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What is job satisfaction and why is it important?

We discuss what job satisfaction is, why it's so important, and what some of the highest rated jobs are.

Satisfied at work, a woman smiles at her office desk

Lots of people use the term “job satisfaction” as nothing more than a buzzword, but it can be really important to look deeper into what it means and how important it is.

There are so many jobs and career types out there. Some jobs might be stable with good pay, while others might be more exciting. While some jobs are about helping people, others let you learn and improve yourself. But what kind of job suits different types of people? And how can job satisfaction affect employee performance? These are some of the important questions we hope to answer in this article.

Finding the right role and company

If you’ve ever heard anyone complain about their job, it might be because they are lacking job satisfaction. There is, of course, a difference between having a bad day and lacking satisfaction in your job as a whole, but if you have a constant dislike for your job, you might need to find a role with higher job satisfaction. Learning about Wellbeing and Resilience at Work with the University of Leeds might help you achieve a good work-life balance.

Job satisfaction is not just about the role you work in – different companies or organisations have different approaches that can make all the difference in whether or not their employees are satisfied. To make it more complex, we all find job satisfaction in different aspects of employment. Take a look at some of the drivers of satisfaction vs. dissatisfaction when inspiring and motivating individuals for some examples. 

If you’re just starting to think about your career choices, taking the Career Planning Essentials: Unlock Your Future by the Lulea University of Technology will help you unlock your possibilities.

What is job satisfaction?

Job satisfaction is based on how we feel about our job – the good career components that make us feel valued or let us feel like we have a purpose, vs. the bad components, such as long hours or unpleasant tasks, or feeling undervalued as an employee. Learn how to map out what makes up the components of a fulfilling career for you in this open step.

Aims, goals and values

The amount of satisfaction someone gets from a job is entirely dependent on their aims, goals and values. One person might find job satisfaction from having a simple job and getting a regular paycheck to put towards their interests, while someone else might find this kind of job lacks satisfaction and desire professional challenges.

It can be hard to figure out your personal, ideal career criteria, but we make it easy with this handy guide. It is important, however, to try to figure out what you want from a career before you start looking for new jobs. 

Figuring out what kind of career you want to aim for and what kind of career would give you job satisfaction can also help you decide what kind of subjects to study and training to undertake. If you are not sure yet, don’t worry – check out how to Believe, Build, Become: How to Supercharge your Career by Allbright to identify some of your main strengths and motivations. 

Different job roles

It’s worth noting that different job roles within one field can still give vastly different types of job satisfaction. For example, there are a huge number of professions within the medical field, ranging from patient-facing roles such as nurses and doctors to administrative roles, researchers and even couriers. 

Working out which factors will increase the likelihood of job satisfaction for you can help you narrow down your ideal job role. Rather than looking too broadly into the field you want to work in, classify the job role you want and go from there. 

On the other hand, if you work in HR, you may want to consider the importance of job satisfaction when hiring. If an employee is satisfied in their role, they are likely to be more invested in their work and stay longer with the company.

The 12 key ingredients for job satisfaction

If everyone’s definition of good job satisfaction is different, it means that the recipe to reach job satisfaction will change from person to person. There are, however, some key ingredients that often go into a feeling of enjoying your job.

Figuring these out can be the key to helping increase employee motivation. Some of the most commonly sought-after aspects of jobs are listed below.

1. Job security 

Worrying about whether or not you will have a job in six months is stressful. Having good job security makes people happier in their jobs, meaning it’s possible to work towards long-term goals and feel a stronger sense of community and purpose within the company.

2. Working conditions 

It should go without saying, that all employees feel better with good working conditions. If your workplace is a pleasant space to spend time, where you receive constructive feedback without harassment, you will feel more at ease in the job and, therefore, more satisfied. 

Unscheduled overtime, unrealistic performance expectations and toxic work culture can all lead to feelings of dissatisfaction and a desire to look for other work. Being careful to construct a healthy work environment that emphasises the value of its employees, on the other hand, leads to good working conditions and an increase in job satisfaction. 

Learning about Professional Resilience: Building Skills to Thrive at Work with Deakin University will help you advocate for yourself and contribute to a healthy work environment.

3. Pay and benefits 

This is a particularly divisive aspect of work. Some people will take lower-paying jobs that provide them with satisfaction by minimising pressure, allowing for a healthy work-life balance. For many people, however, pay is a large contributor to job satisfaction. Of course, almost no one will turn down higher pay if they like their job. Added benefits are important, too. Benefits can feel more personal than a pay packet and usually add value beyond a paycheck to a role.

4. Communication 

Clear and open communication in a workplace makes employees feel trusted and appreciated. It dispels any worries they may have about their performance, increases transparency within the company and encourages trust. Communication is incredibly important at work. If you’re looking to improve your skills, the Communication and Interpersonal Skills at Work course by The University of Leeds is a perfect place to start. 

For a lot of employees, it’s important to be able to communicate openly with their managers when they have concerns, complaints or are dealing with personal matters, without there being a risk of punishment for doing so.

5. Recognition 

If you put a lot of effort into your job, you want that to be acknowledged. Recognition can include bonuses — financial or otherwise — or can be as simple as being appreciated by fellow employees and your boss. If people feel their efforts go unnoticed, they will likely stop working as hard in the future or feel that their job is unrewarding.

