspects of Job Satisfaction Most Important to Employees: 2002 to 2012
2002
(n = 604)

2004
(n = 604)

2005
(n = 601)

2006
(n = 605)

2007
(n = 604)

2008
(n = 601)

2009
(n = 601)

2010
(n = 600)

2011
(n = 600)

2012
(n = 600)

47%

44%

51% (5)

44%

50% (4)

55% (4)

56% (3)

62% (2)

63% (1)

Job security

65% (1)

60% (4)

59% (4)

59% (3)

53% (2)

59% (1)

63% (1)

63% (1)

63% (1)

61% (2)

Compensation/pay

59% (4)

63% (2)

61% (2)

67% (1)

59% (1)

53% (3)

57% (3)

53% (5)

54% (4)

60% (3)

Communication between employees and


senior management

62% (3)

54%

50%

48%

51% (4)

50% (4)

51%

47%

53% (5)

57% (4)

49%

49%

46%

47%

48%

47% (5)

52%

48%

55% (3)

54% (5)

Opportunities to use skills/abilities

Relationship with immediate supervisor

Note: A dash () indicates that this question was not asked that year.
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

The top five aspects of employee job satisfaction were also analyzed by several
employee demographics. Opportunities to use skills and abilities were the top
concern among employees, and in most cases, this aspect ranked among the top
two very important aspects of job satisfaction, regardless of employees tenure,
age, gender or organization staff size. Opportunities to use skills and abilities
were the third most important contributor to job satisfaction for respondents
employed at organizations with 500 to 2,499 employees and for employees
with three to five years and 11 or more years of tenure. For nonexempt (hourly)
nonmanagement employees, opportunities to use skills and abilities were ranked
as the fifth most important aspect of job satisfaction. These data are shown in
the Appendix.

What Do These Findings Mean for Organizations?


Develop Existing Employees: Recent research has revealed that organizations are having difficulty recruiting employees with the right skills for their
open positions. The SHRM Leading Indicators of National Employment
(LINE) show that HR professionals in manufacturing and service sectors
have reported a trend toward increased difficulty recruiting key candidates in
2012. One of the top contributors to job satisfaction and engagement among
employees is having the opportunity to use their skills and abilities at work.
Employees frequently have skills and abilities beyond the position for which
they were hired. HR professionals can help their organizations train and
promote their employees to fill positions that require higher-level skills. This
will then open up positions that require lower skill levels, which, in turn, may
be easier to fill.
Communicate About the Total Rewards Package: Employees rate compensation/pay as the third most important aspect of their job satisfaction.
This aspect received a low rating when it came to employees actual level of
satisfaction: Only 22% of employees were very satisfied with compensation/
pay. There are several ways HR professionals can address compensation: share
information about the organizations compensation philosophy, help employees

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 5

understand how their compensation/pay is determined and frequently communicate to employees what their total rewards package includes.
Build a Bridge Between Employees and Senior Management: Employee
engagement and job satisfaction should not be something that HR professionals and their organizations measure once a year. They need to be built into an
organizations day-to-day activities. Employee engagement and job satisfaction
should be the shared responsibility of both employees and the organization.
How can this be achieved? Two of the top five contributors to employee job
satisfaction were relationship with immediate supervisor and communication
between employees and senior management. These two aspects were also
high on employees list of engagement aspects. Clearly, employees value their
relationship with management, and they are looking for ways to make this
relationship more effective, which, in turn, will likely increase employee satisfaction, engagement and productivity. Employers can build a bridge between
employees and senior management by training their line managers regularly
and involving them in strategy meetings and activities. Doing so will enable
line managers to better understand the organizations vision and share it with
their direct reports. These managers can complete the information-sharing
loop by sharing with senior management feedback from the employees. Line
managers who are encouraged to be open to what their employees say and then
push this feedback up are key in ameliorating the communication gap.

6 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

Employers can build a bridge


between employees and senior
management by training their
line managers regularly and
involving them in strategy
meetings and activities.

Figure 2 | Very Important Aspects of Employee Job Satisfaction


Opportunities to use skills and abilities (1)

63%

Job security (2)

61%

Compensation/pay (3)

60%

Communication between employees and senior management (4)

57%

Relationship with immediate supervisor (5)

54%

Benefits (6)

53%

Organizations financial stability (7)

52%

The work itself (7)

52%

Managements recognition of employee job performance (8)

50%

Autonomy and independence (9)

48%

Feeling safe in the work environment (10)

47%

Overall corporate culture (10)

47%

Flexibility to balance life and work issues (11)

46%

Career advancement opportunities (12)

42%

Relationships with co-workers (13)

40%

Meaningfulness of job (14)

39%

Organizations commitment to professional development (15)

36%

Job-specific training (15)

36%

Contribution of work to organizations business goals (16)

34%

Career development opportunities (16)

34%

Variety of work (17)

33%

Organizations commitment to corporate social responsibility (18)

28%

Paid training and tuition reimbursement programs (18)

28%

Networking (19)

27%

Organizations commitment to a diverse and inclusive workplace (19)

27%

Organizations commitment to a green workplace (20)

17%

Note: n = 600. Figure represents those who answered very important. Percentages are based on a scale where 1 = very unimportant and 4 = very important.
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 7

Survey Results: Employee Job Satisfaction

Career Development

Career development is an opportunity for employees to continually take part


in more advanced or diverse activities (e.g., training, networking) that result
in improving skills, gaining new skills, taking greater responsibility at work,
improving their status and earning higher income. Employees rated only one of
the factors in the career development categoryopportunities to use skills and
abilities at workin the top five very important contributors to job satisfaction;
in 2012, it was rated as the top aspect for the first time since 2004.

Opportunities to Use Skills and Abilities

63% of employees rated


opportunities to use their skills
and abilities at work as the
most important contributor
to their job satisfaction,
displacing job security for
the number one spot.

Sixty-three percent of employees rated opportunities to use their skills and abilities at work as the most important contributor to their job satisfaction, displacing job security for the number one spot (see Table 1). This is the highest that
this category has been since 2004, when it was first added to the list of aspects
important to employee job satisfaction. Seventy-five percent of employees were
satisfied (responded somewhat satisfied or very satisfied) with this aspect.
This level of satisfaction placed opportunities to use skills and abilities at work
third on the list of factors contributing to employee engagement.
According to the September 2012 results of SHRM Leading Indicators of
National Employment (LINE),2 there has been an ongoing trend of steady job
growth in both the manufacturing and service sectors. While the economy
continues to recover, albeit slowly, employees may be feeling more secure about
their jobs. This sense of job security may be leading them to look for opportunities within their organizations to demonstrate their skills and abilities to prepare
themselves for career advancement within their organization or elsewhere.
When employees feel that they are using their skills and contributing fully to
the success of their organization, they are more satisfied with their jobs and
more engaged.
This element of job satisfaction appeared to be especially important to employees
with college and post-graduate degrees compared with employees with a high
school diploma (Table 9). This aspect was also a higher priority for employees in
middle management than for nonexempt (hourly) nonmanagement employees.

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 9

Figure 3 | Importance of Opportunities to Uses Skills and Abilities

63%

32%

2%

3%

Very unimportant

Unimportant

Important

Very important

(n = 600)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

Career Advancement Opportunities Within Organization


As illustrated in Figure 4, 42% of employees reported that this factor was very
important to job satisfaction. Career advancement opportunities within the
organization have continued a gradual trend upward since 2007, when this
aspect was at a low of 27%. The increased importance of career advancement
opportunities could be attributed to employees feeling that theyve mastered
the responsibilities of their current positions and therefore are looking for more
challenging positions within their organizations. The increase in the importance
of this aspect may also be related to employees uncertainty about the economy,
making it more likely for them to desire advancement within their organization
rather than taking the risk of moving to a new employer.
Career advancement was a higher priority for employees in middle management
than for those in nonmanagement positions. Employees with some college education found this aspect to be more important than did employees with a high
school diploma. This aspect was also more important to younger employees (age
47 and younger) than for employees 48-67 years of age. These data are shown in
Table 9.
As this aspect continues to trend up in importance, organizations need to pay
attention to employees satisfaction level with career advancement opportunities.
Employees are not particularly satisfied; only 46% of employees said they were
satisfied (18% were very satisfied and 28% were somewhat satisfied) with this
aspect. Career advancement opportunities could become a critical aspect of
employee engagement in the workplace. Employees who are using their skills and
abilities in their work and contributing fully in their organization could become
disillusioned if opportunities to advance in their career are not available within
the organization. These employees will be more likely to look for opportunities
outside of their organization as the economy improves. According to this study,
44% of employees indicated that they are likely to look for work outside their
organization in the next 12 months, whereas in 2011, this percentage was 36%.
HR professionals are in a position to help their organizations develop coaching
or mentoring programs to promote knowledge sharing and internal networks
between experienced and more junior employees. HR professionals also can
identify positions for which succession planning is practical. These often include
key positions, positions with direct impact on strategic practices and those with
lengthy learning curves. HR can also be creative with the organizations compensation and rewards programs to motivate and retain top performers.

10 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

Career advancement
was a higher priority for
employees in middle
management than for those in
nonmanagement positions.

Figure 4 | Importance of Career Advancement Opportunities

40%

42%

Important

Very important

15%
4%

Very unimportant

Unimportant

(n = 600)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

Organizations Commitment to
Professional Development
Professional development opportunities (e.g., attending training or conferences,
obtaining certifications) are meant to develop or enhance employees skills
and knowledge so that they can use this information in their current position,
meet their professional and personal goals and build their rsum for future
jobs. Figure 5 depicts the relationship between the organizations commitment
to professional development and employee job satisfaction. While only 36% of
employees rated this aspect as very important to job satisfaction, 54% of employees reported being satisfied with their organizations commitment to professional
development. This aspect of job satisfaction was valued more by employees in
middle-management positions than by nonmanagement hourly employees.
During the current recession, professional development was among programs
affected by budget cuts. Though budgets are still lean, investing in the development of their employees will help organizations fill their mission-critical positions. With the ongoing economic recovery, organizations are reporting difficulty
finding qualified candidates for their open positions, according to the September
2012 SHRM LINE.3 In addition, a December 2011 SHRM survey showed that
23% of organizations believe that they are facing global competition for talent.4
One way organizations can continue to make sure their employees grow and
develop is to take advantage of web-based training, which is more cost-effective
than face-to-face training such as seminars or conferences. Employees can be
trained at their desks without incurring the travel-related cost of professional
development.
Figure 5 | Importance of Organizations Commitment to Professional Development

50%
36%

4%

Very unimportant

10%

Unimportant

Important

Very important

(n = 600)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 11

Job-specific Training
Employers may offer job-specific training to provide employees with the relevant
skills to enable them to perform their duties efficiently. Job-specific training is
also necessary to fill a newly hired employees skills gap. The immediate application of skills acquired through such training may boost employee confidence
and productivity. Similar to the organizations commitment to professional
development, 36% of employees viewed job-specific training as very important to
their job satisfaction (see Figure 6) and 57% were satisfied with it. There were no
significant differences among employee demographic variables.
Figure 6 | Importance of Job-specific Training

50%
36%

12%
3%

Very unimportant

Unimportant

Important

Very important

(n = 600)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

Career Development Opportunities


Through on-the-job learning experiences, cross-training opportunities, stretch
goals and other mechanisms to use skills beyond what is required by their
position, employees can enhance their skills and competencies. These prospects
help employees determine the next step in their career, either within or outside
the organization. One-third (34%) of employees indicated that career development was very important (see Figure 7), and 48% were satisfied with this aspect.
In 2012, employees viewed career development as a less important contributor
to job satisfaction compared with 2002. It was a higher priority for employees
in large organizations (25,000 or more employees) compared with employees in
smaller organizations (fewer than 100 employees). Employees with shorter job
tenure (less than two years) were more concerned with career development than
were employees employed at their organizations for 16 or more years. Employees
with some college education viewed career development opportunities as more
important than did employees with a high school diploma (Table 9).
Figure 7 | Importance of Career Development Opportunities

47%
34%
15%
4%

Very unimportant

Unimportant

Important

(n = 600)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

12 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

Very important

Employees with some college


education viewed career
development opportunities
as more important than
did employees with a
high school diploma.

Paid Training and Tuition Reimbursement Programs


Only 28% of employees believed paid training and tuition reimbursement
programs were very important to employee job satisfaction (Figure 8), and 47%
said they were satisfied with this aspect. Through paid training and tuition
reimbursement programs, employers support employees who want to reach their
career goals by continuing their education. In a 2012 SHRM study, many HR
professionals reported that their organizations offered educational assistance
to their employees: 61% offered undergraduate educational assistance and 58%
offered graduate educational assistance.5
Female employees deemed this aspect to be more important than did their
male counterparts. Employees with some college education also placed more
importance on this factor than did employees with post-graduate or high school
education. In addition, this aspect was more important to employees in larger
organizations (500 to 2,499 employees) compared with employees in smaller
organizations (fewer than 100 employees), and black employees viewed this
aspect as more important than white employees did (Table 9).
Figure 8 | Importance of Paid Training and Tuition Reimbursement Programs

43%
28%

21%
8%

Very unimportant

Unimportant

Important

Very important

(n = 600)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

Networking
Employees viewed networking as one of the least important contributors to their
job satisfaction, as shown in Figure 9. Only 27% of employees said networking
was very important to job satisfaction. However, networking was viewed as
more important in 2012 than in 2004, when it was first added to the list of
job satisfaction aspects. The upward trend of networking could be a result of
improved technology and the use of social networking in the workplace through
sites such as LinkedIn, Facebook and SHRM Connect. HR professionals in a
SHRM study indicated that only 31% of organizations track employee use of
social networking services on company-owned computers or company-owned
handheld devices.6 Networking may not be particularly important to employee
satisfaction, but building alliances can be valuable when looking for job leads
or clients. Through networking, employees can obtain career-related guidance
and benefit from the experiences and perspectives of others. Fifty-three percent
of employees reported their satisfaction with networking as a contributor to job
satisfaction. Employees with some college education placed more importance
on this aspect than did employees with a high school diploma, as did employees
in middle-management position compared with professional and nonexempt
nonmanagement employees (Table 9).

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 13

Figure 9 | Importance of Networking

46%
27%

21%
6%

Very unimportant

Unimportant

Important

(n = 600)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

14 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

Very important

Employee Relationship with Management

The relationship an employee has with his or her supervisor is a central


element to the employees affiliation to the organization, and it has been
argued that many employee behaviors are largely a function of the way
they are managed by their supervisors. One of the components of a good
relationship is effective communication. When there are open lines of
communication (e.g., encouraging an open-door policy), supervisors can
respond more effectively to the needs and problems of their employees. Effective
communication from senior management can provide the workforce with
direction. In addition, managements recognition of employees performance
through praise (private or public), awards and incentives is a cost-effective
way of increasing employee morale, productivity and competitiveness.

As organizations emerge from


the recession, it is important
for the senior management
team to communicate
effectively about the
organizations business
goals, policies and vision.

Communication Between Employees


and Senior Management
As shown in Figure 10, 57% of employees reported that communication between
employees and senior management was very important to employee job satisfaction. This aspect has been in the list of top five contributors to employee job
satisfaction five times since 2002. Among employees with tenure of 11 to 15
years, this aspect was rated first out of all aspects (Table 11).
Figure 10 | Importance of Communication Between Employees and Senior
Management

57%
38%

2%

4%

Very unimportant

Unimportant

Important

Very important

(n = 600)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

As organizations emerge from the recession, it is important for the senior


management team to communicate effectively about the organizations business
goals, policies and vision. This will help actively engage employees, provide
employees with direction and foster trust and respect. Frequently, employees are
concerned about the repercussions of bringing forth suggestions and concerns to
2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 15

management. Employees need to be encouraged to do so without fear; otherwise,


creativity and innovation may be stifled. Organizations use different methods to
encourage feedback and communication between employees and senior managementfor example, employee surveys, focus groups, town hall meetings and
suggestion boxes.
Employees in middle-management positions and nonexempt nonmanagement
employees perceived this aspect to be more important than did professional
nonmanagement employees (Table 9). Fifty-nine percent of employees indicated
that they are satisfied with communication between employees and senior management, suggesting that this may be an area for improvement in organizations.

