What Do Employees Really Need for Job Satisfaction?

Posted By Terri Williams on August 9, 2017 at 7:57 am
What Do Employees Really Need for Job Satisfaction?

To our readers: Today, GoodCall® examines American workers and what they think about jobs – and job offers. First, Terri Williams reports on what employees report they need for job satisfaction. Later today, Terri looks at what’s important to job candidates around the world – and it’s not just money.


Most employees spend at least eight hours each weekday at work – and some dedicate even more time away from the office, which can lead to unhappiness. A new survey by the Society for Human Resource Management reveals the factors that contribute to job satisfaction.

It’s important because unsatisfied workers can turn into former employees: One-fourth of the workforce is considering changing job within the next few months.

Obviously, there’s a gap between the factors employees view as most important to job satisfaction and how satisfied they are with their employer in those areas.

The five most important factors for job satisfaction

Here are the factors respondents cited in the society’s survey:

65% Respectful treatment of all employees
61% Compensation/pay
61% Trust between employees & senior management
58% Job security
56% Opportunities to use skills & abilities


However, the percentage of employees who believe their employers are doing well in this area is significantly smaller. Notice how many workers are “very satisfied”:

38% Respectful treatment of all employees
26% Compensation/pay
33% Trust between employees & senior management
36% Job security
44% Opportunities to use skills & abilities


The survey polls employees on a variety of factors related to job satisfaction, including work variety, diversity and inclusion, relationship with coworkers, independence to make decisions, and an eco-friendly/sustainable workplace. So, what is the significance of the five factors that topped the list?

How companies can improve job satisfaction

Scott Love is a high stakes headhunter for partner-level attorneys in Washington and New York, and he is president of the Attorney Search Group. He tells GoodCall® that companies must pay attention to the five most important factors if they want to create a harmonious workplace. “The psychologist, Abraham Maslow, in the 1960s, created the ‘hierarchy of needs,’ which has become the most widely adopted model of explaining our human needs.”

Love explains that each of the top five factors in the job satisfaction survey correspond with an item in the hierarchy. “Self-actualization and esteem equal fulfillment and purpose by using skills and abilities in a way that brings value to others; safety and physiological needs equal job security and compensation; a need to belong equals trust between employees and management.”

Respectful treatment

From bullying to sexual harassment to poor management practices, a lack of respect is a real problem in the workforce. In fact, some tech workers are walking away from six-figure salaries because of mistreatment at work.

Even if employees don’t leave, Love says that respect affects the working relationship. “If you are a manager and you don’t employ respect in your communication, then a wall goes up from the employee, which inhibits their openness to change, or to even put any effort into accomplishing a task.”


Money isn’t everything, but it’s usually a close second to whatever occupies the top spot. When employees are weighing “should I stay or should I go?” compensation is typically one of the deciding factors.

“Compensation goes beyond basic survival needs,” according to Love. “It is a tool of communication that expresses gratitude for loyalty, that extra effort, and a job well done.” In other words, when companies don’t pay employees well, it creates the impression – whether perceived or real – that those workers aren’t considered valuable members of the team.


Don’t underestimate the importance of trust when it comes to job satisfaction. “Going beyond compensation and other carrots and sticks, trust is that magnetic bond between colleagues,” Love says. “Once there is a crack in it, such as an incongruent action that violates this trust, then it takes time and energy to repair.”

Jeb Ory, CEO and cofounder of Phone2Action, a Washington, D.C.-based civic tech company, tells GoodCall®, “Trust between employees and management is incredibly important as it fuels happiness and productivity.” Ory believes that one way companies show trust is by not chaining workers to a desk. “It’s important for management to empower their employees to work where they can be most productive – whether that’s in the office, at home, or from the beach.”

Job security

While automation, artificial intelligence, and robotics lead to business growth, workers are concerned that these tech developments could also replace their jobs. Global competition and off-shoring increase these concerns. “Job security, although not what it once was in generations past, encourages continued forward motion,” Love says. “It’s more than a safety net – it’s the idea of knowing that there will be an outcome at the end of their effort, that people will see the fruit of their labors.”

Opportunities to use skills and abilities

There is a strong correlation between employee engagement and the opportunity to use skills and abilities. “This is the open field in which colleagues can harvest the fulfillment that comes from a challenge well accomplished,” Love explains. “People want to be useful and significant, and if a manager shows them a greenfield of opportunity in which to use their unique skills, then that employee feels significant in knowing they are making a difference for the team.”

American workers blame a lack of training for a lack of promotions. According to Ory, “To be effective in the workplace, employees need to have opportunities to demonstrate growth and excellence.”

Ory says this need is not limited to a particular occupation. “Whether the job function is washing dishes, selling products, or writing code, employees needs to know how to measure the quality of their work, and what they can do to improve their craft.”

Terri Williams
Terri Williams graduated with a B.A. in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her education, career, and business articles have been featured on Yahoo! Education, U.S. News & World Report, The Houston Chronicle, and in the print edition of USA Today Special Edition. Terri is also a contributing author to "A Practical Guide to Digital Journalism Ethics," a book published by the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago.

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