Cracking the Code of Job Satisfaction: 2023 Study
Does your job give you an endorphin boost? Or rather anxiety, stress, and hundreds of reasons to complain?
No matter whether you save lives or create memes, work from 9 to 5 or have no fixed hours, earn a fortune, or spend your whole salary on paying the bills, take a moment to think about how your work life makes you feel.
As job satisfaction goes hand in hand with our overall well-being, it’s becoming a critical success factor for many companies worldwide. A growing number of employers adopt a “people-first” approach to please their workforce. Are these efforts effective? What do employees want from the workplace? And do they get it? Let’s find out.
First, some recent data on the topic.
- American workers are more content than ever, according to The Conference Board Job Satisfaction 2023.
- Statista’s 2021 survey on job satisfaction factors revealed that for 51% of employees worldwide, work-life balance is the most important organizational attribute.
- According to a 2023 study by the Pew Research Center, about 4 in 10 workers see their job as central to their overall identity.
- And 2023 data from McKinsey reveals that workplace relationships with management account for 86% of employees’ job satisfaction.
To investigate the topic of job satisfaction deeper, at MyPerfectResume, we surveyed over 1000 US workers and examined:
- How they feel about their professional life
- Job satisfaction boosters and killers
- Salary-related issues, the most desirable benefits, and promotion opportunities
- The importance of a positive workplace atmosphere
- Employee sentiments on work-life balance
- Satisfaction factor preferences
- Advice for employers to increase employees’ job satisfaction
- 77% of participants feel satisfied or very satisfied with their job overall. 36% claim to love their current job.
- 74% place a high priority on doing meaningful work.
- Only 32% of respondents express a strong preference for remote work.
- 71% would quit their job if they were offered a higher salary elsewhere, even if they knew they’d be less satisfied in their new role.
- For 66%, job satisfaction is more important than job prestige.
- Participants with greater opportunities for promotion in their workplace are 3 times more likely to have high overall job satisfaction.
- Based on many measures, participants with no college degree are the least satisfied with their professional life.
So what’s the secret to waking up smiling at the thought of starting work? Is there any magical formula? Can a job make you genuinely happy? Let’s crack the code of job satisfaction together.
Keep reading to discover what else our study revealed about professional fulfillment.
Job satisfaction under the microscope
How do employees feel about their professional life? To start with, we asked participants how satisfied they were with their job. They answered as follows:
- Satisfied / Very satisfied – 77%
- Neutral – 16%
- Unsatisfied / Very unsatisfied – 7%
The job satisfaction champions are respondents hired at large companies of 201–500 employees (90%) and education (86%) and software/IT (84%) industry workers. In contrast, participants without a college degree (64%) turned out to be the most unsatisfied with their professional life.
There were noteworthy disparities in answers given within demographic groups. Career contentment varied as follows.
- Gender: female—83% male—71%
- Age: 25 or younger—83% 26–40 y/o—70%
- Industry: education—86% | software/IT—84% business & finance—69%
- Work experience: 6+ years—82% 1–2 years—66%
- Company size: 201–500 employees—90% 11–50—69%
- Education: Bachelor’s degree—81% no college degree—64%
Surprisingly enough, at this point, our study didn’t reveal significant differences in overall job satisfaction between respondents with the lowest (less than $25,000) and the highest ($75,000 or more) annual income. 77% and 74%, respectively, assessed their overall job satisfaction as high.
So, money can’t buy you happiness? Stay tuned, we’ll examine financial satisfaction in detail further in this article.
We also asked about a sense of job meaningfulness. A factor often cited as being integral to job satisfaction.
53% of respondents considered their job meaningful.
Some other research findings:
- Participants aged 41 or older(61%) assessed their job meaningfulness more positively than those under 40 (44%).
- Overall, almost 1 in 5 (19%) believed their job was meaningless.
- The biggest share of those considering their job meaningless were participants without a college degree (48%) and ethnic minority representatives (46%).
76% of participants considered their job prestigious.
The share of those viewing their job as prestigious was the largest for:
- respondents classifying their job as a hybrid of white and blue-collar (88%)
- software/IT industry workers (85%)
- employees of large companies (84%)
Interestingly, the assessment of job prestige differed by respondents’ gender and education level. Females (80%) were more likely to view their job as prestigious than men (71%). The same applied to Bachelor’s degree holders (79%) and participants without a college degree (63%).
74% of participants believed their job made a real contribution to the world.
Employees of the software/IT industry (84%) were the most convinced that they have a genuine impact on the world.
Again, the answers we collected varied within different demographics.