Relationship with Immediate Supervisor


Employees rated their relationship with their immediate supervisor as more
important to their job satisfaction than benefits. This is the third time employees
rated this aspect among the top five contributors to job satisfaction (Tables 2
and 6).
Figure 11 | Importance of Relationship with Immediate Supervisor

54%
40%

2%

4%

Very unimportant

Unimportant

Important

Very important

(n = 600)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

The relationship employees have with their supervisors is directly connected to


their success and growth at work. Supervisors who develop a positive relationship with employees may be more likely to learn their employees strengths and
weaknesses, making it easier for supervisors to use their employees talents for
the good of the organization. Employees who have a favorable relationship with
their supervisorsa relationship in which they feel safe and supportedmay
be more likely to go above and beyond what is required of them. They also may
share with their supervisor job-related problems or even personal problems,
which can be barriers to employee productivity. It is important that supervisors
set clear expectations and provide feedback about work performance so as to
avoid any potential frustrations. Nearly three-quarters (71%) of employees were
satisfied with this aspect of job satisfaction.
The relationship with ones immediate supervisor was cited as important more
frequently by middle-management employees than by professional and nonexempt nonmanagement employees (Table 9).

Managements Recognition of
Employee Job Performance
Managements recognition of employee job performance is one of the ways that
organizations use to keep employees satisfied and engaged. According to a 2012
SHRM/Globoforce poll, 76% of employers report that they have an employee rec-

16 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

The relationship employees


have with their supervisors is
directly connected to their
success and growth at work.

ognition program.7 However, when employees were asked about the importance
of managements recognition of employee job performance, only 50% indicated
that this aspect was very important to their job satisfaction (see Figure 12).
What about employees satisfaction with this aspect? Employees may feel more
committed to their organization if they believe that their efforts are valued.
More than half (57%) of employees reported they were satisfied with managements recognition of employee job performance. Acknowledging and rewarding
employees job performance is important. Equally important are the behaviors
that management rewards, which manifest the norms and culture across the
organization. For example, is management rewarding competition instead of
teamwork? Are managers that retain top performers recognized? Does the
organization reward employees who adhere to organizational values and ethics
over those who do not?
There were some differences in the assessment of this contributor to job satisfaction among employee demographics. Employees who have been with the
organization for two years or less were more likely to connect managements
recognition of employee job performance to their overall job satisfaction compared with more tenured (16 or more years) employees. Middle-management and
nonexempt nonmanagement employees deemed this aspect more important than
did professional nonmanagement employees (Table 9).

Autonomy and Independence


Almost one-half (48%) of employees stated that autonomy and independence
were very important job satisfaction factors (see Figure 13). Providing employees
with increased freedom, flexibility and discretion to make decisions on the job
(e.g., scheduling of work and determining how it is to be done) can give them a
greater sense of responsibility for the outcomes of their work. Sixty-nine percent
of employees were satisfied with their level of autonomy and independence.
Employees in executive and middle-management positions valued autonomy and
independence more than employees in nonexempt nonmanagement positions did
(Table 9). Autonomy and independence were rated as the fourth most important
job satisfaction factor by executive-level employees (Table 14).

Figure 12 | Importance of Managements Recognition of Employee Job Performance

50%
40%

2%

Very unimportant

7%

Unimportant

Important

Very important

(n = 600)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 17

Figure 13 | Importance of Autonomy and Independence

1%

Very unimportant

47%

48%

Important

Very important

5%

Unimportant

(n = 600)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

18 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

More than half (57%)


of employees reported
they were satisfied with
managements recognition of
employee job performance.

Expert Q&A
Bruce Tulgan, founder, RainmakerThinking, and author of Managing the Generation Mix

Many workplaces today include members of four or five different

generations. What advantages and potential challenges does this


scenario present for HR professionals?

There has always been generational diversity in the workplace. But nowadays,
there are three things that are different about generational diversity. Number
one: Due to the growing age bubble on one end and the youth bubble on the
other end, all of the ordinary human capital management issues that track with
life and career stage issues are exaggerated. On the oldest end of the spectrum, the key issues to grapple with are flexible retention, knowledge transfer
and succession planning. The advantage is that there is a tremendous amount
of skill, knowledge, wisdom, institutional memory, relationships and maybe the
last vestiges of the old-fashioned work ethic that organizations can try to mine
for value while the older, more experienced people are still active. The disadvantage, of course, is that all that value is going to retire at some point.

Overall, the key advantages


in the youth bubble are the
energy and perspective of
the new, young talent, while
the challenge is recruiting,
leveraging and retaining them.

On the youngest end of the spectrum, the primary issues are attraction,
selection, onboarding, up-to-speed training, performance management and
a different kind of retention issue, what we call the development investment
paradox: An employer must develop new, young talent, but the more you
invest in developing them, the more you have to worry that they will sell your
investment in the free market. Overall, the key advantages in the youth bubble
are the energy and perspective of the new, young talent, while the challenge is
recruiting, leveraging and retaining them.

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 19

Meanwhile, in the middle of the spectrum, hiding below the radar, is the
under-management problem. So much of the supervisory burden falls on
mid-level leaders, who tend to be in the middle of the generational spectrum,
and for numerous reasons there is an epidemic of under-management coming from mid-level leaders down the chain of command, resulting in a cascade
of problems. The key opportunity for HR leaders is to zero in on the undermanagement problem and help mid-level leaders get back to the basics of
strong, highly engaged management.
Number two: Since the logic of seniority has been on the decline in the
workplace, seniority alone has not been sorting out age difference as a cause of
interpersonal issues among co-workers and between employees and supervisors. It used to be that the older, more experienced people were typically
senior to the younger, less experienced people, and this did a lot of the work
of sorting out age difference as a source of issues. Of course, everyone wants a
custom deal nowadays. Nobody wants to pay their dues and climb the ladder
the old-fashioned way. The advantage is that people of all ages can now work
harder, smarter, faster and better, and try to compete for the special rewards
they want. The challenge is that the younger, less experienced people often
lack context, are in a hurry for responsibility and reward, and are impatiently
resentful of the older, more experienced people in their way. Meanwhile, the
older, more experienced people often resent the young upstarts for not being
willing to pay their dues and wait their turn. This can be particularly challenging
when the younger, less experienced people are in positions of greater authority
than some of the older, more experienced people. (The military has dealt with
this challenge for a long time, with young second lieutenants who outrank older,
much more experienced NCOs. For this reason, I sometimes call this the young
lieutenant problem.)
Number three: Because we are living through the most profound changes
in our economy, society and workplace since the Industrial Revolution, all of
the ordinary advantages and challenges that normally come along with any
diversity issue are intensified and also confused because of the temporal nature
of generational issues. Everybody is dealing with tremendous change and
uncertainty. Globalization and technology are going through historic iterations
multiple times in a decade. Institutions are in a state of constant flux. Information is in a constantly growing tidal wave. Immediacy is accelerating with no end
in sight. And individuals are constantly rediscovering the need for self-reliance.
The oldest, most experienced people feel over and over again like the rug is being pulled out from under them. The youngest, least experienced people have
never known it any other way. Instead of the older folks knowing it all, everything
is always new. The obsolescence curve has become so steep that the learning
curve for all is constant all the time, thus removing many of the advantages of
age and experience. Meanwhile, the old-fashioned basics like poise, judgment
and wisdom remain the kind of knowledge on which the learning curve cannot
be accelerated, and yet many younger, less experienced people simply cannot
be made to appreciate. As a result, it is more important that we address some
of the basic diversity issue components of generational difference: We need to
help folks better understand where people of different generations are coming
from and where they are headed, learn to better appreciate those differences,
and learn to leverage them.

20 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

The key opportunity for HR


leaders is to zero in on the
under-management problem
and help mid-level leaders get
back to the basics of strong,
highly engaged management.

Job security and compensation are traditionally among the most


frequently cited factors for employees job satisfaction. What
do workers from different generations value more (or less) when
determining their happiness on the job?

Less experienced workers


are least likely to believe any
claims or offers of job security.

Among those of all generations, most workers have in common a growing


sense that their employment relationships are primarily transactional in nature.
The older Boomers sometimes have an uneasiness admitting that money (as
opposed to mission or professional commitment) is the primary quid pro quo in
the employment relationship. The younger the person, the less likely they are to
manifest that uneasiness.
On the flip side, the younger, less experienced workersGeneration Z and
Generation Yare least likely to believe any claims or offers of job security.
Boomers may be the ones who have been burned by offers or claims of longerterm security, but they still want to believe when such offers or claims are made
to them. To Gen Yers and Gen Zers, job security is not a meaningful concept.
What is more, security and long-term employment are not part of the same
equation. For people of all ages, increasingly, a much more meaningful concept
is career security, and that comes from cutting-edge technical skills, highly
developed transferable skills, relationships with decision makers, and tangible
results that prove an individuals ability to add value.
Beyond that, it should be noted that the older the employee, our research
shows, the more likely the individual is to think that financial compensation
should align with seniority and experience. The younger the employee, the
more likely he or she is to think that financial compensation should align with
short-term measures of productivity and quality or value of goods/services in
the marketplace.
When it comes to rewards determining happiness, outside of compensation
and security, we find that people of all generations tend to cite most often the
same five nonfinancial conditions of work: schedule, relationships, task choice,
learning opportunities and location (or work space). Where we see generational
differences on this, in our latest research, is as follows:

First, the younger the person, the more likely he or she is to rank learning
opportunities and relationships at work higher. The older the person, the
more likely the employee is to rank task choice higher.

Second, the younger the person, the more likely he or she is to want

variable arrangements in some or all of these factors. The older the person,
the more likely the employee is to want fixed arrangements.

Third, the younger the person, the more likely he or she is to want greater
control of these factors tied to performance measures. The older the
person, the more likely the employee is to accept less control of these
factors, but control not tied to performance measures.

Financial difficulties connected to the Great Recession are partly to

blame for older workers delaying their retirement and remaining in


the labor force. Do you think this is a temporary trend, or do you see
working longer as the new normal, and why?

Of course, economic conditions fluctuate, although the current economic


downturn has been deeper and more protracted than any since the 1930s.
This comes at a different life and career stage for each generation. This sort of
accident of historyand at what life and career stage it hitsis precisely what

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 21

makes for generational differences. So it is significant that the Great Recession


is hitting around retirement age for older workers.
Indeed, many older people will work to later ages than they otherwise would
for purely financial reasons. This may or may not be temporary in and of itself. If
we are at the beginning of a long-term economic decline, it may be that private
and public resources are simply not sufficient to support retirement at ages as
young as we have come to expect. Add to this presumably increasing life spans,
shifting perspective on age, as well as protracted time frames for resource
amortization, and the numbers alone could make working longer a longer-term
trend.
Beyond the economics, there are two additional factors to consider, both of
which suggest a longer-term trend. First, many organizations are expanding
flexible part-time employment opportunities as a way to retain older and more
experienced employees, especially those with significant skill, knowledge and
experience and, most of all, long-time employees with important institutional
memory and relationships. As this sort of flexible retention strategy is on the
rise, it figures that an increased number of older people will take advantage of
these opportunities to move up their retirement ages.
Second, many Boomers in the older (1946-1955 birth years) and younger (19561964) cohorts talk explicitly or implicitly in our interviews about reinventing
retirement. There is a significant majority who cite an intention to try to career
downshift in their current role in their current organization but continue to work,
or to leave their current employer and then begin a part-time or full-time career
endeavor or pursue as a career endeavor an interest that has previously been an
avocation or interest.

On the other end of the spectrum, young adults today are not only

facing limited job opportunities, but lower compensation in many


industries compared with the recent past. What advice would you give
to younger workers who are trying to break into a new career?

Again, for Generation Z, it will be a generation defining accident of history to


live through the Great Recession at the opening stages of their working lives.
What makes it particularly challenging for the youngest, least experienced
people right now is that by virtue of their life stage, by definition, they have less
experience, context and wisdom. These are the elements for which one cannot
accelerate the learning curve. On the other hand, they have their whole lives
ahead of them. Plenty of time is what they have that their older colleagues, by
definition, do not have.
My advice to younger people in particular is to acknowledge and appreciate
and take account of those advantages and disadvantages of youth. My advice
to anyone of any age trying to break into a new career right now is, first, the first
person you have to manage every day is yourself. Get really good at managing
yourself. And then, second, be really good at managing complex shifting authority relationships In other words, get really good at managing your bosses.
Step one: Once you really understand your role in any work context, then your
number one responsibility is to play that role to the absolute best of your ability.
That means contribute your very best and put in more time and effort no matter
how lowly, mundane or repetitive your tasks and responsibilities might seem in
relation to the overall mission of your organization.
Attitude mattersa lot. Effort, too, mattersa lot. Be high quality, high integrity and adaptable. Approach every relationship by staying focused on what

22 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

My advice to anyone of any


age trying to break into a new
career right now is...get really
good at managing yourself.

you have to offer the other person. Take personal responsibility for everything
you say and do, hold yourself accountable and never make excuses. Dont take
yourself too seriously, but always take your commitments and responsibilities
seriously. Extend personal vulnerability, but never undermine your own credibility.

Attitude mattersa lot.


Effort, too, mattersa lot.

Listen carefully. Exhibit respect and kindness. Celebrate the success of others. Be on time, or a little bit early. Dont take long breaks. Dont leave early,
and even stay a little late sometimes. Underpromise and overdeliver. Dont
badmouth others and try not to speak of others unless they are present. Keep
your word. Keep confidences. Dont keep other people waiting. Practice oldfashioned good manners.
Get lots of work done very well, very fast, all day long! Be a problem solver,
not a complainer. Once you get really good at managing yourself, then step
two is to get really good at managing your bosses. That means creating highly
engaged relationships with every single manager with whom you need to work
for any period of time. That means you need to have an ongoing dialogue with
every boss about exactly what that boss needs and expects from you.
What are the concrete actions within your control on which you will be measured and rewarded? You need to know, every step of the way, exactly what you
are supposed to be doing and how you are supposed to be doing it. Then you
need to get regular, honest feedback every step of the way. If you get coursecorrecting feedback, double and triple check to make sure you know exactly
what you are supposed to be doing and exactly how you are supposed to be
doing it. Every time you get course-correcting feedback, you will need to triple
check to make sure you are correcting in the right direction.

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 23

Compensation and Benefits

To attract the best employees, companies must research the market in their area
as well as their industry to ensure that their total rewards packagesalaries and
benefitsis in line with their talent strategy. Benefits for employees can include a
wide array of perks and other offerings; however, of primary importance to many
employees are health care, paid time off, retirement and family-friendly benefits.

Compensation/Pay
In 2012, six out of 10 employees indicated that compensation was very important
to their overall job satisfaction, putting it only three percentage points below
opportunities to use skills and abilities and only one percentage point below job
security. Compensation, along with job security, has consistently remained on
the list of the top five job satisfaction factors most important to employees.
As the economic climate continues to warm up and hiring rates increase, attractive compensation packages will be one of the strategies organizations competing for talent will use to recruit and retain the best employees. The SHRM LINE
report for September 2012 indicated that in August 2012 fewer manufacturers
increased compensation for new hires compared with August 2011.8 How do
organizations retain the employees who helped them weather the recession?
Organizations might not be financially ready to significantly increase their salary
budget, but the best organizations take the time to find creative ways to reward
and engage their employees.
Compensation was rated as the most important factor by employees with three
to five years of tenure, 16 or more years of tenure and employees in organization
with 500 to 2,499 employees (Table 9). Fifty-eight percent of employees were
satisfied with compensation/pay overall.
When employees were asked if they had received a pay raise (e.g., merit increase,
cost of living increase) within the last 12 months, 50% reported receiving a raise
(Figure 15) and 39% indicated that they received bonus. These numbers are
higher than in 2011, when 45% of employees reported receiving a raise and 35%
indicated that they received a bonus.

24 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

Compensation was rated


the most important factor
by employees with three to
five years of tenure, 16 or
more years of tenure and
employees in organization with
500 to 2,499 employees.

Figure 14 | Importance of Compensation/Pay

60%

38%

0%

2%

Very unimportant

Unimportant

Important

Very important

(n = 590)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

Figure 15 | Compensation Change in the Last 12 Months

61%
50%

50%
39%

Yes
Received pay raise (n = 513)

No
Received bonus (n = 473)

Note: Not applicable responses were excluded from this analysis.


Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

Employees were asked to rate the importance of the following four common
components of compensation (see Figure 16 and Table 10).
Being paid competitively with the local market: Fifty-five percent of
employees rated this aspect as very important, and 57% were satisfied with it.
Compared with employees in small organizations (fewer than 100 employees),
employees in large organizations (2,500 to 24,999 employees) were more likely
to indicate that being paid competitively with the local market was important
to their job satisfaction.
Base rate of pay: 52% of employees viewed base rate of pay as very important
to employee job satisfaction. Employees in larger organizations (500 to 2,499
employees) were more likely to connect this factor to their overall job satisfaction compared with employees in small organization (fewer than 100 employees). Similar to being paid competitively, 57% of employees were satisfied with
this aspect.
Opportunities for variable pay (bonuses, commissions, other variable pay,
monetary rewards for ideas or suggestions): Variable pay, or differential
pay, is often not added to the employees base pay and is dependent upon
performance. This allows organizations to better control their labor costs and
tie performance and pay together. One-third of employees (39%) reported that
this aspect was very important to job satisfaction, and 47% reported being
satisfied with it.

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 25

Stock options: This is another form of compensation that organizations


offer to their employees. Only 15% of employees rated stock options as very
important. Forty-five percent of employees whose organizations offered stock
options reported being satisfied with them. Executive, middle-management
and nonexempt nonmanagement employees found this aspect to be more
important than professional nonmanagement employees did.
Figure 16 | Very Important Compensation Aspects

55%

Being paid competitively with the local market

Base rate of pay

52%

Opportunities for variable pay

Stock options

39%

15%

Note: Figure represents those who answered very important. Percentages are based on a scale where 1 = very unimportant and 4 = very important. Not applicable responses
were excluded.
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

Benefits
Fifty-three percent of employees rated benefits as a very important contributor
to their job satisfaction. In previous surveys, benefits have ranked among the
top two aspects of job satisfaction for employees since 2002 (Tables 2 and 6).
In 2012, for the first time since 2002, benefits slipped to sixth place, placing
it 10 percentage points below opportunities to use skills and abilities and four
percentage points below communication between employees and senior management.
Almost two-thirds (61%) of employees were satisfied with their benefits package26% said they were very satisfied and 35% were somewhat satisfied.
Although benefits were rated as very important by more than half of employees,
only slightly more than one-quarter of employees were very satisfied with their
benefitsa difference of 27%. In a 2012 SHRM study, 73% of HR professionals reported that their organizations employee benefits offerings have been
negatively affected by the recession.9 This has undoubtedly added to the trend of
organizations increasingly shifting the costs of benefits to employees.
The only significant difference in the assessment of the importance of benefits to
overall job satisfaction was based on employee organization staff size. Benefits
were more important to employees in larger organizations (500 or more employees) than to those in smaller organizations (fewer than 100 employees).
Employers use benefits as one of the tools to recruit and retain top talent. HR is
tasked with finding the right mix of employee benefits that satisfy the personal
and financial needs of the current and potential workforce, given existing
business conditions and cost constraints. It is important for organizations to
take into account and anticipate the needs, preferences and makeup of their
workforce, in addition to the organizational strategy, when considering benefits
offerings. Finding a cost-effective and affordable benefits package is particularly
challenging, given the high costs of offering benefits, particularly health care.

26 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

Although benefits were rated


as very important by more
than half of employees, only
slightly more than one-quarter
of employees were very
satisfied with their benefits
a difference of 27%.

Figure 17 | Importance of Benefits

53%
41%

1%

Very unimportant

5%

Unimportant

Important

Very important

(n = 565)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

Benefits for employees can include a wide array of perks and other offerings;
however, of primary importance to many employees are health care, paid time
off, retirement and family-friendly benefits (e.g., domestic partner benefits,
subsidized child care, elder care referral service, scholarships for members of
family). These benefits were further examined to learn about their importance to
employee job satisfaction, and these results are illustrated in Figure 18.
Figure 18 | Very Important Benefits Aspects

63%

Health care/medical benefits

Paid time off

55%

Defined contribution plans (e.g., 401(k), 403(b))

40%

Defined benefit pension plans

Family-friendly benefits

36%

32%

Note: (n = 511 - 559) Figure represents those who answered very important. Percentages are based on a scale where 1 = very unimportant and 4 = very important. Not
applicable responses were excluded.
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

There were differences across employee demographic categories in the importance of these benefits (see Table 10). Health care/medical benefits were valued
more by middle-management employees than by executive employees and by
employees in larger organizations (500 or more employees) than by employees in
smaller organizations (fewer than 100 employees).
When it comes to retirement savings benefits (i.e., defined contribution plans
and defined benefit pension plans), middle-management and nonexempt employees placed greater importance on these benefits than did professional nonmanagement employees, as did more tenured employees (16 or more years) compared
with less tenured employees (2 years or less), Generation X and Baby Boomers
compared with Millennials, and employees in larger organizations (2,500 or
more employees) compared with employees in small organizations (fewer than
100 employees). Black employees placed greater importance on retirement
benefits than did white employees.

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 27

Family-friendly benefits were more important to employees with some college


education than to employees with a high school diploma as well as to employees
from larger organizations (2,500 to 24,999 employees) than to those from
smaller organizations (fewer than 100 employees).
Female employees placed more importance on paid time off benefits than their
male counterparts did. Paid time off benefits were also more important to
employees in larger organizations (500 to 2,499 employees) than to employees in
smaller organizations (fewer than 100 employees).
Employees overall satisfaction with aspects of benefits varied: 73% of respondents were satisfied with paid time off, 61% with health care/medical benefits,
60% with defined contribution plans, 51% with defined benefit pension plans
and 50% with family-friendly benefits.
For more detailed information about the types of benefits and trends in benefits
offerings over the last five years, see the SHRM 2012 Employee Benefits research
report.10

Flexibility to Balance Life and Work Issues


How important is flexibility to balance work and life issues to employees? Nearly
one-half (46%) of employees rated it as very important to their overall job satisfaction (Figure 19). The importance of this contributor, also referred to as work/
life fit, to job satisfaction increased by eight percentage points compared with
2011. More than two-thirds (67%) of employees were satisfied with their level of
flexibility to balance life and work issues. Employees with some college education
were more likely to indicate that flexibility to balance work and life issues was
important to their job satisfaction compared with employees with a high school
diploma (Table 9).
The SHRM 2012 Employee Benefits research report provides numerous examples of ways in which organizations provide flexibility for their employees.
These include flextime (offered by 53% of responding organizations), telecommuting (57%) and compressed workweeks (35%).11 Organizations can also
find resources and research on effective and flexible workplace by visiting
http://whenworkworks.org and www.movingworkforward.org.

Figure 19 | Importance of Flexibility to Balance Life and Work Issues

43%

46%

11%
1%

Very unimportant

Unimportant

Important

(n = 571)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

28 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

Very important

Female employees placed


more importance on paid
time off benefits than their
male counterparts did.

Expert Q&A
Jeanne Meister, partner, Future Workplace, and co-author of The 2020 Workplace: How Innovative
Companies Attract, Develop & Keep Tomorrows Employees Today (Harper Collins)

Job security and compensation are traditionally among the most

frequently cited factors in determining employees job satisfaction.


What else would you say is becoming equally important for workers
happiness on the job, and why?

Interestingly, managers
underestimated the importance
of flexibility in the workplace.

Future Workplace just completed an online survey in May 2012, titled Multiple
Generations @ Work. The survey probed the expectations and needs of multiple generations of 1,189 employees and 150 managers. The generations that
were included in this online survey were Baby Boomers (born between 1946 and
1964), Generation X (born between 1965 and 1976), Millennials (born between
1977 and 1997) and Generation 2020 (born after 1997).
There were several findings on the range of expectations employees have for
employers. One of the most interesting was this: When knowledge workers
and managers were asked, What makes an attractive employer?, workplace
flexibility ranked the highest and, for employees, trumped competitive compensation and career progression. For all generations of knowledge workers, 35%
cited workplace flexibility as their top priority in vetting prospective employers.
For Millennials, this increased to 39%. Interestingly, managers underestimated
the importance of flexibility in the workplace.
Also of interest, we looked at our research data from the point of view of Millennials and Generation 2020 (this included a sample of nearly 650), and we found a
new set of benefits of interest to the youngest members of the workforce. These
new benefits include 1) the ability to share my ideas in the workplace, 2) the

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 29

opportunity to work for an organization whose values match my own, and 3) the
assistance from my employer to build my financial literacy skills and help pay off
student debt.
This last benefit is extremely interesting, as the amount of student debt in the
United States has reached $1 trillion, surpassing credit card debt in this country.
As prices soar, a college degree statistically remains a good lifetime investment,
but it often comes with an unprecedented financial burden. This is a significant
issue, as the recent data shows that nearly one in 10 borrowers of student loans
who started repayment in 2009 defaulted within two years, and this rate is
double that in 2005.

Your book, The 2020 Workplace, discusses the effect that social media

has had on talent management. What are the benefitsand perhaps any
drawbacksthat Twitter, Facebook and other mediums have brought to
the workplace?

The book examined myriad ways companies are using social media inside the
enterprise. First, it is important to note that a small percentage of business leaders are using social media today (micro-blogging, internal social networks and
wikis). According to a survey of 3,500 business leaders conducted by Deloitte,
only 18% believe social business is important to their organization today, but
63% say it will be important to them in the next three years.
There are many ways the early adopters to social business are using social
media inside the enterprise:
Recruiting and outreach. The U.S. State Department, for example, has
more than 295,000 followers on Twitter and is using it to not only recruit new
prospective employees, but also to involve senior-level executives in a series of
outreach discussions. For example, Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy Tara
Sonenshine recently held a Twitter Q&A to answer questions on everything
from exchange programs in Pakistan to who inspires her (answer: her children).
In addition, Secretary of State Senior Advisor for Innovation Alec Ross spoke to
100 European Union public diplomacy professionals in Brussels recently, where
he underscored the importance of social media. One point both executives
emphasized was that social media is a place for listening and discussing, not just
talking.
Employee learning. Procter & Gamble recently deployed a social learning
platform called PULSE to its 130,000-plus employees to connect people to
people, enable learning across geographies and provide a venue for knowledge
sharing. P&G is just one example, and the company joins a range of others that
are using a social learning platform to reimagine and reinvent learning to be
more social, personalized and visual across the enterprise. Other early adopter
companies across a range of industries include Deloitte, McAfee, Telus, Unisys,
Cerner and Neiman Marcus.
When we query participants in our Social Learning Boot Camp on the benefits
and barriers of using social media inside their companies, the benefits noted by
these early adopter companies include knowledge sharing, increased productivity and expertise location (i.e., being able to quickly find experts to solve
immediate problems). Interestingly, the barriers noted included the culture of
the organization, a lack of understanding among senior management and a lack
of training on how to reasonably use social media inside the organization.

30 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

The amount of student debt in


the United States has reached
$1 trillion, surpassing credit
card debt in this country.

What are employers doing wrong today in terms of their efforts to


retain top talent?

Employers must develop a better understanding of what motivates employees


to stay with a company, in other words, what are the key levers of attraction so
top talent decides to stay rather than jump ship? And this is a particularly important issue for companies recruiting and trying to retain top Millennial talent.

Employers must develop


a better understanding of
what motivates employees
to stay with a company.

In the book, The 2020 Workplace, by the year 2020, Millennials will represent
50% of the workforce, and they will soon outnumber Generation X predecessors, particularly in parts of the world where birth rates are low, such as Japan,
Korea and parts of Western Europe. Millennials are already focused on how they
can learn and develop faster in the workplace. I like to call them the learning
generation, since access to training and development and career progression
are top criteria for staying with an employer. I see five efforts employers can
start to retain top Millennial talent:
1) Workplace flexibility and work/life balance. These are often more important than financial rewards. This generation is personally committed to
learning and development, and this often is their first choice benefit from
employers. So employers need to re-examine their investment in learning
as well as their modes of delivery. After all, Millennials are asking for what all
of us want in the workplace: the opportunity to have flexible schedules and
learn when and where we want to.
2) Immediate performance feedback. The annual performance review will
slowly be replaced by immediate and often web-based tools to deliver realtime feedback and peer reviews. The companies that are early adopters to
this are those with large populations of Millennial workers, such as the professional services firms and technology firms, where feedback on performance
happens each day.
3) Moving up the career ladder faster. Career progression is a top priority
for young professionals, and in our Multiple Generations @ Work survey,
Millennials and members of the Generation 2020 ranked the opportunity for
career progression higher than competitive compensation.
4) Using power of corporate social responsibility (CSR) to retain talent.
Millennials are attracted to employer brands they admire as consumers. A
Cone Communications study of 1,800 Millennials found 88% were looking for
employers with CSR values that matched their own. So if a company has an
extensive CSR program, this needs to be touted in recruiting and reinforced
in daily communication to employees.
5) Life skills training offered by employers. In our Multiple Generations @
Work survey, we found that life skills training was becoming increasingly
important, and employees are viewing this as something employers should
be offering to them. Key topics for life skills include financial literacy, health
and wellness and language training.

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 31

Work Environment

Employers understand that employees spend a large amount of their time at


work, and therefore, companies take steps to ensure the work environment is
conducive for employees to be productive, satisfied and engaged in the workplace. In 2012, only one aspect from the work environment category was among
the top five contributors important to employee job satisfactionjob security.

Job Security
Job security, which employees rated as the top contributor to job satisfaction
five times since 2002, placed second in 2012. The displacement of job security
by opportunities to use skills and abilities could be an indication that employees
are feeling more optimistic about their jobs. Employees were asked about the
security of their current job (i.e., that they will not be laid off) in light of the U.S.
economy. Similar to 2011, 40% of employees in 2012 indicated that they were
not at all concerned about their job security. Two-thirds of employees also said
they were satisfied with job security in their current job. According to SHRMs
Jobs Outlook Survey (JOS) report for the second quarter of 2012, 35% of organizations plan to increase staff in the second quarter of 2012 and 58% plan to
maintain current staff levels.12
Job security topped the list for nonexempt nonmanagement employees and
workers employed in organizations with staff size of 25,000 or more (for more
detailed data, see Tables 11 through 15 in the Appendix). Job security was more
important to employees with two years of college education than to employees
with a college degree (see Table 9).

Figure 20 | Importance of Job Security

61%

36%

1%

2%

Very unimportant

Unimportant

Important

(n = 599)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

32 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

Very important

Job security, which


employees rated as the top
contributor to job satisfaction
five times since 2002,
placed second in 2012.

Organizations Financial Stability


More than half (52%) of employees indicated that their organizations financial
stability was very important to their job satisfaction. The improvement of the
economy and job market may have made this aspect slightly less important to
employees this year than in the previous years. Overall, 63% of employees were
satisfied with their organizations financial stability.

Employees with postgraduate degrees were


more likely than employees
with a high school diploma
to select the work itself as a
contributor to job satisfaction.

The ranking of the organizations financial stability varied across employees


demographics (see Tables 11-15). Employees aged 68 and older rated it as the second top contributor to their job satisfaction. Baby Boomers and Gen Xers valued
this aspect more than Millennials did, as did middle-management employees
compared with professional nonmanagement employees (Table 9).
Figure 21 | Importance of Organizations Financial Stability

52%
43%

2%

4%

Very unimportant

Unimportant

Important

Very important

(n = 600)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

The Work Itself


The work itself aspect means how interesting, challenging or exciting an employees job is. It can be difficult for employees to remain motivated, satisfied and
engaged with their jobs if their work is not stimulating. More than half (52%) of
employees indicated that the work itself was very important to job satisfaction.
These data are illustrated in Figure 22. The work itself tied with organizations
financial stability for the seventh spot on the list of most important contributors
to employee job satisfaction. Seven out of 10 employees were satisfied with the
work itself.
There were differences among employee demographic categories in their assessment of the importance of the work itself. Employees with post-graduate
degrees were more likely than employees with a high school diploma to select the
work itself as a contributor to job satisfaction. This aspect was also more valued
by executives and middle-management employees than by hourly employees
(Table 9).

