NEW YORK (TheStreet) — Even after the deepest recession in 80 years and an unemployment rate that doubled in two years, many Americans don't like their jobs.
So says a Conference Board report, which found that only 45% of Americans are satisfied with their employment situation, based on a survey of 5,000 households. Just 12% said they were "very satisfied." That marks the lowest job-satisfaction rate since the organization first conducted the survey in 1987, when 61% of respondents liked their jobs. In 2008, the satisfaction rate was 49%.
The results come at a time when the unemployment rate hovers around 10%, with large companies such as Boeing (BA) - Get Report (Stock Quote: BA), Cisco (CSCO) - Get Report (Stock Quote: CSCO) and Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Report (Stock Quote: MSFT) announcing mass layoffs throughout 2009. In such an economy, it makes sense that Americans were taking any jobs they could get — sweeping floors, flipping burgers or washing cats — and they're not happy about living below their normal means. Yet the data indicate that the job-satisfaction rate isn't directly related to the economy. In fact, with the exception of a slight increase in 2005, the satisfaction rate has declined for every five years since the Conference Board first started reporting it.
According to the survey, 34% of people are satisfied with their pay, 25% are happy with their company's job-training programs, 20% are satisfied with their company's promotion policy, and 19% are satisfied with the bonus plan. Regarding benefits, 46% are satisfied with their company's sick-leave policy, 41% with the health plan and 35% with the retirement plan.
(BA) - Get Report (CSCO) - Get Report (MSFT) - Get Report But financial factors aren't the only things leaving employees cold. Only 34% reported satisfaction with their companies' flex-time policies, 28% were happy with nonfinancial recognition of their work, 31% said they were satisfied with the communication channels at their companies, 36% were satisfied with work/life balance, and 27% thought there was decent potential for future growth.
(BA) - Get Report (CSCO) - Get Report (MSFT) - Get Report Of all the categories in the survey, "commute" got the highest satisfaction, 56%, likely thanks to the telecommuting trend. Co-worker satisfaction rated 56%. Supervisors, interest in work and physical environment each scored 51%. But even among these higher-rated categories, satisfaction rates were markedly lower than they were in 1987, when 70% of respondents found their jobs interesting and 60% liked their bosses.
(BA) - Get Report (CSCO) - Get Report (MSFT) - Get ReportEven when broken up by age groups, income levels and geographic regions, job-satisfaction levels were lower than ever. Workers under 25 (36%) and those who live in the mountain region (41%) were especially disgruntled.
Overall, nearly a quarter of respondents — 22% — expect to leave their current jobs within the next year.
(BA) - Get Report (CSCO) - Get Report (MSFT) - Get Report So what's a boss to do? Salary and health benefits may be at the mercy of the economy. The Conference Board forecasts a salary-budget increase of 3% for 2010, the smallest in 25 years. But the report suggests that companies can improve morale (not to mention productivity) with a few strategies that aren't dependent on the budget. These include rotational assignments, intellectually challenging tasks, and, most importantly, communication.
(BA) - Get Report (CSCO) - Get Report (MSFT) - Get Report To let employees know their work is relevant, employers should actually talk to them, the report says. More specifically, the report recommends building a "line of sight" that gives employees a means of understanding the impact of their contributions, encouraging employee involvement in major decisions and delivering company news face-to-face whenever possible.
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