A recent study by the Pew Research Center reveals who’s happy on the job and who isn’t. They say that employees in management positions are generally happier with both their personal and their professional lives. According to the same source, 52 percent of people are very satisfied with their current job. 50 percent of all men and 53 percent of women make up this 52 percent of satisfied employees. In terms of ethnicity, only 30 percent of African American respondents feel very satisfied with the work they do. The ratios stand at 56 percent for Caucasian people and 49 percent for Hispanic people. But what jobs provide the most career satisfaction? And, what can employers and employees do in order to increase work happiness? Read on to find out.
What do the job satisfaction surveys say?
In 2012, MyPlan.com asked 13,871 of its users to rate their happiness with their current occupation as very happy, happy, mixed/neutral, not happy, or miserable. They tallied up the scores and created a happiness index of the 300 careers with the highest job satisfaction rating (which you can read here: http://www.myplan.com/careers/top-ten/highest-job-satisfaction.php). The top ten results of their job satisfaction survey is diverse and rather surprising. It’s telling nonetheless. The list contains numerous education career paths, several types of caregivers, a couple of law enforcement jobs, and a decidedly artistic track. Here’s what the top job satisfaction chart looks like:
- Municipal fire fighters
- Aircraft assemblers
- Communications college professors
- Educational, vocational and school counselors
- Animal care supervisors
- Criminal investigators and special agents
- Psychology college professors
- Vocational studies college instructors
So, what do the results of this survey mean? In order to get a better idea, it’s important to also assess the context. Job satisfaction is an elusive Holy Grail of sorts. A similar Kelly Services global job satisfaction survey says 48 per cent (of 120,000 people polled) are unhappy with their current jobs. You can read the Kelly Services survey here: http://www.chartcourse.com/global-survey-reveals-staggering-results-on-job-satisfaction/. That number has gone up from the previous year’s 47 per cent. In terms of the factors influencing job satisfaction, the experts place a lot of the ‘blame’ on the way in which macroeconomic conditions have been put into practice by the employers. Jobs have been cut, pay bonuses are now smaller, job security has diminished, and there are fewer health benefits available for employees.
Yet the picture painted by the results of the MyPlan survey remains interesting, since it doesn’t necessarily correlate satisfaction on the job with higher salary jobs. As the American Psychology Association highlights, there seems to be a strong link between the jobs with the highest employee satisfaction rates and the perceived meaningfulness of the work put in. A recently published paper explains that, in order to be happy with your job, you don’t necessarily have to make a lot of money, receive a lot of benefits, or even enjoy a short and swift commute.
In a nutshell, the jobs that make people happy are those that make them feel like they have a ‘higher calling’. All you need, in order to be happy at work, is to derive meaning from your work, integrate that meaningfulness into your life as a whole, and end most days with the notion that your work somehow contributes to the greater good of humanity. Easier said than done, right? Perhaps the best proof for this theory is the presence of zookeepers on the list of careers with the highest job satisfaction rates. After all, they spend most of their time behind the scenes, are relatively unappreciated by the public, and also have jobs that involve cleaning out animal cages. Yet they’re happy, because they feel their work contributes to the preservation of fauna. They don’t just care for individual animals but entire species in many cases.
How Can You Tell if Your Next Job Will Give You Job Satisfaction?
In terms of meaningfulness and job satisfaction, there might be a bit of a Catch-22 situation at play. While employees are encouraged to find their own meaningfulness in the jobs they do, this also brings up the potential drawback of labor extraction. You don’t have to ‘learn to love’ a dreadful or demeaning job. But, by investigating a potential new employer, you can predict with some accuracy whether or not you’re going to be satisfied with your next job. In other words, if you’re applying for a job, don’t resign yourself to being the interviewee – adopt a proactive attitude and become an interviewer in your own right: an assessor of the company you’re thinking of joining. Here are a few interview tips you might want to remember to use during the process:
· Specific Benefits
Whenever you apply for a job, try to build connections with current employees, at the same level that you would be joining. Don’t be afraid to ask specific questions about benefits – while a direct question about salaries might be pushing it, you can, however, freely inquire about health benefits, bonuses, days off, and the like.
· Typical Day on the Job
Also, always remember to ask real-life employees to describe a typical day on the job. How much autonomy do they have while working? To what extent are they allowed to take decisions, come up with potential solutions, and/or assert themselves? How meaningful do they feel their daily job routine is?
· Organizational Culture
This line of questioning is a bit trickier and should be addressed via concrete examples. Don’t ask about the vague concept of organizational culture. Instead, ask about how the company perceives families. Are there special company events for the holidays? Does the company support any not-for-profits or causes? How does their CSR department rank up?
How Employers Can Increase the Job Satisfaction Rates
Improving job satisfaction for employees might sound like a daunting task in the current economic climate. However, it’s not impossible. Of course, tangible perks are at the top of the list: increasing pay, providing more benefits and days off, and generally making sure the work climate is positive. But, in order to achieve that final point, an employer must also take several other factors into consideration.
· Find the Right Person
The recruitment process is essential. Some individuals are better matches than others, as far as your organizational culture is concerned. On the other hand, other candidates will never be satisfied working for the company because they simply don’t belong there. Train your HR department to spot the candidates in the former category and recruit them.
· Give Agency
Allowing your staff members to provide input, contribute to the decision making process and assert themselves is also very important. This is especially true for those that take up lower positions in the company hierarchy.
· Encourage Meaningfulness
There’s a fine line here, between encouraging your employees to ‘grin and bear it’ and teaching them how to make their jobs more meaningful. By and large, if you proceed with good intentions, there’s no way you can’t make even the most disgruntled employee find some meaningfulness to what they do. Perhaps the job enables them to grow on a personal level, or maybe it’s all about bringing joy to others. Whatever it is, learn to see each employee as an individual in order to instill a sense of vocation in them.