Employee Satisfaction and Retention: New PEW Research

New research helps you increase employee satisfaction and retention. Read what PEW Research has found and how it affects y
Daan van Rossum
Daan van Rossum
Founder & CEO, FlexOS
I founded FlexOS because I believe in a happier future of work. I write and host "Future Work," I'm a 2024 LinkedIn Top Voice, and was featured in the NYT, HBR, Economist, CNBC, Insider, and FastCo.
February 8, 2023
min read

According to eye-opening research from the Pew Research Center, over half of the employees are unsatisfied with their jobs. This greatly impacts Employee Satisfaction and Retention. The research found that only 45% of employees were satisfied with their current job, while 54% expressed dissatisfaction. This significantly dropped from the 61% satisfaction rate five years ago.

The survey revealed that employees are much more likely to stay with their employer if they are satisfied. Of those who reported being satisfied with their job, over 80% said they had no plans to look for a new position in the near future.

Employees who felt their pay and benefits package were inadequate were more than twice as likely to be dissatisfied with their job. The survey also showed that satisfaction levels are even lower regarding opportunities for training and skills development, pay, and opportunities for promotion.

Employee Satisfaction and Retention - Key Findings from PEW Research
Employee Satisfaction and Retention - Key Findings from PEW Research

The younger employees are, the more likely they are to be dissatisfied. As Josh Bersin said in his latest podcast episode, this makes sense as experienced, older people expect things not to be perfect. Younger employees have long careers ahead of them and have time to check out, quiet quit, and come back later.

Similarly, higher-income workers are more satisfied with benefits, training and skill development opportunities, and promotion opportunities, than those with lower or middle incomes.

Employee Satisfaction and Retention - Income Matters
Employee Satisfaction and Retention - Income Matters

5 Ways to Help Increase Employee Satisfaction and Retention

The research shows that for most of us, there are key areas to improve our relationship with work and work environment:

  1. Make Sure Your Team Meets Others – Especially in Onboarding
  2. Help Team Members Align Their Values with the Company's
  3. Invest in their Learning & Development
  4. Give Feedback, Frequently
  5. Make Sure They Take Time Off

Below, we get into the detail for each of these.

1. Make Sure Your Team Meets Others – Especially in Onboarding

The report says that 67% of employees are extremely or very satisfied with their relationship with their coworkers.

Positive relationships in the workplace can help you enjoy work more and contribute to better well-being. Recent Gallup data support this notion, showing that having a best friend at work is critical for job satisfaction and has become even more so in light of the pandemic.

Workplace Intelligence research shows that 1 in 3 remote working employees feel disconnected, alienated, isolated, or lonely at work. 72% of employees say they aren’t able to socialize enough when they’re remote.

To help employees find their tribe at work and improve employee satisfaction, let them:

  1. Attend virtual team-building events, social gatherings, or Slack/Team channels related to their interests.
  2. Initiate conversations with their colleagues via chat or video conferencing platforms. Help them if they don't know whom to contact by proposing who could be a great person to meet.
  3. Volunteer for cross-functional projects or assignments to collaborate with coworkers.

2. Help Team Members Align Their Values with the Company's

According to the PEW Research, the amount of people that say their identity is derived from work is low. This means they're in trouble if their and the company's values don't align.

As I mentioned in "The Surprising Science Behind What Makes Us Truly Happy at Work," the research shows clearly that finding their purpose is critical. Purpose in work makes people like their job more, improves their well-being, and makes them more agreeable, social, healthier, and happier. These are all key to improving employee retention.

Employee Satisfaction and Retention - Work and Identity
Employee Satisfaction and Retention - Work and Identity

Help them start with their Ikigai, and if team members find that their current role doesn't align with their values, try job crafting. If that doesn't work, could you help them find another role in your company: the best companies in the world greatly focus on internal mobility.

McKinsey's Naina Dhingra hit the nail on with her article, "Help your employees find purpose—or watch them leave." Why would your employees waste even one second of their time if they can't find purpose?

3. Invest in their Learning & Development

Opportunities for training and ways to develop new skills scores as one of the lowest measures on the survey (44%.) No wonder many employees think about leaving their companies.

Even though LinkedIn research shows how learning & development helps reduce employee turnover. We also saw how it drives people to return to the office, especially Gen Z and millennials, for whom learning & development is their #1 reason to be in the office.

Employee Satisfaction and Retention - Learning and Development
Employee Satisfaction and Retention - Learning and Development

This means you must be highly intentional about approaching L&D and career development, for example, offering mentorship programs and training opportunities and setting up a knowledge-sharing platform. It can be as simple as watching a short TED video together.

4. Give Feedback, Frequently.

Only 49% of employees love the amount and quality of the feedback they get from their manager. Frequent feedback is critically important, especially for our youngest team members.

In our past Gen Z research, we saw that frequent feedback is an absolute must. Almost 70% want feedback at least once per week, and 17% even want feedback more than once per day. This makes sense as young employees want to learn from their manager as a key part of developing and progressing in their careers.

We've spoken before about how driving productivity (how efficiently a person completes a task) for remote workers increases the importance of regular informal feedback (and recognition) for their work to stay on track and keep their motivation up.

The frequency of feedback has specifically become more important as the world is moving too fast to review performance once a year. On-the-go reviewing and providing feedback help people look forward and boost their effectiveness.

Receiving Feedback - Key for Gen Z
Receiving Feedback - Key for Gen Z (Source: Dreamplex)

5. Get Them to Take Time Off!

Almost half of the employees take less employee leave than their employer offers. Many workers say they keep working because they feel guilty about their co-workers taking on extra work (43%) or worry that they might fall behind at work if they take time off, hurt their promotion chances (19%) or even risk losing their job altogether (16%).  

All of this, while we know that taking a break is very important for work life balance. According to a study by Project: Time Off, workers who use their vacation time are more likely to have higher job satisfaction, and according to Expedia research, 86% of employees return to work with a more positive attitude.

If your people still find it hard to let go, encourage them to:

  1. Plan ahead: coordinate with colleagues and ensure coverage for the workload.
  2. Start small: if a week off seems overwhelming, start with a long weekend.
  3. Explore alternative options: such as a "staycation," a day trip to a nearby destination, or a Workcation ("travel somewhere with the intent to work a regular schedule remotely.")

Let's create happier team members.

Beyond being a good human, there are many business reasons to invest in employee engagement, company culture, and employees experience, and increasing Employee Satisfaction and Retention is one of them.

So let this sobering research and data spark us to revisit how our teams are doing and improve their conditions to thrive, boosting our retention rates!

You Might Also Like …

All articles about

Future Work

A weekly column and podcast on the remote, hybrid, and AI-driven future of work. By FlexOS founder Daan van Rossum.