Feeling Safe in the Work Environment


According to SHRM research, 27% of HR professionals reported that their current organization experienced an incident of workplace violence within the past
five years; 15% indicated that incidents of violence had increased in frequency.13
In another research study by SHRM, 16% of HR professionals reported that
physical assaults have occurred in their workplace.14 While at work, employees
expect their organization to take measures that ensure their safety. About onehalf of employees (47%) indicated that feeling safe in the work environment was
very important to their job satisfaction. Female employees considered feeling
safe in the workplace an especially important job satisfaction factor compared
2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 33

with male workers, as did employees with some college education compared
with employees with post-graduate degrees. Feeling safe in the workplace was
more important for black employees than for white employees, and nonexempt
nonmanagement employees valued this aspect more than professional nonmanagement employees did (Table 9). Employees were generally highly satisfied with
their level of safety in the workplace (77%).

Figure 22 | Importance of the Work Itself

52%
44%

1%

Very unimportant

4%

Unimportant

Important

Very important

(n = 599)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

Figure 23 | Importance of Feeling Safe in the Work Environment

43%

3%

Very unimportant

47%

8%

Unimportant

Important

Very important

(n = 598)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

Overall Corporate Culture


The definition of corporate culture varies, but in general, culture consists of the
collective attitudes and behaviors of individuals within the organization. It is the
explicit and implicit expectations, norms of behavior and standards of performance, the organizations reputation, work ethics, values, and working conditions. Similar to feeling safe in the workplace, 47% of employees believed that
corporate culture was very important to job satisfaction, and 64% said they were
satisfied with their organizations overall corporate culture. Female employees
were more likely to connect this factor to their overall job satisfaction than were
male employees (see Table 9).

Relationships with Co-workers


Employees relationships with co-workers are important to their success at work.
Building allies across the organization helps employees accomplish their work
goals and their organizations goals. Forming positive relationships at work may
make the workplace and work more enjoyable and increase job satisfaction and

34 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

engagement. According to 40% of employees, this factor was very important


to employee job satisfaction, and 79% of employees expressed satisfaction with
their relationships with co-workers. Relationship with co-workers was rated
second on the list of engagement aspects and was a higher priority for female
employees than for male employees.
Figure 24 | Importance of Overall Corporate Culture

2%

5%

Very unimportant

Unimportant

46%

47%

Important

Very important

Relationship with co-workers


was rated second on the
list of engagement aspects
and was a higher priority
for female employees than
for male employees.

(n = 599)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

Figure 25 | Importance of Relationships with Co-workers

51%
40%

2%

Very unimportant

7%

Unimportant

Important

Very important

(n = 599)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

Meaningfulness of Job
When asked about the meaningfulness of ones job (the feeling that the job
contributes to society as a whole), 39% of employees believed that this aspect was
very important to overall job satisfaction (see Figure 26). When employees find
their work to be meaningful and fulfilling, they are more likely to be satisfied,
engaged and do their work well. Seventy percent of employees were satisfied with
the meaningfulness of their jobs.
This aspect was deemed more important by college-educated and post-graduate
employees than by employees with a high school diploma. Organizations can
make a concentrated effort to communicate the ways in which the employees
work contributes to the organizations vision and society. This communication
may include corporate social responsibility and sustainability activities the
organization is involved in or is contemplating.

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 35

Figure 26 | Importance of Meaningfulness of Job

46%
39%

5%

Very unimportant

10%

Unimportant

Important

Very important

(n = 600)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

Contribution of Work to the


Organizations Business Goals
Contributing to the organizations business goals was viewed by 34% of employees as a very important aspect of employee job satisfaction. Contributing to the
organizations overall business goals can give employees a clearer sense of their
role (i.e., how their work fits into the bigger picture) and the significance and
relevance of their work to the business. Compared with professional nonmanagement employees, executives and middle-management employees rated this facet
as more important. These data are depicted in Table 9. In terms of satisfaction,
72% of employees said they were happy with the contribution of their work to
their organizations business goals.
Figure 27 | Importance of Contribution of Work to Organizations Business Goals

56%

34%

2%

Very unimportant

8%

Unimportant

Important

Very important

(n = 600)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

Variety of Work
As shown in Figure 28, 33% of employees indicated that variety of work was
very important to job satisfaction. Research has shown that employees will be
more satisfied with their jobs and find their work more meaningful when there is
variety in activities and the types of skills they use at work. Similar to the work
itself aspect, this includes providing employees with opportunities to work on
new kinds of assignments that call upon or develop a range of skills and abilities.
More than two-thirds (69%) of employees were satisfied with the variety of their
work.
There were significant differences in employee demographics. Employees in
management-level positions (executives and middle management) placed more
value on this aspect than did professional and nonexempt nonmanagement
36 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

employees. This aspect was also more important to female employees than to
male employees (see Table 9).
Figure 28 | Importance of Variety of Work

52%
33%
13%
2%

Very unimportant

Unimportant

Important

Very important

(n = 599)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

Organizations Commitment to
Corporate Social Responsibility
As shown in Figure 29, 28% of employees rated the organizations commitment to corporate social responsibility (CSR) as very important to their job
satisfaction. An organizations commitment to CSR involves balancing financial
performance with contributions to the quality of life of its employees, the local
community and society at large. A broad range of practices and activities fall
under the umbrella of CSR, such as charitable donations, cause marketing/
branding and partnering with environmentally and diversity-friendly suppliers/
vendors. There has been an increased awareness of CSR and sustainability in
the past few years, leading many organizations to rebrand their products and
services. According to a research report by SHRM, BSR and Aurosoorya, 72% of
organizations reported engaging in sustainable workplace or business practices.15
There were significant differences across employee demographics in their rankings of the importance of an organizations commitment to CSR. Organizations
that practice corporate social responsibility have a stronger appeal for female
employees than for male employees. Employees in executive positions also placed
greater importance on this aspect than professional nonmanagement employees
did, as did black employees compared with whites and employees with some
college education compared with high school graduates (see Table 9). Overall,
51% of employees said they were satisfied with their organizations commitment
to CSR.
Figure 29 | Importance of Organizations Commitment to Corporate Social
Responsibility

50%

28%
16%
6%

Very unimportant

Unimportant

Important

Very important

(n = 599)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 37

Organizations Commitment to Diverse


and Inclusive Workplace
Diversity and inclusion, although rated low compared with other contributors to
job satisfaction, is not to be ignored by HR professionals and their organizations.
The definition of diversity keeps evolving. Definitions of disabilities, and racial,
gender and marital status are continually changing. State and local governments
are enacting laws, such as same-sex marriage laws, that have a direct impact
on diversity and inclusion. HR professionals and their organizations need to
keep abreast of these changes in order to be an employer of choice. According
to SHRM findings, 13% of HR professionals reported that their organization
has a staff dedicated exclusively to diversity and 21% said their company has an
internal group (e.g., diversity committee, diversity council, diversity advisory
board) that focuses on diversity in the organization. In the same study, 14% of
organizations reported that their diversity budget for 2011 had increased.
The organizations commitment to diverse and inclusive workforce was viewed by
27% of employees as very important (see Figure 30), and 58% of employees were
satisfied with this aspect. Organizations that show commitment to a diverse and
inclusive workplace were more appealing to black employees (57%) than to white
employees (20%) and to female employees (27%) than to male employees (18%).
Employees in middle-management and nonexempt positions valued this aspect
more than professional nonmanagement employees did (see Table 9).
Figure 30 | Importance of Organizations Commitment to a Diverse and Inclusive
Workplace

42%
27%
20%
10%

Very unimportant

Unimportant

Important

Very important

(n = 600)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

2012 Top Trends from the SHRM Workplace


Diversity Special Expertise Panel
1. The jobless recovery is forcing many organizations to increase their
workload beyond reasonable expectations, resulting in burnout, decreased
engagement and an inability to implement effective workplace flexibility; this
may affect some employee demographics more than others.
2. Postponed retirements are affecting talent management (of all generational
cohorts), generational demographics and psychographics.
3. Now that the disability community is both the largest and the fastest growing
minority in the world, organizations will be reacting to various legislation
(ADAAA in the U.S., quotas in other parts of the world) and issues related to
the inclusion of employees with disabilities.

38 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

4. Advances in technology are allowing unique instances of discrimination and


other misbehavior to go viral nearly overnight, requiring organizations to
anticipate and manage to their brand more quickly than ever before.
5. The lack of a set career path and effective succession planning for diversity
and inclusion professionals continues to malign the importance of the
diversity and inclusion function within organizations.
6. Troop withdrawals in the Middle East will necessitate the inclusion of greater
numbers of combat veterans into the civilian workforce than ever before,
requiring organizations to obtain greater knowledge of post-traumatic stress
disorder, traumatic brain injury and other combat-related disabilities, as well
as military culture.
7. Continuing political and religious polarization around the world is fracturing
the social fabric of historically moderate and conciliatory societies, creating
confrontational and disharmonious workplace environments.
8. The increase in the number of EEOC claims is forcing organizations to spend
more time and resources on complaints, investigations and prevention of
instances of retaliation, rather than on proactive or strategic diversity and
inclusion initiatives.
9. Old modes of racial demographics are becoming obsolete due to increasing
numbers within the biracial and multiracial segments.
10. More states are and will be enacting laws supporting same-sex marriages or
civil unions, adding greater complexity to workplace culture as it relates to
LGBT inclusion and total rewards structures.
Note: Trends sorted in order of importance, with the first trend being the most important.
Source: Future Insights: The top trends according to SHRMs HR subject matter expert panels

Organizations Commitment to a Green Workplace


Only 17% of employees believed that an organizations commitment to a green
workplaceone that is environmentally sensitive and resource-efficientwas
very important (see Figure 31), making it the least important contributor to job
satisfaction. Although employees picked this aspect as the least important factor,
45% of respondents were satisfied with their organizations green initiatives. This
aspect had a greater appeal to female employees than to their male counterparts.
There are many reasons an organization might invest in a green workplace.
According to Advancing Sustainability: HRs Role, a research report by SHRM,
BSR and Aurosoorya, the top three most frequently reported positive outcomes
of organizations sustainable initiatives are improved employee morale, more
efficient business processes and stronger public image.
Figure 31 | Importance of Organizations Commitment to a Green Workplace

43%

17%

Very unimportant

23%

Unimportant

17%

Important

Very important

(n = 590)
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 39

Survey Results: Employee Engagement

Engagement Opinions,
Behaviors and Conditions

In the past several years, organizations have recognized that in order to stay
competitive it is not enough to focus just on the factors important to employee
satisfaction at work, but it is necessary to engage employees. Many studies have
linked employee engagement to employee performance, customer satisfaction,
productivity, absenteeism, turnover and support of the organization.

71% of employees said they


were frequently putting all
their effort into their work.

How does employee engagement differ from job satisfaction? Job satisfaction
refers to how employees feel about their compensation, benefits, work environment, career development and relationship with management. Employee engagement is about employees commitment and connection to their workwhat is
motivating employees to work harder, who is motivating them to work harder
and what conditions are motivating them to work harder. In this research,
employee engagement is divided into three areasthe feel, the look and the
conditions of engagement.
Employees were asked to rate the 35 aspects commonly associated with employee engagement. A five-point scale was used, where 1 represented strongly
disagree or very dissatisfied, 3 represented neither agree nor disagree or
neither satisfied nor dissatisfied and 5 represented strongly agree or very
satisfied. The average level for each engagement aspect will be used as a way
to determine if statistically significant differences exist among employee demographics.

Engagement Opinions:
The Feel of Employee Engagement
Personal engagement is defined by feelings of urgency, focus, enthusiasm and
intensity. It is the energized feeling that an employee has about work. Employees
with high engagement will generally agree or strongly agree with the eight statements in this section (see Table 3).
The findings indicate that many employees in 2012 were feeling the urgency and
intensity in their work. Eighty-three percent of employees agreed (34% strongly
agreed and 49% agreed) that they were determined to accomplish their work
goals and confident that they could meet those goals. Seventy-one percent of
employees said they were frequently putting all their effort into their work, 67%
were highly motivated by their work goals, and 66% were completely focused on
their work projects. More than one-half of employees reported feeling focused
and enthusiastic about their work61% said that they were wrapped up in their
work and were passionate and excited about their job, 54% said they enjoyed vol-

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 41

unteering for activities beyond their job requirements, and 51% felt completely
plugged in at work.
There were some differences by employee demographics with respect to the feel
of employee engagement. Middle-management and executive-level employees
were more likely than professional nonmanagement and nonexempt nonmanagement employees to report feelings of urgency, enthusiasm, focus and intensity
at work. Employees with 16 or more years of tenure were more likely than
employees with five or fewer years of tenure to report that they were determined
to accomplish their work goals and confident that they could meet those goals, as
were employees in organizations with 2,500 to 24,999 employees compared with
those employed at organizations with 500 to 2,499 employees.
More tenured employees, those with 16 or more years of tenure, were more likely
than employees that have been with their organizations for two years or less to
report they were wrapped up in their work, as were Hispanic employees compared with whites. Employees with post-graduate education were more likely
than employees with a high school diploma to indicate feeling passionate and
excited about their work. Hispanic employees more often than whites felt that
they were putting all their effort into their work. More female employees than
male employees believed that while at work they were almost always completely
focused on their work projects, as did Baby Boomers compared with Millennials.
These data are shown in Table 20.
Table 3 | Engagement Opinions
Strongly
Disagree

Disagree

Neutral

Agree

Strongly
Agree

Overall
Agreement

1%

3%

13%

45%

38%

83%

I am determined to accomplish my work goals and confident I can meet


them
I frequently feel that Im putting all my effort into my work

1%

8%

20%

42%

29%

71%

I am highly motivated by my work goals

2%

9%

22%

39%

28%

67%

While at work, Im almost always completely focused on my work projects

1%

11%

21%

41%

25%

66%

I am often so wrapped up in my work that hours go by like minutes

4%

12%

24%

35%

26%

61%

I have passion and excitement about my work

5%

10%

24%

34%

27%

61%

I enjoy volunteering for activities beyond my job requirements

6%

12%

29%

36%

18%

54%

I feel completely plugged in at work, like I'm always on full power

3%

17%

29%

32%

19%

51%

Note: Sorted in descending order by overall agreement column.


Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

Engagement Behaviors:
The Look of Employee Engagement
Engagement in an organization also can be measured by employee behaviors
that have a positive impact on the success of the organization. Organizations
with highly engaged employees will find that employees agree or strongly agree
with the statements in this section (see Table 4).
Employees rated engagement opinions (which are about personal engagement)
higher than engagement behaviors (which are about groups of employees in the
organization). Sixty-one percent of respondents perceived that employees at their
organizations are encouraged to be proactive. The results in Table 4 show that
employees generally feel people in their organizations do not view unexpected
responsibilities as an opportunity to succeed at something new and they generally do not volunteer for new projects.

42 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

Engagement behaviors were examined by employee demographics, and


these data are presented in Table 20. Overall, management-level employees
were more likely than nonmanagment employees to believe that the
work groups in their organizations were persistent, proactive, adaptable
and expanded their roles. Professional nonmanagement employees and
management-level employees perceived that in their organizations
employees were encouraged to take action when they saw a problem or
opportunity, whereas fewer nonexempt nonmanagement employees felt the
same way. This could be because professional nonmanagement employees
and management-level employees are project leaders and decision makers
within organizations. Likewise, employees in organizations with 100 to
499 employees were more likely than those employed in organizations with
500 to 2,499 employees to believe that employees in their organizations
were encouraged to take action when they saw a problem or opportunity.

More than seven out of


10 employees (76%) were
satisfied with their work,
opportunities to use their
skills and abilities at work,
and the contribution of their
work to their organizations
business goals.

Black employees were more likely than white employees to report that people
in their work group were always flexible in expanding the scope of their work,
as were executive-level employees compared with nonexempt nonmanagement
employees. More employees with a college degree than employees with a high
school diploma were likely to say that other people in their organizations often
volunteered for new projects. Millennials were more likely than Baby Boomers to report that other people in their organizations often volunteered for
new projects.

