Job Satisfaction Wanes, but SHRM Survey Shows Majority of U.S. Employees Satisfied

Ability to use skills topples job security as biggest factor influencing how happy people are in their work

ALEXANDRIA, Va., Oct. 3, 2012 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Eighty-one percent of U.S. employees are satisfied overall with their current job, according to the 2012 Job Satisfaction and Engagement Research Report released today by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM).

But fewer than four out of 10 employees report being very satisfied with the elements that have the greatest impact on how they feel about work — opportunities to use skills and abilities; job security; compensation and pay; communication with senior management; and relationship with immediate supervisor.

In the 10 years that SHRM has conducted the annual survey, there have been fluctuations in employees' overall satisfaction with their current job. Satisfaction has declined slightly since its peak at 86 percent in 2009. Still, it remains four percentage points above its low of 77 percent in 2002.

"Economic, demographic and social trends are among the factors that influence job satisfaction," said Mark Schmit, SHRM's vice president for research. "Satisfaction peaked in 2009 when employees were just glad to have a job. Now we are seeing it trend down some, which may be an indication that employees are starting to look at other opportunities again as the job market is starting to turn a bit more positive. Proactive employers will monitor job satisfaction and introduce change to retain top talent ahead of the trend."

In 2012, opportunities to use skills and abilities bumped job security from the No. 1 influencer of job satisfaction. SHRM believes this provides an opportunity for employers that are experiencing a skills gap — difficulty recruiting applicants with the right skills for job openings. By training and promoting current employees to fill positions that require higher-level skills, Schmit noted, employers can open up easier-to-fill positions that require lower-level skills.

The annual job satisfaction survey also examined employee engagement — how connected or committed employees are to their organization. It found that, on average, employees were only moderately engaged.

More than seven out of 10 employees were satisfied with their relationships with co-workers, opportunities to use their skills, the contribution of their work to the employer's business goals, and their relationship with their immediate supervisor.

But less than 50 percent of employees were satisfied with their career development.

The survey also found:

  • Seventy-one percent of employees frequently felt they were putting all their effort into their work and completely focused on their work projects.
  • Only 41 percent felt that people in their organization volunteer for new projects.
  • Older respondents were the only age group that placed relationship with their immediate supervisor as the top factor contributing to their engagement.

The survey polled 600 randomly selected employees at small to large companies. The survey produced industry-specific data that is available in SHRM's employee job satisfaction and engagement survey service for employers, People InSight® (

The full survey report is available on SHRM Online at

Follow the Research Department on Twitter @SHRM_Research.

About the Society for Human Resource Management

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world's largest association devoted to human resource management. Representing about 260,000 members in more than 140 countries, the Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China and India. Visit SHRM Online at and follow us on Twitter @SHRMPress.

SOURCE Society for Human Resource Management