Gender: females—80% vs. males—68%
Industry: software/IT—84% vs. education—72%
Company size: 51–200 employees—82% | 501+—81% vs. 1–10—56%
Annual income: $25,000–49,999—78% | $50,000–74,999—78% vs. less than $25,000—60%
Education: Bachelor’s degree—77% vs. no college degree—64%
Political affiliation: Democrats—81% vs. Republicans—66%
Females, big company employees, participants with a college degree, and Democrats showed a stronger tendency to view their job as contributing to the world than others.
Let’s focus on the social usefulness of a job now.
68% of survey takers viewed their job as socially useful.
It seems that the software/IT workers know their professional worth. 81% believed that their job was socially useful.
On the other hand, participants with no college degree (54%), working for companies of 11–50 employees (56%), and with an annual income of less than $25,000 (59%) were the least likely to assess their job as socially useful.
Digging deeper, we discovered disparities between answers given by participants from different demographic groups.
Age: 25 or younger—76% vs. 41 or older—65%
Industry: software/IT—81% vs. business & finance—63%
Company size: 501+ employees—75% vs. 11–50—56%
Annual income: $75,000 and greater—73% vs. less than $25,000—59%
Education: Master’s degree—73% vs. no college degree—54%
We also asked how secure respondents felt in their job. Here are the results:
- Secure / Very secure – 64%
- Neutral – 22%
- Insecure / Very insecure – 14%
The level of perceived job security varied depending on the respondent’s age, industry, work experience, and company size. The numbers shown represent the percentage of respondents who feel either secure or very secure in their jobs.
Age: 25 or younger—72% vs. 26-40 y/o—59%
Industry: software/IT— 74% vs. business & finance—52%
Work experience: 1–2 years—53% vs. 6 years+—70%
Company size: 501+ employees—77% vs. 11–50—58%
What’s noteworthy, yet sad, 46% of those with no college degree felt either insecure or neutral about their job security. The most negative sentiment of all demographic groups.
This survey section’s final question was, “Do you like your current job?”. Here’s how respondents answered:
- I love it – 36%
- I like it – 51%
- I don’t mind it – 7%
- I don’t like it – 3%
- I hate it – 3%
Participants aged 25 or younger (95%), workers in companies with 201–500 employees(95%), and software/IT industry workers (91%) showed the most positive feelings, declaring they liked or loved their job.
On the other hand, respondents with no college degree (24%), ethnic minority representatives (16%), and employees with an annual income of less than $25,000 (14%) were the most negative, claiming they didn’t like or hated their jobs.
We don’t need no education… Do we? Well, not necessarily.
Overall, based on many measures, participants with no college degree were the least satisfied with their professional life.
There might be several reasons for that. Higher education often leads to better job stability and pay. And statistics from the Association of American Colleges and Universities show having a degree can give a job candidate an edge in getting hired in the first place.
What’s more, the better educated you are, the less likely you are to be unemployed.
In 2020, workers with professional or doctoral degrees had the highest median weekly earnings ($1,893 and $1,885, respectively), followed by those with master’s degrees ($1,545), bachelor’s degrees ($1,305), and associate’s degrees ($938). At the bottom of the list were workers without a high school diploma ($619).
–U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, research on employment opportunities
Let’s move on. Time to unveil job satisfaction boosters and killers.
Job satisfaction boosters and killers
Next, we try to assemble the key pieces of the job satisfaction jigsaw.
”Leaders gain the most by offering flexible, hybrid work arrangements, and by emphasizing work experience and culture factors such as interesting work, reasonable workloads, and opportunities for career growth.”–Allan Schweyer, Principal Researcher of Human Capital at The Conference Board
We asked respondents which factors contributing to job satisfaction were important to them. Their answers were the following:
- Doing meaningful work – 74%
[annual income $75,000 or greater – 83%]
- Job security – 72%
[work experience of 6 year+ – 82%; software/IT – 82%]
- Learning and career development – 72%
[education – 82%]
- A good relationship with colleagues – 70%
[work experience of 1–2 years – 81%, ethnic minorities – 79%]
- Flexibility at work – 70%
- High earnings – 69%
[software/IT – 82% vs. business & finance – 61%]
- Being shown appreciation for your work – 68%
[a hybrid of white and blue collar– 87%; education – 80% vs. business & finance – 61%]
- Job prestige – 68%
[software/IT – 80%]
- A good relationship with management – 66%
[education – 80%]
As you can see—despite some disparities within different demographics—job meaningfulness, job security, as well as learning and career development were considered the key job satisfaction factors.