Table 4 | Engagement Behaviors


Strongly
Disagree

Disagree

Neutral

Agree

Strongly
Agree

Overall
Agreement

In my organization, employees are encouraged to take action when they


see a problem or opportunity

5%

10%

25%

41%

20%

61%

My work group never gives up

4%

7%

34%

39%

16%

55%

My colleagues quickly adapt to challenging or crisis situations

4%

12%

30%

37%

18%

55%

Employees in my organization deal very well with unpredictable or


changing work situations

4%

13%

28%

38%

17%

55%

In my work group, we are constantly looking out to see what challenge is


coming next

5%

11%

34%

35%

16%

51%

The people in my work group are always flexible in expanding the scope
of their work

4%

15%

33%

32%

15%

47%

Others in my organization view unexpected responsibilities as an


opportunity to succeed at something new

5%

16%

37%

30%

12%

42%

Other people in my organization often volunteer for new projects

5%

16%

38%

30%

11%

41%

Note: Sorted in descending order by overall agreement column.


Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

Conditions for Engagement


There are certain conditions under which employee engagement is much more
likely to occur. Employees need the capacity to engage, reasons to engage and
the feeling that they are free to engage. Table 5 lists conditions under which
employee engagement can be maximized.
According to the data in Table 5, employees positively viewed the reasons to
engage at their organizations. More than seven out of 10 employees (76%) were
satisfied with their work, opportunities to use their skills and abilities at work,
and the contribution of their work to their organizations business goals. However, employees capacity to engage at their organization was low: only slightly
more than 40% of employees were satisfied with their career development opportunities and career advancement opportunities.

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 43

Similar to engagement opinions and behaviors, management-level employees were more satisfied with most of the conditions for engagement than
nonmanagement-level employees (see Table 20). Employees in larger organizations (2,500 to 24,999 employees) valued career development opportunities and
job specific-training more than employees in organizations with 500 to 2,499
employees did.

Employees capacity to
engage at their organization
was low: only slightly more
than 40% of employees
were satisfied with their
career development
opportunities and career
advancement opportunities.

Employees in smaller (fewer than 100 employees) organizations were more likely
than those from larger organizations (500 to 2,499 employees) to feel free to
engage and had reasons to engage. Employees in smaller organizations (fewer
than 100 employees) were also more likely to be satisfied with communication
between employees and senior management, the contribution of their work
to their organizations business goals, managements recognition of their job
performance, autonomy and independence, and opportunities to use skills and
abilities at work compared with employees from larger organizations (500 to
2499 employees).
Employees with post-graduate education were more likely to express satisfaction
with the work itself and autonomy and independence than did their counterparts
with a high school diploma.
More tenured (16 or more years) employees were more gratified with the meaningfulness of their job than were less tenured (10 years or less) employees.

Table 5 | Engagement Opinions


Very
Dissatisfied

Somewhat
Dissatisfied

Neutral

Somewhat
Satisfied

Very Satisfied

Overall
Satisfaction
79%

Relationship with co-workers

3%

4%

15%

36%

43%

Opportunities to use skills/abilities

4%

7%

14%

39%

36%

75%

Contribution of work to organization's business goals

3%

4%

21%

38%

34%

72%

Relationship with immediate supervisor

6%

8%

15%

32%

39%

71%

The work itself

4%

7%

18%

33%

37%

70%

Meaningfulness of job

4%

7%

20%

37%

33%

70%

Autonomy and independence

5%

7%

19%

35%

34%

69%
69%

Variety of work

5%

6%

20%

39%

30%

Overall corporate culture

7%

9%

20%

34%

30%

64%

Organization's financial stability

6%

9%

22%

34%

29%

63%

Communication between employees and senior management

10%

12%

18%

37%

22%

59%

Managements recognition of employee job performance

12%

12%

18%

31%

26%

57%

Job-specific training

6%

10%

26%

34%

23%

57%

Organization's commitment to professional development

10%

12%

25%

32%

22%

54%

Networking

6%

10%

31%

30%

23%

53%

Organization's commitment to corporate social responsibility

7%

9%

31%

30%

21%

51%

Career development opportunities

9%

16%

27%

29%

19%

48%

Career advancement opportunities

13%

16%

26%

28%

18%

46%

Note: Data are sorted by the overall satisfaction column and excludes not applicable responses.
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

44 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

Expert Q&A
Ken Matos, senior director of employment research and practice, Families and Work Institute

Job security and compensation are traditionally among the most

frequently cited factors in determining employees job satisfaction. Do


you think flexible work options are becoming as important as these
factors, and why?

Thats a bit of a chicken and egg question, and it assumes that job security,
compensation and flexible work options are completely separate things. When
a job is inflexible, employees are confronted with some tough choices that
affect their evaluations of their job security and compensation. Lacking the flexibility to pick up a child from school can reduce net wages if the only alternative
is expensive child care. Similarly, an ill or injured employee who cannot take
time away from work to recover without fear of losing his or her job is likely to
have low job security. For employees in these and similar situations, theres no
real difference between flexibility, job security and compensation, because their
inflexible work arrangements are creating unnecessary costs and threats to their
continued employment.

87% of employees feel that


having the flexibility I need
to manage my work and
personal or family life is
extremely or very important
in choosing to take a new job.

It is, therefore, not surprising to find that most employees indicate that all three
of these things are important when considering a new job. The results of the
2008 National Study of the Changing Workforce, conducted by the Families and
Work Institute (FWI), show that 87% of employees feel that having the flexibility
I need to manage my work and personal or family life is extremely or very
important in choosing to take a new job. Job security (91%) and being paid well
(89%) were only a little more frequently cited. Furthermore, our data also show

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 45

that these factors all are part of an effective workplace, so we should think of
them together.
For employers, flexibility represents a great opportunity to help employees
cut these unnecessary costs and feel secure in their jobs without increasing
wages. The upcoming book by SHRM and FWI, Workflex: The Essential Guide to
Effective and Flexible Workplaces [to be released in the fall of 2012], is filled with
an amazing array of examples, how-to information and tools to help employers
set up and maintain flexible work arrangements that help meet their needs and
the needs of their employees.

Recent research has shown more men want telecommuting, flexible

schedules and other options to obtain a better fit between work and
home responsibilities. Do mens and womens expectations of flexible
work differ at all, and how so?

There are some general differences in the experience of flexibility for the average man or woman. For example, data from FWIs Elder Care Study: Everyday
Realities and Wishes for Change has shown that while men and women provide
elder care in roughly equal numbers, women are more likely than men to provide care on a regular than an intermittent basis and spend more time overall
providing care. Yet our data also show that men experience more work-family
conflict than women, which is related to the pressures they feel to be breadwinners and involved in family life.
Though these and other differences between men and women exist, they are
still generalities that may have little to no bearing on any specific employee
experience that an HR professional is likely to face. Any employee, man or
woman, can be a primary caregiver, be faced with elder care responsibilities
or desire more time to pursue an advanced education. In addition, employees
have complex lives that may require different types of flexibility at different
times in their lives and careers. Elder care issues are an excellent example of
this phenomenon, as an employee may be more or less engaged in elder care
responsibilities as the elders need for support waxes and wanes.
HR professionals are better served by considering the kinds of work-life challenges all their employees might face and how the organization can contribute
to an effective solution for both the employee and employer rather than
focusing on the gender of the employees. For example, employers should ask
themselves how the organization can support any employee with regular and
intermittent care responsibilities over long and short periods of time. When
the focus is on the nature of the challenge rather than the demographics of
the person having the challenge, the organization can develop more holistic
strategies that work for both men and women.

The labor market remains in a slow-growth mode, but many companies

are doing well financially and have squeezed more work out of existing
staff. At what point does this prove harmful for an employer, and what
are ways to avoid damaging employee morale?

Theres no concrete point at which squeezing employees becomes harmful


for the employer because theres so much variation in employers and employees and what each is ready, willing and able to give in tough times. Similarly,
the point at which an employee feels burdened rather than challenged by new
demands varies across employees at different points in their lives and careers.
The only way to determine when high expectations become overwhelming
expectations is to maintain open communication between employers and

46 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

The point at which an


employee feels burdened
rather than challenged by
new demands varies across
employees at different points
in their lives and careers.

employees, where everyone is able to discuss personal and organizational


needs in tandem without fear of seeming uncommitted.
How employers go about motivating employees to put in the extra effort can
seriously affect long-term outcomes for both employees and employers. In
order to minimize the negative effects on morale, employee health and future
turnover, its important to be open with employees, explain the context of any
difficult decisions and offer them a chance to speak constructively about the
issue and to work toward mutually beneficial solutions.

When employees are asked


to collaborate with their
employers on how to work
through tough times, theres
a much greater potential for
both to reap real benefits.

When employees are asked to collaborate with their employers on how to work
through tough times, theres a much greater potential for both to reap real
benefits. Employees will appreciate having the situation and the process by
which management is coming to decisions explained to them, especially if they
have the chance to have input into that process. When employers are both open
and flexible, its possible to establish systems that help employers and employees make the most of tough situations. For example, employees may prefer job
sharing to layoffs if its presented as an opportunity to help themselves, their
co-workers and the organization succeed. When employees have to work extra
hours, flexibility around start, stop and break times, as well as remote work, can
help those employees keep their new demands at work in alignment with their
personal/family lives.
Finally, its important to consider the experience of line managers. They, too,
will be experiencing pressure to help the organization succeed and will have
the difficult task of bridging the interests of employees, management, clients
and customers. Providing them with support and flexibility to address their own
work-life needs will be equally important so that they remain empathetic and
respectful of the employees with whom they work. Even if tough decisions are
needed to keep an organization successful, approaching those decisions openly
with respect for the whole life of each employee (including managers) will keep
morale high and discourage turnover once the economy improves.

Do workers who belong to effective and flexible workplaces have a


certain advantage over other employees?

Effective and flexible workplaces are composed of six factors that benefit both
the employee and the organization: 1) job challenge and learning, 2) supervisor
task support, 3) job autonomy, 4) climate of respect and trust, 5) economic
security, and 6) work-life fit.
Employees with more effective and flexible workplaces have greater job
engagement, job satisfaction, probability of retention and estimates of overall
health than employees in workplaces with less effective and flexible workplaces.
On the other hand, employees in effective workplaces also report lower general
stress levels and lower frequencies of minor health problems, signs of depression and sleep problems than employees in less effective workplaces. When
employees are healthier and more inclined to remain with their employer, the
employer is likely to have lower health care and turnover costs.
We believe that effective workplaces contribute to employee outcomes by
allowing employees to collaborate with co-workers and supervisors to develop
more efficient ways to get work done that is less taxing on the resources and
health of both the employee and the organization. For example, when employees can safely and comfortably approach supervisors to discuss a change to
workflow, the organization has the opportunity to evolve into a more efficient
system. The new system is better attuned to the needs of both the employees
and the employer and is, therefore, less stressful and more satisfying.

All studies mentioned in this


interview can be downloaded at
http://familiesandwork.org/site/
research/reports/main.html.
Workflex: The Essential Guide to
Effective and Flexible Workplaces is
scheduled to be released in the fall 2012.

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 47

Conclusions

Keeping Employees Happy and Engaged

Low engagement and job satisfaction can contribute to multiple organizational


problems and have been associated with increased levels of turnover and absenteeism, adding potential costs to the organization in terms of low performance
and decreased productivity. It is important for HR professionals to be aware of
the needs and makeup of their workforce, as well as the impact of environmental
factors, when developing their programs and policies. As the job market expands, it will be particularly important for HR professionals to pay close attention to aspects that are engaging their workforce and important to employee job
satisfactionincluding specific differences by employee demographics such as
age, gender or tenure.

Employees are seeking


opportunities to maximize
their skills and abilities,
ensure their job security,
get better compensation
and build relationships
with management.

The results of this survey indicate that employees are seeking opportunities to
maximize their skills and abilities, ensure their job security, get better compensation and build relationships with management.
Compensation, as an aspect of job satisfaction, has held the top two positions
for employees four times between 2002 and 2012 (see Table 6), signifying that
for employees, tangible components are still of primary importance. Although
benefits and compensation are often perceived as the most valuable incentive
for employees to stay with their jobs, they are also among the most difficult to
provide. One of the challenges with compensation is that employees often do
not understand how the pay structure works within their organizations. HR
professionals can take steps to better communicate information about the pay
structure, make sure that they adjust to changes in the market and adhere to
their policies in an equitable way. Organizations can highlight the worth of
the total compensation package, including the full suite of benefits available to
employees. This also speaks to the relationship between senior management and
employees. Senior management can reduce possible issues by keeping employees
well-informed and by frequently communicating information throughout the
organization. Organizations can find creative and cost-effective ways of making employees happy and connected to their organization through work-life fit
practices. These can be in the form of flextime, telecommuting and compressed
workweeks, for example. These are low-cost options, and they have been shown
to increase productivity, job satisfaction and employee engagement.
To keep employees happy and engaged, and to hold on to top performers,
employers should make a concentrated effort to solicit feedback on a regular
basis from employees and encourage open lines of communication. In a SHRM
study, 50% of HR professionals indicated that employee survey was one of the
ways their organizations use to gather employee feedback.17 The good news is
that SHRM offers several ways for organizations to evaluate employee engage2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 49

ment and job satisfaction. SHRM offers employee benchmarks by industry and
organization size through its Customized Benchmarking Service and the SHRM
People InSight Survey Service.

50 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

About the Research

Methodology
The sample of employees used in this research was randomly selected from an
outside survey research organizations web-enabled employee panel, which is
based on the American Community Study. In total, 600 individuals completed
the online 2012 Job Satisfaction and Engagement Survey, yielding a response
rate of 83%. The survey was in the field for a period of seven days. All respondents were employed, either full time or part time.
Comparing the sample of 600 employees in 2012 to the 2011 sample showed that
the 2012 sample had more Generation X employees and fewer Baby Boomers.

Notations
Analysis: Throughout this report, conventional statistical methods are used to
determine if observed differences are statistically significant (i.e., there is only a
small likelihood that the differences occurred by chance). When presenting data
from the overall survey results, findings are discussed, in some cases, even if they
are not statistically significant. In some cases, the data are not depicted in corresponding tables or figures even though the results are statistically significant.
Tables: Unless otherwise noted in a specific table, please note that the following
are applicable to data depicted in tables throughout this report.
Data are sorted in descending order by overall column in a table.
Percentages for a question or a response option may not total 100% due to
rounding.
Tables include only response options for which there were significant differences, unless otherwise noted.
Figures: Unless otherwise noted in a specific figure, the following are applicable
to data depicted in figures throughout this report.
Percentages for a question may not total 100% due to rounding.
Generalization of results: As with any research, readers should exercise
caution when generalizing results and take individual circumstances and experiences into consideration when making decisions based on these data.
Number of respondents: The number of respondents (indicated by n in figures
and tables) varies from table to table and figure to figure because some respon2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 51

dents did not answer all of the questions. Individuals may not have responded
to a question on the survey because the question or some of its parts were not
applicable or because the requested data were unavailable. This also accounts for
the varying number of responses within each table or figure.
Confidence level and margin of error: A confidence level and margin of error
give readers some measure of how much they can rely on survey responses to
represent all U.S. employees. Given the level of response to the survey, SHRM
Research is 95% confident that responses given by responding employees can be
applied to all U.S. employees, in general, with a margin of error of approximately
4%. For example, 54% of the responding employees reported that the relationship with immediate supervisor was very important for employees job satisfaction. With a 4% margin of error, the reader can be 95% certain that between
50% and 58% of employees believe that the relationship with immediate supervisor is very important to employee job satisfaction. It is important to know that as
the sample size decreases, the margin of error increases.

