If less than half of those lucky to be employed today are happy with their jobs, what does this say about the state of the American worker? According to Tuesday’s Seattle Post-Intelligencer, employee dissatisfaction has been on the rise for more than a generation and is due not only to wages failing to keep up with inflation and the rising cost of health care, but the fact that “fewer workers consider their jobs to be interesting.”
Does it matter that employees find their jobs interesting? Well, I contend this is extremely important because interest in the work can determine just how competitive we are as a country in the world economy.
“The downward trend in job satisfaction could spell trouble for the overall engagement of U.S. employees and ultimately employee productivity,” says Lynn Franco, director of the Consumer Research Center of The Conference Board. Their research, based on a survey with 5,000 U.S. households, goes on to report that a full 22 percent of respondents say they don’t expect to be in their current job in the next year.
According to The Conference Board report, “The growing dissatisfaction across and between generations is important to address because it can directly impact the quality of multi-generational knowledge transfer—which is increasingly critical to effective workplace functioning.”
If this low rate of job satisfaction results in stifled innovation, lower productivity, and reduced multi-generational knowledge transfer, we’ve got some serious problems in the workplace. So what can be done?
It seems to me that better understanding the root of the problem is essential. For instance, this apparent downward trend has continued for the last two decades and throughout our boom and bust economic cycles. The current down economy is therefore not the heart of the problem. Though I am not an economist, I don’t believe simply adding more service type jobs to replace outsourced manufacturing jobs will resolve things.
We need to leverage good old American ingenuity as well as our technical expertise and creativity to create sustainable market opportunities for new goods and services. We also need something that will ignite workers in every sector of the economy to contribute their best in order to meet the many challenges of the 21st century. With increasing terrorism, global warming, greater energy demands and other big challenges, there is no shortage of opportunities available. Government and business needs to work cooperatively to fully ignite our country again in the same way we did during World War II and for the moon shot of the last century.
No matter what market opportunities may become available to create new and better jobs, we also need to find ways to increase employee engagement and strengthen trust and respect in employer-employee relationships. And this is something that can begin immediately. The worker who feels he or she is truly the organization’s most important asset is a more satisfied worker—regardless of the job. Organizations that invest in their employees today will remain competitive in the future.
A meaningful investment in your employees will help bring about increased job satisfaction. Whether this means better aligning resources with tasks, providing greater guidance and support, strengthening general communication, or results-based team building activities, your investment can reap bottom-line business results immediately.
Mark Craemer www.craemerconsulting.com