Job satisfaction has risen in priority now more than ever – people want to work within a meaningful relationship with their organizations, beyond merely being satisfied or content with minimum performance expectations”. –LynnAnn Brewer, HR expert at McLean & Company
To examine what could kill their job satisfaction, we asked respondents to complete the sentence “I couldn’t be happy at work if…”
- I wasn’t shown appreciation for my work – 74%
Work experience: 1–2 years—83% vs. 3–5 years—72% | 6 years+—73%
Company size: 201–500 employees—85% vs. 1–10—63%
Political affiliation: Republicans—85% vs. Democrats—70%
- I wasn’t doing meaningful work – 72%
Ethnicity: white—75% vs. ethnic minorities—54%
Education: Master’s degree | Bachelor’s degree—77% vs. no college degree—49%
- my job wasn’t secure – 72%
- my earnings weren’t high – 71%
- I had no chances for learning and development – 70%
Age: 41 or older—75% vs. 26–40 y/o—61%
Education: Master’s degree—76% vs. no college degree—56%
Form of work: on-site—77% vs. remote—66%
- my job wasn’t flexible – 70%
- I had a bad relationship with my colleagues – 70%
- I had a bad relationship with my manager – 69%
- my job wasn’t prestigious – 67%
- A full 82% of Master’s degree holders couldn’t be happy if their job was insecure.
- Job flexibility turned out to be noticeably less important to participants with no college degree (49%) and an annual income of less than $25,000 (53%).
- Surprisingly, for education industry workers (57%), doing meaningful work held less importance than for the other demographic groups. After all, isn’t education meaningful by its nature?
- For almost 9 in 10 (87%) respondents with hybrid white and blue collar jobs high earnings were crucial to overall job satisfaction.
Talking about money, let’s move on to the topic of financial satisfaction.
Beyond the payslip: financial satisfaction at work
Time to investigate financial satisfaction. In this section, we’ll focus on salary, benefits, and promotion opportunities.
First, we asked participants how satisfied they were with their salary.
71% of respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with their salary.
Workers of companies employing 201–500 people (86%) and the software/IT industry (84%) were the happiest with how much they earned.
Big companies and the technology sector were the winners once again. It seems that the larger the company you work in, the better your financial satisfaction is. Also, software/IT specialists continue to be in high demand and command salaries that match.
Financial job satisfaction varied depending on participants’ gender, age, and industry. Let’s take a look.
Gender: females—75% vs. males—67%
Age: 25 or younger—79% vs. 26–40 y/o—67%
Industry: software/IT—84% vs. business & finance—66%
Unsurprisingly, there is a correlation between financial satisfaction and overall job satisfaction.
Respondents who claimed to be happy with their salary were 2.3 times more likely to assess their overall job satisfaction as high.
Another key finding of our study to mention at this point:
- 71% of participants would quit their job if they were offered a higher salary elsewhere, even if they knew they’d be less satisfied in their new role. The percentage was even higher in the case of education industry employees (84%).
Let’s explore the morality versus money dilemma further. We also asked respondents about value conflict in the workplace in light of salary-related issues.
Which option do you prefer?
- Accepting a lower salary to work for an employer with values that match my own – 49%
- Accepting a higher salary to work for an employer with values that don’t match my own – 51%
So pretty much an even split overall.
Participants aged 25 or younger (64%) and those with work experience of 1–2 years (61%) were the most willing to accept a higher salary and value mismatch. Conversely, Master’s degree holders (68%) were the largest share of answers picking lower salary and value match.
Money or morality? There’s no good answer. This dilemma, as old as the hills, remains unsolved.
Time to focus on the most desirable benefits. We asked survey takers, “What benefits are important to you?”. That is how they answered:
- Flexible working options – 70%
- Paid time off – 69%
- Family-friendly benefits – 68%
- Retirement plans – 67%
- Wellness programs – 67%
- Remote working options – 67%
- Health insurance – 65%
Despite disparities within different demographic groups, flexible working options, paid time off, and family-friendly perks(such as domestic partnership benefits, subsidized child care, scholarships, etc.) were the top 3 most desirable benefits.
- Flexible work arrangements were particularly important for education industry workers (82%) and participants with an annual income of $75,000 or above (80%).
- Respondents working in the education sector (80%) also valued retirement plans.
- Employees of big companies (201–500) found wellness programs more attractive than employees of small companies (1–10) did—78% vs. 51%, respectively.
Now let’s focus on career advancement.
- 86% of respondents claimed they had opportunities for professional development in their job.
- 68% were satisfied or very satisfied with their opportunities for promotion in their workplace.
- Education section workers (92%) showed the greatest satisfaction with their career advancement opportunities compared to other demographics.