52 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

About the Respondents

Organization Staff Size

Job Tenure

1-99 employees

37%

2 years or less

26%

100-499 employees

14%

3 to 5 years

23%

500-2,499 employees

15%

6 to 10 years

23%

2,500-24,999 employees

20%

11 to 15 years

9%

25,000 or more employees

15%

16 or more years

19%

(n = 597)

(n = 600)

Generation/Age

Gender

Millennials (born after 1980)

21%

Female

52%

Generation X (born 1965-1980)

32%

Male

48%

Baby Boomers (1945-1964)

43%

(n = 600)

Veterans (born before 1945)

3%

(n = 598)

Education Level
Job Level

No high school

1%

High school graduate

24%
23%

Nonmanagement (e.g., assistant, coordinator, specialist)

42%

Some college

Professional nonmanagement (e.g., analyst, nurse, engineer)

27%

2-year degree

8%

Middle management (e.g., manager, supervisor, director)

22%

4-year degree

27%

Executive level (e.g., CEO, CFO)

8%

Post-graduate degree

18%

(n = 599)

(n = 600)

Race
White

75%

Black

9%

Hispanic

8%

Asian

2%

Native American

1%

Mixed

2%

Other

3%

Middle Eastern

0%

(n = 600)

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 53

Organization Industry
Professional, scientific and technical services (legal services; accounting, tax preparation, bookkeeping and
payroll services; architectural, engineering and related services; specialized design services; computer systems
design and related services; management, scientific and technical consulting services; scientific research and
development services; advertising, public relations and related services; other professional, scientific and
technical services)

15%

Educational services (elementary and secondary schools; junior colleges; colleges, universities and professional
schools; business schools and computer and management training; technical and trade schools; other schools
and instruction; educational support services)

13%

Health care and social assistance (ambulatory health care services; hospitals; nursing and residential care
facilities; social assistance)

13%

Retail trade (motor vehicle and parts dealers; furniture and home furnishings stores; electronics and appliance
stores; building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers; food and beverage stores; health and
personal care stores; gasoline stations; clothing and clothing accessories stores; sporting goods, hobby, book
and music stores; general merchandise stores; miscellaneous store retailers; nonstore retailers)

13%

Administrative and support and waste management and remediation services (office administrative services;
facilities support services; employment services; business support services; travel arrangement and reservation
services; investigation and security services; services to buildings and dwellings; other support services; waste
management and remediation services)

12%

Manufacturing (food manufacturing; beverage and tobacco product manufacturing; textile mills; textile product
mills; apparel manufacturing; leather and allied product manufacturing; wood product manufacturing; paper
manufacturing; printing and related support activities; petroleum and coal products manufacturing; chemical
manufacturing; plastics and rubber products manufacturing; nonmetallic mineral product manufacturing;
primary metal manufacturing; fabricated metal product manufacturing; machinery manufacturing; computer
and electronic product manufacturing; electrical equipment, appliance and component manufacturing;
transportation equipment manufacturing; furniture and related product manufacturing; miscellaneous
manufacturing)

10%

Information (publishing industries, excluding Internet; motion picture and sound recording industries;
broadcasting, excluding internet; telecommunications; data processing, hosting and related services; other
information services)

9%

Accommodation and food services (accommodation; food services and drinking places)

8%

Construction (construction of buildings; heavy and civil engineering construction; specialty trade contractors)

7%

Finance and insurance (monetary authorities--central bank; credit intermediation and related activities;
securities, commodity contracts and other financial investments and related activities; insurance carriers and
related activities; funds, trusts and other financial vehicles)

6%

Public administration (executive, legislative and other general government support; justice, public order and
safety activities; administration of human resource programs; administration of environmental quality programs;
administration of housing programs, urban planning and community development; administration of economic
programs; space research and technology; national security and international affairs)

6%

Transportation and warehousing (air transportation; rail transportation; water transportation; truck
transportation; transit and ground passenger transportation; pipeline transportation; scenic and sightseeing
transportation; support activities for transportation; postal service; couriers and messengers; warehousing and
storage)

6%

Wholesale trade (merchant wholesalers, durable goods; merchant wholesalers, nondurable goods; wholesale
electronic markets and agents and brokers)

5%

Arts, entertainment and recreation (performing arts, spectator sports and related industries; museums,
historical sites and similar institutions; amusement, gambling and recreation industries)

4%

Religious, grantmaking, civic, professional and similar organizations (religious organizations; grantmaking and
giving services; social advocacy organizations; civic and social organizations; business, professional, labor,
political and similar organizations)

4%

Repair and maintenance (automotive repair and maintenance; electronic and precision equipment repair and
maintenance; commercial and industrial machinery and equipment, excluding automotive and electronic, repair
and maintenance; personal and household goods repair and maintenance)

3%

Agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting (crop production; animal production; forestry and logging; fishing,
hunting and trapping; support activities for agriculture and forestry)

2%

Personal and laundry services (personal care services; death care services; dry cleaning and laundry services;
other personal services)

2%

Real estate and rental and leasing (real estate; rental and leasing services; lessors of nonfinancial intangible
assets, excluding copyrighted works)

2%

Utilities (electric power generation, transmission and distribution; natural gas distribution; water, sewage and
other systems)

2%

Management of companies and enterprises (offices of bank holding companies; offices of other holding
companies; corporate, subsidiary and regional managing offices)

1%

Mining (oil and gas extraction; mining, excluding oil and gas; support activities for mining)

1%

(n = 597)

54 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

Appendix

Table 6 | Comparison of Very Important Aspects of Employee Job Satisfaction: 2002, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and
2012
2002
(n = 604)
Opportunities to use skills/abilities

2004
(n = 604)

2005
(n = 601)

2006
(n = 605)

2007
(n = 604)

2008
(n = 601)

2009
(n = 601)

2010
(n = 600)

2011
(n = 600)

2012
(n = 600)
63% (1)

47%

44%

51% (5)

44%

50% (4)

55% (4)

56% (3)

62% (2)

Job security

65% (1)

60% (4)

59% (4)

59% (3)

53% (2)

59% (1)

63% (1)

63% (1)

63% (1)

61% (2)

Compensation/pay

59% (4)

63% (2)

61% (2)

67% (1)

59% (1)

53% (3)

57% (3)

53% (5)

54% (4)

60% (3)

Communication between employees and


senior management*

62% (3)

54%

50%

48%

51% (4)

50% (4)

51%

47%

53% (5)

57% (4)

Relationship with immediate supervisor

49%

49%

46%

47%

48%

47% (5)

52%

48%

55% (3)

54% (5)

64% (2)

68% (1)

63% (1)

65% (2)

59% (1)

57% (2)

60% (2)

60% (2)

53% (5)

53%

54% (4)

55% (3)

52%

The work itself

50%

46%

35%

46%

41%

47% (5)

50%

54% (4)

53% (5)

52%

Managements recognition of employee


job performance

49%

47%

45%

47%

49%

44%

52%

48%

49%

50%

Autonomy and independence

46%

42%

41%

44%

44%

41%

47%

46%

52%

48%

Feeling safe in the work environment

36%

62% (3)

55% (5)

54% (4)

50% (5)

53% (3)

54% (5)

51%

48%

47%

Overall corporate culture

40%

43%

39%

40%

36%

40%

45%

41%

46%

47%

Flexibility to balance life and work issues

62% (3)

57% (5)

60% (3)

59% (3)

52% (3)

44%

46%

46%

38%

46%

Career advancement opportunities

Benefits
Organization's financial stability

52% (5)

37%

28%

36%

28%

29%

32%

34%

36%

42%

Relationship with co-workers

23%

33%

34%

35%

34%

39%

42%

38%

38%

40%

Meaningfulness of job

29%

38%

37%

42%

37%

45%

45%

38%

35%

39%

34%

31%

35%

31%

33%

30%

33%

36%

36%

34%

34%

28%

36%

27%

27%

35%

34%

33%

36%

35%

33%

37%

32%

34%

39%

36%

33%

34%

Organization's commitment to professional


development
Job-specific training
Contribution of work to organization's
business goals

51%

40%

34%

42%

35%

30%

29%

31%

33%

34%

Variety of work

Career development opportunities

37%

45%

40%

34%

35%

34%

35%

32%

33%

Organization's commitment to corporate


social responsibility

33%

31%

28%

28%

28%

Paid training and tuition reimbursement


programs

31%

32%

29%

26%

24%

28%

Networking**

17%

19%

21%

18%

21%

22%

22%

26%

27%

Organization's commitment to a diverse


and inclusive workplace

22%

27%

Organization's commitment to a green


workplace

23%

17%

17%

17%

17%

* Starting in 2004, communication between employees and management was changed to communication between employees and senior management.
**Starting in 2008, networking with others who have similar backgrounds and interests was changed to opportunities to network with others (within or outside the organization) to
help in advancing your career.
Note: Table represents those who answered very important. 2009, 2010 and 2011 percentages are based on a scale where 1 = very unimportant and 4 = very important. Sample
sizes are based on the actual number of respondents by year; however, the percentages shown are based on the actual number of respondents by year who answered the question using
the provided response options. A dash () indicates that this question was not asked. Numbers in parentheses indicate position of aspect in respective column year.
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 57

Table 7 | Employees Level of Satisfaction with Aspects They Find Most Important to Job Satisfaction
Very Satisfied

Very Important

Difference (Gaps)

Compensation/pay (3)

22%

60%

38%

Communication between employees and senior management (4)

22%

57%

35%

Job security (2)

30%

61%

31%

Opportunities to use skills/abilities (1)

36%

63%

27%

Benefits

26%

53%

27%

Managements recognition of employee job performance

26%

50%

24%

Career advancement opportunities

18%

42%

24%

Organization's financial stability

29%

52%

23%

Autonomy and independence

31%

48%

17%

Overall corporate culture

30%

47%

17%

Relationship with immediate supervisor (5)

39%

54%

15%

The work itself

37%

52%

15%

Career development opportunities

19%

34%

15%

Organization's commitment to professional development

22%

36%

14%

Job-specific training

23%

36%

13%

Flexibility to balance life and work issues

36%

46%

10%

Paid training and tuition reimbursement programs

20%

28%

8%

Organization's commitment to corporate social responsibility

21%

28%

7%

Meaningfulness of job

33%

39%

6%

Feeling safe in the work environment

42%

47%

5%

Networking

23%

27%

4%

Relationship with co-workers

43%

40%

3%

Variety of work

30%

33%

3%

Organization's commitment to a diverse and inclusive workplace

29%

27%

2%

Organization's commitment to a green workplace

19%

17%

2%

Contribution of work to organization's business goals

34%

34%

0%

Note: Data are sorted by the differences column. Importance percentages are based on a scale where 1 = very unimportant and 4 = very important. Satisfaction percentages are
based on a scale where 1 = very dissatisfied and 5 = very satisfied and exclude not applicable responses. Numbers in parentheses indicate position of aspect in 2012.
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

58 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

Table 8 | Employees Level of Satisfaction with Aspects of Employee Job Satisfaction


Very
Dissatisfied

Somewhat
Dissatisfied

Neutral

Somewhat
Satisfied

Very
Satisfied
43%

Relationship with co-workers

3%

4%

15%

36%

Feeling safe in the work environment

3%

5%

16%

35%

42%

Relationship with immediate supervisor

6%

8%

15%

32%

39%

The work itself

4%

7%

18%

33%

37%

Opportunities to use skills/abilities

4%

7%

14%

39%

36%

Flexibility to balance life and work issues

4%

8%

21%

31%

36%

Autonomy and independence

5%

7%

19%

35%

34%

Contribution of work to organization's business goals

3%

4%

21%

38%

34%

Meaningfulness of job

4%

7%

20%

37%

33%

Variety of work

5%

6%

20%

39%

30%

Job security

7%

10%

17%

36%

30%

Overall corporate culture

7%

9%

20%

34%

30%

Organization's financial stability

6%

9%

22%

34%

29%

Organization's commitment to a diverse and inclusive workplace

3%

7%

32%

29%

29%

Benefits

8%

11%

19%

35%

26%

Managements recognition of employee job performance

12%

12%

18%

31%

26%

Networking

6%

10%

31%

30%

23%

Job-specific training

6%

10%

26%

34%

23%

Communication between employees and senior management

10%

12%

18%

37%

22%

Organization's commitment to professional development

10%

12%

25%

32%

22%

Compensation/pay

12%

13%

18%

36%

22%

Organization's commitment to corporate social responsibility

7%

9%

31%

30%

21%

Paid training and tuition reimbursement programs

13%

13%

27%

27%

20%

Career development opportunities

9%

16%

27%

29%

19%

Organization's commitment to a green workplace

4%

9%

44%

25%

19%

Career advancement opportunities

13%

16%

26%

28%

18%

Note: n = 481-586. Data are sorted by the very satisfied column and exclude not applicable responses.
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 59

Table 9 | Comparison of Select Very Important Aspects of Employee Job Satisfaction

Overall

Differences
Based on
Gender

Differences
Based on
Tenure

Differences
Based on Age

Differences
Based on
Job level

Differences
Based on
Education

Differences
Based on Race

Differences
Based on
Organization
Staff Size

College (71%),
post-graduate
(71%) > high
school (49%)

Opportunities
to use skills and
abilities (1)

63%

Middle
management
(74%) >
nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(55%)

Job security (2)

61%

2-year college
(79%) > college
(54%)

Compensation/
pay (3)

60%

Middle
management
(67%), nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(59%) >
professional
nonmanagement
(45%)

Middle
management
(66%) >
professional
nonmanagement
(47%), nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(48%)

Communication
between employees
and senior
management (4)

Relationship
with immediate
supervisor (5)

Benefits (6)

The work itself (7)

Organization's
financial stability (7)

Managements
recognition of
employee job
performance (8)

57%

54%

53%

52%

52%

50%

Executive
(71%), middle
management
(58%) >
nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(43%)

Post-graduate
(64%) > high
school (41%)

Generation
X (55%), Baby
Boomers (56%) >
Millennials (39%)

Middle
management
(65%) >
professional
nonmanagement
(41%)

Middle
management
(55%), nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(55%) >
professional
nonmanagement
(40%)

500 to 2,499
employees (64%),
2,500 to 24,999
employees
(59%), 25,000 or
more employees
(63%) > 1 to 99
employees (41%)

0 to 2 years (56%)
> 16 or more years
(39%)

Autonomy and
independence (9)

48%

Executive
(62%), middle
management
(59%) >
nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(38%)

Overall corporate
culture (10)

47%

Female (52%) >


male (40%)

Continued on next page

60 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

Table 9 | Comparison of Select Very Important Aspects of Employee Job Satisfaction (continued)

Overall

Differences
Based on
Gender

Differences
Based on
Tenure

Differences
Based on Age

Differences
Based on
Job level

Differences
Based on
Education

Differences
Based on Race

Differences
Based on
Organization
Staff Size

Some college
(56%) > postgraduate (36%)

Black (68%) >


white (42%)

Feeling safe in the


work environment
(10)

47%

Female (58%) >


male (35%)

Nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(52%) >
professional
nonmanagement
(37%)

Flexibility to balance
life and work issues
(11)

46%

Some college
(54%) > high
school (36%)

Middle
management
(56%) >
professional
nonmanagement
(36%), nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(38%)

Some college
(46%), 2-year
college (48%),
college (52%) >
high school (24%)

Career
advancement
opportunities (12)

42%

Millennials (50%),
Generation X
(51%) > Baby
Boomers (33%)

Relationships with
co-workers (13)

40%

Female (44%) >


male (35%)

Meaningfulness of
job (14)

39%

College (46%),
post-graduate
(46%) > high
school (26%)

Organization's
commitment
to professional
development (15)

36%

Middle
management
(46%) >
nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(32%)

Career
development
opportunities (16)

34%

0 to 2 years (44%)
> 16 or more years
(26%)

Some college
(43%) > high
school (26%)

25,000 or more
employees
(46%) > 1 to 99
employees (28%)

Executive
(46%), middle
management
(41%) >
professional
nonmanagement
(21%)

Contribution of work
to organization's
business goals (16)

34%

Variety of work (17)

33%

Female (37%) >


male (29%)

Executive
(45%), middle
management
(45%) >
professional
nonmanagement
(24%), nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(30%)

Paid training
and tuition
reimbursement
programs (18)

28%

Female (33%) >


male (23%)

Some college
(35%) > high
school (17%), postgraduate (22%)

Black (51%) >


white (25%)

500 to 2,499
employees
(38%) > 1 to 99
employees (22%)

Organization's
commitment to
corporate social
responsibility (18)

28%

Female (34%) >


male (22%)

Executive (42%)
> professional
nonmanagement
(19%)

Some college
(35%) > high
school (18%)

Black (47%) >


white (25%)

Middle
management
(32%), nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(31%) >
professional
nonmanagement
(18%)

Black (51%) >


white (23%)

Organization's
commitment to a
diverse and inclusive
workplace (19)

27%

Female (33%) >


male (21%)

Continued on next page

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 61

Table 9 | Comparison of Select Very Important Aspects of Employee Job Satisfaction (continued)

Overall

Differences
Based on
Gender

Differences
Based on
Tenure

Differences
Based on Age

Differences
Based on
Job level

Differences
Based on
Education

Differences
Based on Race

Differences
Based on
Organization
Staff Size

Some college
(35%) > high
school (17%)

