Employees are growing increasingly satisfied with their jobs, new research finds — but that doesn't necessarily mean they're more engaged in their work.
A study from Gallup examined 13 different job aspects and how satisfied employees were with each of them. Despite a dip in satisfaction with health benefits, co-worker relationship and vacation time, employees are happier than they were a year ago in most of the categories, including flexibility of hours, job security, recognition at work, chances for promotion, salary and on-the job stress.
"From last year to this year, workers have become more satisfied with most aspects of their jobs," the study's authors wrote. "This trend coincides with a recent uptick in 'good jobs' — the percentage of Americans who work full time for an employer."
However, the increase in employee happiness doesn't always translate into more productive workers. The researchers said that while satisfaction is on the rise, two-thirds of employees are still classified as either "not engaged" or "actively disengaged." This is much higher than the percentage of workers who are unhappy with certain aspects of their jobs.[See Related Story: LinkedIn to Bosses: Here's How to Make Your Workers Happy]
"From an employer's perspective, this research shows that increasing workers' satisfaction with their workplace alone is not the formula to improve productivity, retention and output," the study's authors wrote. "Employers should also strive to have engaged employees — those who are not just content with their job, but who are highly involved in and enthusiastic about it."
To increase engagement, companies need to do more than just pay employees higher salaries and offer more vacation time, the researchers said.
"Gallup finds that boosting engagement involves focused efforts on complex elements that drive day-to-day performance, including role clarity, opportunities to develop, and feedback and progress discussions," the study's authors wrote. "This type of focus on engagement, however, can have a powerful effect on the factors that matter most to an organization's performance-management and human-capital strategies."
Focusing on improving employee satisfaction and engagement pays off for most businesses. Gallup research has found that businesses with above-average numbers of highly engaged employees average 21 percent higher profitability than businesses that have fewer engaged employees.
The Gallup study was based on surveys of 521 adults employed full or part time, aged 18 and older, and living in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.