- On the contrary, employees of companies hiring 1–10 people (49%) were the least satisfied with their opportunities for promotion.
Participants with greater opportunities for promotion in their workplace were 3 times more likely to assess their overall job satisfaction as high.
Time to examine the role of the atmosphere at work.
The importance of a positive workplace atmosphere
A positive, supportive, and inclusive work environment is crucial for overall job satisfaction.
According to SHRM’s “2021 Workplace Culture Report”, 94% of people managers agree a positive workplace culture creates a resilient team of employees.
“A positive work environment promotes employee performance within organizational circuits. More speciﬁcally, the workplace environment can improve the achievement-striving ability of the employees, and employees tend to bounce back in difficult situations. Similarly, a positive work environment provides a nurturing and pleasant work environment which promotes employee commitment, and employees tend to be loyal to their organizations.” –G. Zhenjing, S. Chupradit, Y. Kuo, A. Nassani, & M. Haffar, “Impact of Employees’ Workplace Environment on Employees’ Performance: A Multi-Mediation Model”
Our respondents were asked how satisfied they were with their workplace atmosphere. They answered as follows:
- Satisfied / Very satisfied – 71%
- Neutral – 22%
- Unsatisfied / Very unsatisfied – 7%
Blue-collar workers (83%), employees of companies hiring 201–500 people (82%), and respondents aged 25 or younger (81%) assessed their workplace atmosphere satisfaction as the highest.
A positive workplace atmosphere made survey takers 3.3 times more likely to assess their overall job satisfaction as high.
Other research findings to note:
- Almost 9 in 10 (87%) participants claimed that they had friends at work.
- 69% are satisfied with their relationships with colleagues. Moreover, 70% shared such an opinion about their relationship with their direct manager/supervisor.
- Blue-collar workers assessed their relationship with colleagues better than white-collar workers (85% vs. 63%, respectively).
- Participants having good relationships with their colleagues were 2 times more likely to rate their overall job satisfaction as high.
- 72% of survey takers liked socializing with their colleagues after work.
While analyzing workplace relationships, we also asked respondents how often they received praise from their managers. Here’s how they answered
- Often – 13%
- Sometimes – 62%
- Rarely – 19%
- Never – 6%
The greatest share of participants who claimed were rarely or never praised by their manager included: education sector employees (46%), respondents with no college degree (46%), and ethnic minority representatives (41%). It doesn’t sound optimistic.
In the workplace, the role of being recognized for one’s efforts is hard to overstate.
Recognition is a top driver of employee engagement. As a Quantum Workplace study revealed, when employees believed they would be recognized, they were 2.7 times more likely to be highly engaged.
Also—Our study unveiled that employees who were often praised by their manager were 3 times more likely to assess their overall job satisfaction as high.
Employers take note. A kind word and positive feedback cost you nothing. At the same time, they make your workforce happier, more motivated and more engaged.
Finding balance: sentiments on work-life integration
Let’s examine work-life balance. How do employees feel about it?
74% of respondents were satisfied with their work-life balance.
The sentiments on work-life integration varied in different demographic groups, depending on participants’ work experience, company size, and education level.
Work experience: 6 years+—85% vs. 3–5 years—66%
Company size: 201–500 employees—85% vs. 1–10—64%
Education: Bachelor’s degree—76% vs. no college degree—65%
Let’s dig deeper.
- 73% of respondents considered work-life balance to be important.
Age: 25 or younger—77% vs. 26–40 y/o—65%
Ethnicity: white—75% vs. ethnic minorities—60%
Industry: software/IT—75% vs. education—59%
Annual income: $50,000–74,999—79% vs. $25,000 or less—59%
Education: Master’s degree—85% vs. no college degree—47%
- 77% had enough time for their families and friends.
Age: 25 or younger—86% vs. 26–40 y/o—66%
Ethnicity: white—78% vs. ethnic minorities—67%
Industry: software/IT—83% vs. education—73%
Company size: 201–500—85% vs. 1–10—59%
Annual income: $25,000–49,999—82% vs. $25,000 or less—69%
Education: Master’s degree—87% vs. no college degree—50%
- 73% had enough time for their hobbies.
Age: 25 or younger—80% vs. 26–40 y/o—67%
Company size: 201–500—78% vs. 1–10—61%
Annual income: 75,000 or greater—79% vs. $25,000 or less—57%
Education: Master’s degree—83% vs. no college degree—51%
Looking at the above data, it’s obvious that the younger, richer, and better educated you are, the greater your work-life balance.
