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29 Oct. 2019 | Comments (0)

A recent report from The Conference Board found that 53.7 percent of workers are satisfied with their job. Job Satisfaction 2019: Satisfaction Continues to Rapidly Increase in a Very Tight Labor Market says that these workers are “particularly content with their commute, their workmates, the work itself, the physical environment, and their perception of job security.” On the flip side, the main drivers of job satisfaction are potential for future growth, communication channels, recognition/acknowledgement, performance review process, work/life balance, and workload. There’s a notable absence in these two lists: purpose.

Of the 23 components that contribute to job satisfaction referenced in the research, purpose—or anything related to CSR—is excluded, despite mounting evidence that it impacts job satisfaction, particularly among younger workers. For example:

  • The 2018 Global Talent Trends study by Mercer identified “working with a purpose” as one of its main trends shaping the workforce in 2018. The research says “employees crave meaningful work: 75 percent of thriving employees—those who are fulfilled personally and professionally—say that they work for a company with a strong sense of purpose (almost double those who don’t feel like they are thriving).”
  • In 2016, Cone Communications found that 88 percent of millennials say their job is more fulfilling when employers provide opportunities to make a positive impact on social and environmental issues (compared with 74 percent on average in the US). Additionally, 75 percent of millennials would take a pay cut to work for a responsible company (versus 55 percent on average in the US).
  • In 2017, the same firm found 94 percent of Gen Z believe companies should help address social and environmental issues (87 percent of millennials; 86 percent of the general population).

 The job satisfaction report acknowledges the need for companies to improve job satisfaction rates, particularly in a “very tight labor market.” But, like the 23 job components, the recommendations for improving job satisfaction exclude anything related to purpose, instead focusing on areas like talent mobility, communications channels, employee recognition, performance reviews, and workloads.

 Within the research, there are clear opportunities for how purpose could boost job satisfaction rates. For example, the five job components that US employees were least satisfied with were:

  • Bonus plan (29 percent)
  • Promotion policy (30.7 percent)
  • Performance review process (32.9 percent)
  • Educational/job training programs (35.9 percent)
  • Recognition/acknowledgement (36.9 percent)

Take educations/job training programs, for example. A 2018 Giving Thoughts article from The Conference Board highlighted the fact that in 2016, 94 percent of participants involved in immersive skills-based projects—often referred to as pro bono projects—conducted by consultancy Team4Tech “reported a growth in leadership development.” Such projects place employees in purpose-driven, medium- to long-term volunteer projects that take employees out of their comfort zone and allow them to make a positive societal impact while also developing professionally.

 In each of the other four components, companies could boost job satisfaction by incorporating employees’ contribution to the company’s purpose in their recognition, bonuses, and performance reviews. By recognizing employees’ community efforts through formal reward and recognition processes such as these, companies will underscore the importance of purpose to their business strategies—something employees clearly crave.  

This report is a reminder that there are any number of factors that keep employees happy at work and it would be disingenuous to suggest that purpose is the predominant driver of job satisfaction. However, it is an increasingly important component that warrants attention in broad business research.

  • About the Author:Alex Parkinson

    Alex Parkinson

    Alex Parkinson is Principal of Parky Communications, a communications agency specializing in sustainability and CSR reporting and communications. He serves as the Co-Leader of The Conference Board Cor…

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