Networking (19)

27%

Middle
management
(39%) >
professional
nonmanagement
(22%), nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(23%)

Organization's
commitment to a
green workplace
(20)

17%

Female (20%) >


male (14%)

Note: A dash () indicates that there were no significant differences in this category.
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

62 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

Table 10 | Comparison of Select Very Important Aspects of Compensation and Benefits

Overall

Differences
Based on
Gender

Differences
Based on
Tenure

Differences
Based on Age

Differences
Based on
Job Level

Differences
Based on Race

Differences
Based on
Organization
Staff Size

500 to 2,499
employees (68%),
2,500 to 24,999
employees
(72%), 25,000 or
more employees
(73%) > 1 to 99
employees (48%)

Differences
Based on
Education

Health care/
medical benefits

Middle
management
(71%) > executives
(47%)

Family-friendly
benefits

Some college
(45%) > high
school (24%)

2,500 to 24,999
employees (41%) >
1 to 99 employees
(22%)

Paid time off

Female (61%) >


male (50%)

500 to 2,499
employees (66%) >
1 to 99 employees
(46%)

Generation
X (44%), Baby
Boomers (44%) >
Millennials (27%)

Middle
management
(48%), nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(44%) >
professional
nonmanagement
(30%)

2,500 to 24,999
employees (47%),
25,000 or more
employees (52%) >
1 to 99 employees
(27%)

Generation
X (38%), Baby
Boomers (43%) >
Millennials (22%)

Middle
management
(43%), nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(40%) >
professional
nonmanagement
(27%)

Black (60%) >


white (32%)

2,500 to 24,999
employees (44%),
25,000 or more
employees (48%) >
1 to 99 employees
(27%)

Defined
contribution plans

Defined benefit
pension plans

16 or more years
(52%) > 0 to 2
years (32%)

16 or more years
(51%) > 0 to 2 years
(32%), 6 to 10 years
(31%)

Stock options

Executives
(49%), middle
management
(48%), nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(41%) >
professional
nonmanagement
(26%)

Base rate of pay

500 to 2,499
employees (61%) >
1 to 99 employees
(43%)

Being paid
competitively with
the local market

2,500 to 24,999
employees (65%) >
1 to 99 employees
(47%)

Note: Dash () indicates that there were no significant differences in this category.
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 63

Table 11 | Top Five Very Important Aspects of Job Satisfaction by Employee Job Tenure

2 years or less

3 to 5 years

6 to 10 years

11 to 15 years

16 years or more

First

Second

Third

Fourth

Fifth

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities

The work itself

Compensation/pay, job
security

Managements recognition of
employee job performance

Relationship with immediate


supervisor

64%

61%

57%

56%

54%

Compensation/pay

Job security, communication


between employees and
senior management

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities

Relationship with immediate


supervisor

Benefits

67%

65%

64%

57%

56%
Benefits

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities

Job security

Compensation/pay

Relationship with immediate


supervisor

66%

61%

55%

54%

53%

Communication between
employees and senior
management

Job security, overall corporate


culture

Compensation/pay,
organization's financial
stability, opportunities to use
skills and abilities

Managements recognition of
employee job performance

Meaningfulness of job

61%

59%

57%

50%

48%

Compensation/pay

Job security, opportunities to


use skills/abilities

Communication between
employees and senior
management

Benefits

Organization's financial
stability, relationship with
immediate supervisor

62%

61%

58%

56%

53%

Note: Table represents those who answered very important. Percentages are based on a scale where 1 = very unimportant and 4 = very important.
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

Table 12 | Top Five Very Important Aspects of Job Satisfaction by Employee Age
First

Millennials

Generation X

Baby Boomers

Veterans

Second

Third

Fourth

Fifth

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities

Compensation/pay, job
security, the work itself

Communication between
employees and senior
management

Relationship with immediate


supervisor

Career advancement
opportunities

60%

57%

52%

51%

50%

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities, job security

Compensation/pay

Communication between
employees and senior
management

Relationship with immediate


supervisor

Organization's financial
stability

67%

64%

61%

57%

55%
Organization's financial
stability

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities

Job security

Compensation/pay

Communication between
employees and senior
management

63%

61%

60%

59%

56%

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities, the work itself

Organization's financial
stability, benefits

Compensation/pay

Relationship with immediate


supervisor, job-specific
training

Flexibility to balance life and


work issues

56%

50%

47%

44%

40%

Note: Table represents those who answered very important. Percentages are based on a scale where 1 = very unimportant and 4 = very important.
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

64 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

Table 13 | Top Five Very Important Aspects of Job Satisfaction by Employee Gender

Male

Female

First

Second

Third

Fourth

Fifth

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities

Compensation/pay

Job security

Communication between
employees and senior
management, the work itself

Benefits

62%

60%

57%

53%

51%

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities

Job security

Communication between
employees and senior
management

Compensation/pay

Feeling safe in the work


environment

65%

64%

61%

60%

58%

Note: Table represents those who answered very important. Percentages are based on a scale where 1 = very unimportant and 4 = very important.
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

Table 14 | Top Five Very Important Aspects of Job Satisfaction by Employee Job Level
First

Nonexempt (hourly) nonmanagement

Professional nonmanagement

Middle management

Executive management

Second

Third

Fourth

Fifth
Opportunities to use skills/
abilities, managements
recognition of employee
job performance

Job security

Compensation/pay

Communication between
employees and senior
management

Benefits

63%

62%

59%

56%

55%

The work itself

Compensation/pay

Flexibility to balance life


and work issues, autonomy

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities

Job security

65%

57%

55%

53%

50%

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities

Relationship with
immediate supervisor

Communication between
employees and senior
management

Job security, organization's


financial stability

Compensation/pay

74%

68%

67%

65%

64%
Compensation/pay
60%

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities

The work itself

Relationship with
immediate supervisor

Communication between
employees and senior
management, autonomy

74%

71%

66%

62%

Note: Table represents those who answered very important. Percentages are based on a scale where 1 = very unimportant and 4 = very important.
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 65

Table 15 | Top Five Very Important Aspects of Job Satisfaction by Employee Organization Staff Size

1-99 employees

100-499 employees

500-2,499 employees

2,500-24,999 employees

25,000 or more employees

First

Second

Third

Fourth

Fifth

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities

Compensation/pay, job
security

The work itself

Communication between
employees and senior
management

Relationship with immediate


supervisor

62%

57%

56%

55%

52%

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities

Communication between
employees and senior
management

Job security

Managements recognition of
employee job performance

Compensation/pay, the work


itself

67%

58%

57%

56%

54%

Compensation/pay

Job security, benefits

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities, communication
between employees and
senior management,
relationship with immediate
supervisor

Organization's financial
stability, feeling safe in the
work environment

Autonomy

65%

64%

58%

52%

49%

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities

Job security

Compensation/pay

Organization's financial
stability

Benefits

66%

63%

61%

60%

59%

Job security

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities, compensation/pay

Benefits

Communication between
employees and senior
management

Managements recognition of
employee job performance

68%

66%

63%

62%

60%

Note: Table represents those who answered very important. Percentages are based on a scale where 1 = very unimportant and 4 = very important.
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

66 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

Table 16 | Male Employees Level of Satisfaction with Aspects They Find Most Important to Job Satisfaction
Very Satisfied

Very Important

Differences (Gaps)

Compensation/pay

24%

60%

36%

Communication between employees and senior management

22%

53%

31%

Job security

31%

57%

26%
25%

Career advancement opportunities

18%

43%

Opportunities to use skills/abilities

38%

62%

24%

Benefits

29%

51%

22%

Managements recognition of employee job performance

27%

49%

22%

Organization's financial stability

32%

50%

18%

Career development opportunities

17%

34%

17%

Job-specific training

21%

37%

16%

Autonomy and independence

34%

47%

13%

Organization's commitment to professional development

22%

35%

13%

The work itself

40%

53%

13%

Overall corporate culture

29%

40%

11%

Relationship with immediate supervisor

41%

51%

10%

Flexibility to balance life and work issues

35%

42%

7%

Relationship with co-workers

42%

35%

7%

Organization's commitment to a diverse and inclusive workplace

27%

21%

6%

Feeling safe in the work environment

40%

35%

5%
5%

Networking

22%

27%

Organization's commitment to a green workplace

18%

14%

4%

Meaningfulness of job

33%

36%

3%

Paid training and tuition reimbursement programs

20%

23%

3%

Variety of work

31%

29%

2%

Contribution of work to organization's business goals

33%

33%

0%

Organization's commitment to corporate social responsibility

22%

22%

0%

Note: Data are sorted by the differences column. Importance percentages are based on a scale where 1 = very unimportant and 4 = very important. Satisfaction percentages are
based on a scale where 1 = very dissatisfied and 5 = very satisfied and exclude not applicable responses.
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 67

Table 17 | Female Employees Level of Satisfaction with Aspects They Find Most Important to Job Satisfaction
Very Satisfied

Very Important

Differences (Gaps)

Compensation/pay

21%

60%

39%

Communication between employees and senior management

23%

61%

38%

Job security

30%

64%

34%

Opportunities to use skills/abilities

34%

65%

31%

Benefits

24%

54%

30%
26%

Managements recognition of employee job performance

26%

52%

Organization's financial stability

27%

53%

26%

Career advancement opportunities

17%

40%

23%

Overall corporate culture

30%

52%

22%

Autonomy and independence

28%

48%

20%

Relationship with immediate supervisor

36%

56%

20%

The work itself

35%

51%

16%

Career development opportunities

20%

35%

15%

Feeling safe in the work environment

43%

58%

15%

Organization's commitment to professional development

22%

37%

15%

Organization's commitment to corporate social responsibility

20%

34%

14%

Flexibility to balance life and work issues

37%

49%

12%

Paid training and tuition reimbursement programs

21%

33%

12%

Job-specific training

25%

35%

10%

Meaningfulness of job

33%

42%

9%

Variety of work

30%

37%

7%

Networking

23%

27%

4%

Organization's commitment to a diverse and inclusive workplace

31%

33%

2%

Contribution of work to organization's business goals

34%

34%

0%

Organization's commitment to a green workplace

20%

20%

0%

Relationship with co-workers

44%

44%

0%

Note: Data are sorted by the differences column. Importance percentages are based on a scale where 1 = very unimportant and 4 = very important. Satisfaction percentages are
based on a scale where 1 = very dissatisfied and 5 = very satisfied and exclude not applicable responses.
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

68 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

Table 18 | Top Five Aspects Contributing to Engagement by Employee Gender

Male

Female

First

Second

Third

Fourth

Fifth

I am determined to accomplish
my work goals and confident I
can meet them

Relationships with co-workers

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities

The work itself

Relationship with immediate


supervisor, contribution of work
to organization's business goals

84%

77%

76%

74%

72%

I am determined to accomplish
my work goals and confident I
can meet them

Relationships with co-workers

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities; I frequently feel like
I'm putting all my effort into
my work

While at work, I'm almost always


completely focused on my work
projects

Contribution of work to
organizations business goals

83%

80%

74%

72%

70%

Note: Table represents those who answered strongly agree or agree and very satisfied or somewhat satisfied. Percentages are based on a scale where 1 = strongly disagree
or very dissatisfied and 5 = strongly agree or very satisfied.
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

Table 19 | Top Five Aspects Contributing to Engagement by Employee Age


First

Second

Third

Fourth

Fifth

Relationship with immediate


supervisor

Contribution of work to
organization's business goals,
variety of work

Millennials

I am determined to
accomplish my work goals and
confident I can meet them

Relationship with co-workers

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities

82%

79%

76%

72%

71%

Generation X

I am determined to
accomplish my work goals and
confident I can meet them

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities

Relationship with co-workers

I frequently feel like I'm


putting all my effort into my
work

Contribution of work to
organization's business goals,
variety of work, the work itself

80%

77%

76%

75%

71%

I am determined to
accomplish my work goals and
confident I can meet them

Relationship with co-workers

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities; I frequently feel like
I'm putting all my effort into
my work; while at work, I'm
almost always completely
focused on my work projects

Contribution of work to
organization's business goals,
meaningfulness of job

The work itself; relationship


with immediate supervisor;
I am highly motivated by my
work goals

86%

81%

73%

72%

71%

Baby Boomers

Veterans

Relationship with immediate


supervisor

I am determined to
accomplish my work goals and
confident I can meet them

Opportunities to use skills/


abilities, the work itself

Relationship with co-workers,


meaningfulness of job

Autonomy and
independence; while at work,
I'm almost always completely
focused on my work projects

100%

89%

88%

82%

78%

Note: Table represents those who answered strongly agree or agree and very satisfied or somewhat satisfied. Percentages are based on a scale where 1 = strongly disagree
or very dissatisfied and 5 = strongly agree or very satisfied.
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 69

Table 20 | Average Comparison of Engagement Aspects by Select Employee Demographics

Overall

Career
advancement
opportunities

3.22

Differences
Based on
Gender

Differences
Based on
Tenure

Differences
Based on Age

Differences
Based on
Job Level

Differences
Based on
Education

Differences
Based on Race

Differences
Based on
Organization
Staff Size

Executive
(4.16) > middle
management
(3.39), professional
nonmanagement
(3.23), nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(2.98); middle
management
(3.39) >
nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(2.98)

2,500 to 24,999
employees (3.52)
> 500 to 2,499
employees (2.98)

Career
development
opportunities

3.32

Executive (3.82)
> nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.17)

Job-specific
training

3.58

2,500 to 24,999
employees (3.80)
> 500 to 2,499
employees (3.31)

Executive
(4.22), middle
management
(3.67) >
nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.29); executive
(4.22) > middle
management
(3.67), professional
nonmanagement
(3.54)

Executive
(4.75), middle
management
(4.13), professional
nonmanagement
(4.12) >
nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.61); executive
(4.75) > middle
management
(4.13), professional
nonmanagement
employees (4.12)

1 to 99 employees
(4.09) > 500 to
2,499 employees
(3.65)

Executive (4.20)
> middlemanagement
(3.58), professional
nonmanagement
(3.47), nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.27)

Executive
(4.39) > middle
management
(3.59), professional
nonmanagement
(3.54), nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.28)

1 to 99 employees
(3.72) > 500 to
2,499 employees
(3.17)

Networking

Opportunities to
use skills/abilities

Organization's
commitment
to professional
development

Communication
between
employees and
senior management

3.53

3.96

3.47

3.50

Continued on the next page

70 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

Table 20 | Average Comparison of Engagement Aspects by Select Employee Demographics (continued)

Overall

Autonomy and
independence

Managements
recognition of
employee job
performance

Relationship
with immediate
supervisor

Meaningfulness
of job

3.80

3.47

3.90

3.89

Differences
Based on
Gender

Differences
Based on
Tenure

16 or more years
(4.22) > 0 to 2
years (3.79), 3 to 5
years (3.79), 6 to 10
years (3.82)

Differences
Based on Race

Differences
Based on
Organization
Staff Size

Post-graduate
(4.07) > high
school (3.56)

1 to 99 employees
(4.08) > 500 to
2,499 employees
(3.43), 25,000 or
more employees
(3.61)

Executive (4.21)
> nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.26)

1 to 99 employees
(3.64) > 500 to
2,499 employees
(3.08)

Executive (4.37)
> nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.73)

Executive
(4.42), middle
management
(3.98), professional
nonmanagement
(4.03) >
nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.35)

Differences
Based on Age

Differences
Based on
Job Level

Differences
Based on
Education

Executive
(4.72), middle
management
(3.99), professional
nonmanagement
(3.90) >
nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.44); executive
(4.72) > middle
management
(3.99), professional
nonmanagement
(3.90)

Organization's
commitment to
corporate social
responsibility

3.48

Executive (4.03)
> nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.35)

Organization's
financial stability

3.70

2,500 to 24,999
employees (3.96) >
1 to 99 employees
(3.53)

Executive
employees
(4.51) > middle
management
(3.85), professional
nonmanagement
(3.67), nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.50); middlemanagement
(3.85) >
nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.50)

Executive (4.63)
> professional
nonmanagement
(4.18), nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.97)

Executive
(4.40), middle
management (4.11)
> nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.36)

1 to 99 employees
(4.08) > 500 to
2,499 employees
(3.65)

Overall corporate
culture

Relationships with
co-workers

Contribution
of work to
organization's
business goals

3.70

4.13

3.95

Continued on the next page

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 71

Table 20 | Average Comparison of Engagement Aspects by Select Employee Demographics (continued)

Overall

The work itself

Variety of work

I am determined to
accomplish my work
goals and confident
I can meet them

I am highly
motivated by my
work goals

I am often so
wrapped up in my
work that hours go
by like minutes

I feel completely
plugged in at work,
like I'm always on
full power

3.92

3.83

4.16

3.82

3.67

3.46

Differences
Based on
Gender

Differences
Based on
Tenure

16 or more years
(4.39) > 0 to 2
years (4.06), 3 to 5
years (4.07)

16 or more years
(3.92) > 0 to 2
years (3.50)

Continued on the next page

72 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

Differences
Based on Age

Differences
Based on
Job Level

Differences
Based on
Education

Differences
Based on Race

Differences
Based on
Organization
Staff Size

Executive
(4.65), middle
management
(4.12), professional
nonmanagement
(4.13) >
nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.54); executive
(4.49) > middle
management
(4.65), professional
nonmanagement
(4.13)

Post-graduate
(4.19) > high
school (3.76)

Executive
(4.49), middle
management
(4.02), professional
nonmanagement
(4.02) >
nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.48); executive
(4.49) > middle
management
(4.02), professional
nonmanagement
(4.02)

Middle
management
(4.39) >
professional
nonmanagement
(4.13); executive
(4.40), middle
management
(4.39) >
nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(4.02)

2,500 to 24,999
employees (4.35)
> 500 to 2,499
employees (4.02)

Executive
(4.24), middle
management (4.11)
> nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.58); executive
(4.24) >
professional
nonmanagement
(3.81)

Executive
(4.22), middle
management
(3.92) >
nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.47); executive
(4.22) >
professional
nonmanagement
(3.62)

Hispanic (4.11) >


white (3.59)

Executive
(3.80), middle
management
(3.67) >
nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.34)

Table 20 | Average Comparison of Engagement Aspects by Select Employee Demographics (continued)

Overall

I enjoy volunteering
for activities
beyond my job
requirements

I have passion and


excitement about
my work

I frequently feel like


I'm putting all my
effort into my work

While at work,
I'm almost always
completely focused
on my work
projects.