Job satisfaction is an unbelievably complex issue, depending on countless factors. Still, without a doubt, work-life balance isimportant for professional fulfillment,
Employees who felt happy with their work-life balance were 2.3 times more likely to assess their overall job satisfaction as high.
A matter of choice: satisfaction factor preferences
Job satisfaction has many varying factors. But when presented with a choice between contrasting considerations, what would people choose? We asked a series of questions in which respondents chose which option they preferred.
- Doing meaningful work – 50% vs. earning a lot of money – 50%
73% of blue-collar workers chose meaningful work. In comparison, 65% of the education sector workers picked money.
- Exciting tasks – 47% vs. stable employment – 53%
For 64% of education sector workers, exciting tasks seemed the more attractive option. On the contrary, only 38% of participants from software/IT shared this view.
- Job satisfaction – 66% vs. job prestige – 34%
Ethnic minority representatives (51%) valued job prestige higher than white respondents (32%) did. The same applied to participants with no college degree (46%) and Master’s degree holders (24%).
- Family – 60% vs. career – 40%
63% of Bachelor’s degree holders chose family over career. The percentage dropped to 47% for participants without a college degree.
- Being praised for your work in a company-wide email – 48% vs. receiving a $500 bonus, but not having it openly publicized by your superiors – 52%
58% of participants aged 25 or younger picked being praised publicly, while 65% of the education sector workers and 64% of those with an annual income of less than $25,000 would prefer getting a bonus.
- A 5% raise in salary – 46% vs. a higher job title but with no raise – 54%
- Unlimited PTO – 25% vs. a guaranteed holiday bonus [7% of your annual salary] – 75%
Almost half (45%) of participants without a college degree opted for unlimited PTO.
- Having a great relationship with your boss – 45% vs. having a great relationship with colleagues – 55%
64% of respondents working for small companies (1–10 employees) prioritized having a great relationship with their colleagues.
Survey takers also gave their opinions on the type of work they liked best:
- Remote work – 32%
- Working on-site – 44%
- It makes no difference to me if I work remotely or on-site – 22%
- Teamwork – 45% [Master’s degree – 55%]
- Individual work – 33% [ethnic minorities – 43%]
- It makes no difference to me if I work in a team or individually – 22%
Life is a matter of choice. Professional life is no exception to the rule, as you see.
How to keep your employees happy
Wondering how to build a team of dedicated, motivated, and productive employees? We’ll give you some actionable advice. You don’t need to be an experienced employer to succeed. An open mind, empathy, and long-term thinking are good starting points.
Here’s our recipe for employee job satisfaction.
- Positive workplace atmosphere. Create a friendly and supportive work environment where respect and inclusion are promoted.
- Opportunities for promotion. Provide clear paths for career advancement and growth.
- Appreciation. Deliver recognition, praise, and constructive feedback.
- Job meaningfulness. Foster a sense of purpose by highlighting the impact of your employees’ work. Make them feel proud of their achievements, contributing to a higher cause.
- Decent salary. Good work deserves good pay. Offer competitive compensation and attractive benefits.
- Good work-life balance. Promote a healthy work-life balance, offer flexible work arrangements, and support the personal well-being of your employees.
- Job prestige. Let your employees shine. Provide them with opportunities to showcase their expertise and achievements.
Make sure you don’t miss any ingredients.
The happier the employees, the better they perform. Enjoy!
The findings presented were obtained by surveying 1039 respondents online via a bespoke polling tool. They were asked questions about job satisfaction and professional fulfillment. These included yes/no questions, scale-based questions relating to levels of agreement with a statement, questions that permitted the selection of multiple options from a list of potential answers, and a question that permitted open responses. All respondents included in the study passed an attention-check question.
The data we are presenting relies on self-reports from respondents. Everyone who took our survey read and responded to each question without any research administration or interference. We acknowledge there are many potential issues with self-reported data, like selective memory, telescoping, attribution, or exaggeration.
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Author: Kellie Hanna, CPRW, Career Advice Expert
Kellie is a San Francisco-based writer and editor with a broad background in digital media. Hailing from Philadelphia, PA, she served as online entertainment editor for the Philadelphia Inquirer before moving to the San Francisco Bay Area where she took on a variety of digital content roles, including: senior editor, writer, content manager and strategist for leading high-tech companies such as IBM, Xerox and SanDisk, as well as for several start-ups. Most recently, Kellie has written for Smart Meetings magazine, Chronicle Books, LiveCareer and Resume Now. She enjoys helping job seekers find their voice so they can develop their unique talents and love what they do. She has a B.A. in English with a writing minor from Temple University, where she was a member of the Honors Program.