Employee Satisfaction Research

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What Workers Want:A Worldwide Study of Attitudes to Work and Work-Life Balance




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This report represents the findings of the first study carried out by FDS International in conjunction with its partners in IriS, a global network of independent market research agencies. FDS replaced MORI as the UK representative in the IriS Network in July 2006. We are delighted to have been able to see one of the core principles of the Network realised in this study be global, think local in terms of delivering cost-effective, in-depth research on international markets while analysing and appreciating local requirements. We hope that through reading the following pages you gain greater insight into both UK and international workers attitudes to work today. There are claims made that the whole concept of work-life balance is dead as this study shows, try telling that to a Norwegian! FDS International has an excellent track record in undertaking employee research for

a number of clients within the UK including British Gas, Transport for London, Department for Work and Pensions, Identity and Passport Service and BT. This research demonstrates our wider capability, with our IriS partners to provide valuable insight on an international scale. It also demonstrates how we approach research projects, adding context and secondary sources to help enhance the insight gained from the findings. We hope that you enjoy reading this report; indeed, that you find it useful. Should you want further information about this study in particular, or the wider capabilities of FDS International as a full-service market research provider, please contact me on +44 (0)20 7272 7766 or e-mail charlotte.cornish@fds.co.uk Charlotte Cornish Managing Director FDS International





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ContentsIntroduction Theme 1: What makes for employee satisfaction? Theme 2: Ranking of employee morale Theme 3: Differentiating attitudes to work-life balance Theme 4: Workers problems around the globe the difference between retention and recruitment About FDS International 4 5 11 15 20


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IntroductionLucy Kellaway the FT journalist, has written a provocative forecast in The Economist World in 2007 report. In it she says that the idea of work-life balance is one of the most pernicious and widespread of all the ideas of flexible working. The phrase not only spawned a thousand conferences but also created false expectations among workers, and encouraged companies to be disingenuous about what they wanted (which was really for everyone to work as hard as possible). retain the good. This important study answers vital questions for all employers today which aspects of employees working lives are most important for overall job satisfaction? How important is satisfaction with pay? How important is the working environment? And how important is work-life balance? Our hope is that the results from this study will provide a platform for a more balanced discussion of the important issues behind worker satisfaction and help employers in their quest to find and retain the best employees. FDS International has conducted analyses of data collected in the second half of 2006 from 13,832 employees aged 18+ in 23 countries around the world. The research was conducted by members of IriS, the global research group, of which FDS International is the UK member. Please find further details of IriS and FDS International on the inside back cover.

While it is true that the global marketplace has impacted on the UK workplace so that what we find today is one that has changed out of all recognition from that of 10, or even 5 years ago. We do not believe, however, that the power has swung away from the employee to the employer. Indeed, increasing competition from overseas, increasing worker migration, alongside changes in attitudes to a job for life and an increasing emphasis on personal development and transferable skills, have all impacted on the competition between employers for good employees. It is harder than ever to recruit the best and





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Theme 1What makes for employee satisfaction?





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A previous international study, using the World Values Survey (WVS), has indicated that a shift takes place, as societies become more affluent and the nature of employment changes, from a focus on extrinsic work values (pay, working hours the benefits a job has for the employees life outside of work), to a focus on intrinsic work values (the quality of the work itself).

A remarkable result! At a global level, pay is the least good predictor of job satisfaction. Furthermore, as well see below, it does not constitute the most important predictor in any of the countries in our survey. While items 4 and 5 in our ranking are somewhat ambiguous in terms of the extrinsic/intrinsic reward dichotomy, it is clear enough that it is intrinsic rewards that matter most, at a global level.

Some researchers have questioned the validity of the extrinsic/intrinsic rewards dichotomy, and suggested that more complex schema are necessary to understand employee motivation. This is certainly a wellresearched area. However, few academic studies (aside from the WVS) occupy the international range of this research study, which represents a broad spectrum of countries in the developed world, in terms of geography, industrial structures, and income levels so although our measures are relatively simple by academic standards, and we do not attempt more than a passing reference to the large body of theory and research in this area, we believe that our recent research can make a useful contribution to the understanding of what constitutes job satisfaction and how this varies internationally. Top six predictors for job satisfaction Lets begin with our first question. At a global level, what makes for job satisfaction?

The broad message to employers is clear the opportunity to do something interesting at work is what matters most for overall job satisfaction. Investing in skills development, promoting initiative and creativity, and inclusivity in strategic decision-making would appear to make for a happier workforce than simply jacking up wage levels. At first glance, this might be just what employers want to hear! But this result should not be taken to mean that token measures will suffice to replace wage increases making all employees jobs more interesting presents a very different, and hugely more complex and nuanced, challenge for employers.

The results here may surprise the list below sets out in order, where 1 is the most important, the factors most closely associated with overall job satisfaction:

1: (the strongest predictor of overall job satisfaction): Opportunities to do an interesting job 2: Recognition for your performance 4: Prospects for advancement 5: Job security 3: Balance between private life and worklife

Furthermore, while wage increases for existing staff may not be effective in and of themselves, for many, wage increases are the language of recognition the second most important factor in employee satisfaction. To put it more colloquially, money talks. And it must be remembered that pay rises have a symbolic as well as an economic value. And lastly, we must remember that the dynamics of recruitment are very different from the dynamics of retention.

6: (the weakest predictor of overall job satisfaction): Your salary/payment.

On the following page, our table sets out the variations in levels of correlation between various measures and overall job satisfaction between the countries in our study. As well see, we find universal confirmation of the idea that salary is not where its at but also intriguing variations in the most important components of job satisfaction.





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Table: Predictors of overall job satisfaction, by country and country group (Pearsons Correlations) most important factor is highlighted in yellow for each country Country Brazil Australia Canada France Germany Greece Ireland Japan Korea China advancement 0.495 0.369 0.268 0.279 interesting job 0.585 0.401 0.412 0.566 recognition 0.459 0.444 0.476 0.333 0.490 0.394 0.362 0.554 0.129 0.326 0.494 0.226 0.352 0.387 0.242 0.410 0.358 0.140 0.375 0.466 0.333 0.426 0.296 0.377 0.371 0.275 0.177 0.268 0.330 0.152 0.432 0.251 0.422 0.296 0.225 0.300 0.298 0.097 0.211 0.270 0.251 0.232 0.341 0.124 0.128 0.055 salary 0.348 0.374 0.343 0.254 0.356 0.300 0.310 0.489 0.171 0.416 0.455 0.273 0.366 0.222 0.242 0.321 0.397 0.414 0.443 0.192 0.267 0.337 work life balance 0.377 0.340 0.294 0.141 0.310 0.379 0.417 0.540 0.429 0.583 0.300 0.149 0.166 0.211 0.306 0.410 0.283 0.414 0.180 0.142 0.381 job security



0.398 0.392 0.468 0.299 0.358 0.293 0.234

0.300 0.454 0.592 0.259 0.344 0.586 0.136


Portugal Russia Spain


0.308 0.256

0.359 0.414

Switzerland Thailand UK The Netherlands USA

0.201 0.286



0.422 0.383



0.129 0.301

0.366 0.416 0.315 0.237

0.386 0.537 0.688 0.496





Country Groups Scandinavian

0.240 0.270


Northern European 0.304 Southern European North American Central & Eastern European 0.288 0.304

0.509 0.296 0.452


0.346 0.428 0.32