My colleagues
quickly adapt to
challenging or crisis
situations

My work group
never gives up

In my organization,
employees are
encouraged to take
action when they
see a problem or
opportunity

In my work group,
we are constantly
looking out to see
what challenge is
coming next

3.49

3.70

3.89

3.78

3.52

3.57

3.62

3.46

Differences
Based on
Gender

Female (3.88) >


male (3.67)

Differences
Based on
Tenure

Differences
Based on Age

Differences
Based on
Job Level

Differences
Based on
Education

Differences
Based on Race

Differences
Based on
Organization
Staff Size

Middle
management
(3.86) >
professional
nonmanagement
(3.52), nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.27)

Executive
(4.36), middle
management
(4.02), professional
nonmanagement
(3.80) >
nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.34); executive
(4.36) >
professional
nonmanagement
(3.80)

Post-graduate
(3.92) > high
school (3.49)

Middle
management
(4.10) >
professional
nonmanagement
(3.80), nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.82)

Hispanic (4.34) >


white (3.84)

Baby Boomers
(3.92) > Millennials
(3.52)

Executive (4.14),
nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.83) >
professional
nonmanagement
(3.56)

Executive (3.92)
> nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.41)

Executive
(4.00), middle
management
(3.71), professional
nonmanagement
(3.64) >
nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.36)

Executive
(4.00), middle
management
(3.82), professional
nonmanagement
(3.68) >
nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.40)

100 to 499
employees (3.80)
> 500 to 2,499
employees (3.34)

Executive
(4.00), middle
management
(3.58), professional
nonmanagement
(3.60) >
nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.20)

Continued on the next page

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 73

Table 20 | Average Comparison of Engagement Aspects by Select Employee Demographics (continued)

Others in my
organization
view unexpected
responsibilities
as an opportunity
to succeed at
something new

Overall

Differences
Based on
Gender

Differences
Based on
Tenure

Differences
Based on Age

Differences
Based on
Job Level

Differences
Based on
Education

Differences
Based on Race

Differences
Based on
Organization
Staff Size

3.28

Executive (3.72)
> nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.12)

Professional
nonmanagement
(3.40) >
nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.08)

College (3.42) >


high school (3.06)

Other people in my
organization often
volunteer for new
projects

3.26

Millennials (3.48)
> Baby Boomers
(3.12)

The people in my
work group are
always flexible in
expanding the
scope of their work

3.38

Executive (3.86)
> nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.21)

Black (3.77) >


white (3.30)

Executive (3.90)
> nonexempt
(hourly)
nonmanagement
(3.43)

Employees in my
organization deal
very well with
unpredictable or
changing work
situations

3.50

Note: Averages are based on a scale where 1 = strongly disagree or very dissatisfied and 5 = strongly agree or very satisfied. A dash () indicates that there were no significant
differences in this category.
Source: 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement: A Research Report by SHRM

74 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

Endnotes
1.

When reviewing the top five list of aspects that are most important to
employees job satisfaction, it is important to remember that in some cases
there may be differences of only a few percentage points, affecting whether
an aspect was rated first or second and so forth.

2.

Society for Human Resource Management. (2012, September). SHRM LINE


employment report. Retrieved from www.shrm.org/line.

3.

Ibid.

4.

Society for Human Resource Management. (2011). SHRM poll: The ongoing
impact of the recessionglobal competition and hiring strategies. Retrieved
from www.shrm.org.

5.

Society for Human Resource Management. (2012). 2012 employee benefits: A


survey report by SHRM. Alexandria, VA: Author.

6.

Society for Human Resource Management. (2011). SHRM survey findings:


Social media in the workplace. Retrieved from www.shrm.org.

7.

Society for Human Resource Management. (2012). SHRM/Globoforce


employee recognition tracker survey: Employee recognition programs.
Retrieved from www.shrm.org.

8.

Society for Human Resource Management. (2012, September). SHRM LINE


employment report. Retrieved from www.shrm.org/line.

9.

Society for Human Resource Management. (2012). 2012 employee benefits: A


survey report by SHRM. Alexandria, VA: Author.

10.

Ibid.

11.

Ibid.

12.

Society for Human Resource Management. (2012). SHRM jobs outlook


survey (April June 2012). Retrieved from http://www.shrm.org/Research/
MonthlyEmploymentIndices/lmo/Pages/default.aspx

13.

Society for Human Resource Management. (2011). SHRM survey findings:


Workplace violence. Retrieved from www.shrm.org.

14.

Ibid.

15.

Society for Human Resource Management, BSR & Aurosoorya. (2011).


Advancing sustainability: HRs role. Alexandria, VA: SHRM.

16.

Society for Human Resource Management. (2011). SHRM survey findings:


An examination of organizational commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Retrieved from www.shrm.org.

17.

Society for Human Resource Management. (2010). 2010 employee job


satisfaction: A survey report by SHRM. Alexandria, VA: Author.

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 75

Additional SHRM Resources

Additional SHRM Resources

SHRM Resources Related to Employee


Job Satisfaction and Engagement
Money: Its Not All Employees Want
SHRM Employee Communication Resource Page
SHRM Health Care Reform Resource Page
SHRM Workplace Flexibility Public Policy Statement
Employee Benefits Prevalence Benchmarking
Health Care Benchmarking
Retirement and Welfare Benchmarking
Recruiting and Attracting Talent: A Guide to Understanding and Managing
the Recruitment Process
Employee Engagement and Commitment: SHRM Foundations Effective
Practice Guidelines
To access these publications and products, please visit www.shrm.org.

SHRM Research Products


Benefits
1. 2012 Employee Benefits Research Report (June 2012)
2. Smoking Policies in the Workplace (March 2012)
3. 2012 Holiday Schedules (November 2011)
4. The State of Consumer-Directed Health Plans in the Workplace (June 2011)
5. Health Care Reform: Where Are Organizations in the Decision-Making
Process? (February 2011)
6. Organizations Response to Health Care Reform (September 2010)
7. 401(k) Investment Education and Advice Organizations Are Providing to
Plan Participants (September 2010)

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 77

Business Leadership
1. The Ongoing Impact of the Recession on Various Industries Series
2. SHRMs Metro Economic Outlook reports
3. SHRM-AARP Strategic Workforce Planning (April 2012)
4. An Examination of How Social Media Is Embedded in Business Strategy and
Operations (January 2012)
5. The Post-Recession Workplace Competitive Strategies for Recovery and
Beyond (November 2010)
6. Challenges Facing Organizations and HR in the Next 10 Years (September
2010)

Compensation
1. SHRM Compensation Data Center

Diversity
1. Employing People With Disabilities Series (May 2012)
2. Workplace Flexibility for Select Populations (April 2012)
3. An Examination of Organizational Commitment to Diversity and Inclusion
(October 2011)
4. Workplace Diversity Practices: How Has Diversity and Inclusion Changed
Over Time? (October 2010)
5. Global Diversity & Inclusion: Perceptions Practices, & Attitudes Survey
Report (June 2009)
6. Religion and Corporate Culture Survey Report (October 2008)

Employee Relations
1. SHRM People InSightAn Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement
Service
2. Technology and Its Impact on Employees During Nonworking Hours (July
2012)
3. Work/Life Balance Policies (July 2012)
4. Employee Recognition Programs (April 2012)
5. Workplace Bullying (February 2012)
6. Financial Education Initiatives in the Workplace (January 2012)
7. Employee Suggestion Programs (November 2010)

Ethics and Sustainability


1. Advancing Sustainability: HRs Role (April 2011)
2. Organizational Whistle-blowingReporting Unethical and Illegal Behavior
in the Workplace (March 2011)

Global HR
1. The Ongoing Impact of the Recession: Global Competition and Hiring
Strategies (November 2011)
2. Global Firms in 2020: The Next Decade of Change for Organizations and
Workers (November 2010)
3. Creating People Advantage 2010: How Companies Can Adapt Their HR
Practices for Volatile Times (October 2010)
78 | 2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement

4. What Senior HR Leaders Need to Know: Perspectives from the United


States, Canada, India, the Middle East and North Africa: Executive Summary (March 2008)

Safety and Security


1. Workplace Bullying (February 2012)
2. Workplace Violence (February 2012)
3. Drug Testing Efficacy (September 2011)
4. Disaster Planning in Organizations, 10 Years After the Sept. 11 Terrorist
Attacks (August 2011)
5. Policies Related to Alcohol at Work-Related Events (November 2010)

Staffing Management
1. Military Employment (February 2012)
2. Background CheckingThe Use of Credit Background Checks in Hiring
Decisions (July 2012)
3. Background CheckingThe Use of Criminal Background Checks in Hiring
Decisions (July 2012)
4. The Hiring of 2012 University/College Undergraduates and Postgraduates
(July 2012)
5. The Use of Social Networking Websites and Online Search Engines in
Screening Job Candidates (August 2011)
6. Social Networking Websites for Identifying and Staffing Potential Job
Candidates (June 2011)
7. Recruiting Veterans With Disabilities: Perceptions in the Workplace (January 2011)
To access these products, please visit www.shrm.org/research

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 79

Affordable Customized Benchmarking Reports


www.shrm.org/benchmarks

mployee Ratio HR Expenses Annual Salary Increase Time-to-Fill Cost-perver Rate Annual Voluntary Turnover Rate HR Expense to FTE Ratio Areas of
per FTE HR-to-Employee Ratio HR Expenses Annual Salary Increase Timeal OverallTotal
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Annual
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HR Expense
Annual
Health
Care
Cost perTurnover
CoveredRate
Employee
Numbertoand Types of Health Care Plans OfHR-to-Employee
Expenses Annual
tsourcingfered
Revenue
per FTE
Monthly
Premium
Employer Pays
forHREmployee-Only
Coverage Waiting Period in Months for
Ratio
Turnover
Rate
Annual
Voluntary
Turnover
ill Cost-per-Hire
Annual
Overall
Coverage
for New
Employees
Amount
of Specific
Stop-Loss
(SSL) Coverage Annual Out-of-Network
RevenueCoverage
per Percentage
FTE HR-to-Employee
RatioFinal
HR
Ratio Areas
of HR Outsourcing
Deductible
for Employee-Only
Co-payofforTraditional
In-Network
Primary
CarePension
Office Visits
for EmployAverage
Percentage
of Traditional Career Average Pension
Annual
Overall
Rate
Annual
Volncrease Time-to-Fill
Cost-per-Hire
Annual Health
Cost403(b) or Similar Prevalence Rates
ee-Only Coverage
Employer
Contribution
toofHealth
Savings
Account
LengthTurnover
Cliff Vesting
Period
401(k)
Employer
MatchCare
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TotalMonthly
Revenue
perOrganizations
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Expense to
Ratio Areas
of HR
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Premium
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perFTE
Covered
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Number
andPercentage
Types
of Health
CareHR-toof
Providing
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Graded Vesting Period Cliff Vesting
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Turnses Annual
Salary
Increase Time-to-Fill
for
Coverage
for Health
NewRetiree
Employees
Amount
Pays
for Employee-Only
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Period
in Months
and Welfare
Benefits
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Wellness Benefits Retirement Savings and
Period Percentage
of Organizations
Providing
Health
Care
Percentage
of Traditional
FTE Ratio
Areas
of HR
Outsourcing
Revy Turnover
HR Expense
Deductible
for Planning
Employee-Only
Coverof Rate
Specific
Stop-Lossto(SSL)
Coverage
Annual
Out-of-Network
Benefits
Financial
and Compensation
Average
Pension
Percentage
of Traditional
Career Average
Pension
Length
of Cliff VestingBenefits
Period Leave Benefits Family-friendly Benefits

Annual Salary
Increase
Cost-per-Hire
oyee Ratioage
HRCo-pay
Expenses
for Employee-Only
Coverage
Employer
Contrifor In-Network
Primary
CareTime-to-Fill
Office
Visits
Working
Benefits
Personal
Services
Benefits Housing and Relocation Benefits Business
of Organizations
401(k)
Employer
Match
401(k), 403(b)
orFlexible
Similar
Prevalence
Rates
Percentage
ate Annual
Voluntary
Turnover
RateAccount
HR Expense
to FTE
Ratio
HR perGraded
CareofCost
Covered
Employee
Number
andand Period
bution
to Health
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Benefits
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of OrganizaProviding
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Expenses
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Salary
Increase
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HR Plans
Types of Health
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Employer
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Benefits Leave Benefits Family-friendly
Savingsofand
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Average
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of
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FTE
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Period
in Months
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Match
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Salary
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Similar
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Family-friendly
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403(b)
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Similar Prevalence
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offers customized benchmarking reports that can help you and your organization benchmark against more than 500 metrics in employee benefits prevalence,
health care, human capital, job satisfaction and employee engagement, retirement and welfare, and workplace effectiveness and flexibility. Visit our website at
www.shrm.org/benchmarks or call 703-535-6366.

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4. All industries.

2012 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement | 81

Project Team
Project leader
Justina Victor, survey research analyst

Q&A contributor
Joe Coombs, specialist, Workplace Trends and Forecasting

SHRM project contributors


Mark Schmit, Ph.D., SPHR, vice president,
SHRM Research
Evren Esen, manager, SHRM Research

External project contributors


Bruce Tulgan, founder, RainmakerThinking
Jeanne Meister, partner, Future Workplace
Ken Matos, senior director of employment research and
practice, Families and Work Institute

Copy editing
Katya Scanlan, copy editor

Design
Terry Biddle, senior design specialist

This report is published by the Society for Human Resource


Management (SHRM). All content is for informational
purposes only and is not to be construed as a guaranteed
outcome. The Society for Human Resource Management
cannot accept responsibility for any errors or omissions or
any liability resulting from the use or misuse of any such
information.
October 2012 Society for Human Resource Management.
All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America.
This publication may not be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in whole or in part, in any form
or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying,
recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the Society for Human Resource Management.
SHRM members can download this research report and
many others free of charge at www.shrm.org/surveys. If you
are not a SHRM member and would like to become one,
please visit www.shrm.org/application.

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