6. Career development  

While some people are happy to work one job indefinitely, others want options for career development and progression. This can include having plans and routes for promotions, or in-built ways to improve skills and study for new qualifications in line with their desired career progression. Learning a little about the Essential Skills for Your Career Development with this course by the University of Leeds will fast-track your progress.

7. Variety

Job variety can be vital to fostering satisfaction. While having employees focus on a single task can help efficiency, it can be demoralising for people to have no flexibility or diversity in what they do. Employees are usually more satisfied when they have the opportunity to participate in interesting and challenging projects.

8. Acknowledging employee differences 

If people feel that the employer sees and acknowledges their differences, they are likely to be more satisfied. No one likes to be treated as just a number or a statistic – we would all much rather be treated as individuals. This means both acknowledging the employee as a person beyond the workplace, as well as seeing and respecting their strengths and experiences. Both of these approaches help people feel more valued. 

Understanding the importance of diversity and inclusion is key to developing a healthy workplace. Get started with the ExpertTrack course, Develop Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Creative Industries to ensure you’re creating a safe, inclusive and supportive workplace.

9. Company values 

It’s hard for people to feel committed to a cause that they don’t agree with. This is why having core company values is so important. Working for a company that aligns with your values will increase your desire to work for that company. If a company doesn’t match its core values with action, this can create dissonance and make people feel less satisfied in their job. 

This is why the idea of working for charities or in healthcare can be attractive. Many people want to feel like they are making a difference in the world, but it can be more subtle than this. If companies encourage charity fundraising or if they are committed to good environmental practices, for example, employees are more likely to be satisfied with the company they work for because it aligns with their values.

10. Human contact 

As mentioned before, many people want to work for companies or in roles where they help others. This can be a major driving factor for many; helping someone else as part of a job instils a sense of purpose. However, for other people, working with members of the public can be difficult for them. In this case, they are likely to feel more satisfied working alone or as part of a small team.

11. Work-life balance 

Most people work to afford their lifestyle, so it’s important to consider the work-life balance that employees have. There has to be room in a job role for life’s big moments – such as starting a family. Respecting this and providing support to encourage a healthy work-life balance leads to employees feeling valued.

12. Respect for illness  

Most people will hopefully only become ill once or twice a year, but sometimes people are ill for longer, or more often. This is especially true after the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s important for employees to feel safe to recover from illness, without worrying that they might lose their jobs or feel pressured into working when they are unwell.

How job satisfaction affects employee performance

If employees are happy and have high job satisfaction, they are more likely to work well in their jobs and stay longer with a company. In fact, business units where employees score in the top half for employee engagement have a 50% higher success rate on productivity outcomes, on average. 

The benefits of high job satisfaction

If someone feels happy, relaxed, valued and motivated, their performance increases. Let’s look at the benefits of good job satisfaction within a company.

Low turnover  

If your employees are happy and feel satisfied in their role, they are less likely to search for employment elsewhere. This saves time and money spent hiring and training new staff, especially in highly technical fields where the onboarding and training periods can take months. 

It also cuts costs for HR departments massively. As a bonus, if people get to consistently work with the same co-workers for years, they can build good relationships, which also increases office morale and job satisfaction.

Loyalty and word-of-mouth  

Company profile and branding are vital to finding and retaining top talent. If you have satisfied, happy workers, they are more likely to stay loyal to the company. It also increases the chances that they will speak highly of their workplace to friends and family. This word-of-mouth is invaluable in building a positive company reputation, which can have an impact beyond hiring.

Increased profits 

Some employees may turn down offers of higher salaries elsewhere, to stay in a company where they have great job satisfaction. Mostly, however, people will work harder and do better if they feel satisfied in their job. This can feed directly into your productivity and profits, by building better working relationships with clients, for example.

Better collaboration 

If the work culture is healthy and balanced, employees as a whole are more likely to be happy at their workplace and more willing to collaborate. On the other hand, if employees are feeling unhappy, it can lower productivity across the board and create a difficult working culture. A company works or fails as a whole; if employees are unhappy, it will have a knock-on effect.

The great part is that once you manage to define job satisfaction for yourself, or for the people you work with, you can increase job engagement and boost productivity massively. We outline the four dimensions of creating employee engagement in our open step, How can job engagement be increased?

Of course, as an employee, there are huge benefits to job satisfaction. The increase in productivity comes from feeling more valued, having a better work-home life balance and feeling supported. Aiming for high job satisfaction should be a collaborative effort between companies and employees, benefiting both parties.

Which careers have the highest job satisfaction?

Now that we’ve covered the benefits of job satisfaction  – for both the company and the employee – how do we go about finding roles with the highest job satisfaction? Is it as simple as picking a job from a list?

Sadly, the answer is no. Remember: everyone’s idea of a dream job is different and everyone places importance on different factors. The fact is, we all have a different recipe for job satisfaction.

If you’re worried about taking on a job in our increasingly digital world, our Skills to Succeed in the Digital Workplace course by the University of Leeds will help you compete with others and find satisfaction.

4 of the most highly-rated careers

That being said, some jobs consistently rank highly on surveys for job satisfaction. If you’ve worked in one of these jobs before but did not find it satisfying, you might still want to consider it. It could be that the company you worked for scored poorly for job satisfaction, and working for another company might give you the satisfaction you are looking for.

Nurse 

Nursing is a stable and future-proof career, and in a lot of nursing roles, job satisfaction is rated at 94 to 98%. While this job role might not be for everyone, a lot of people find huge satisfaction when working as a nurse. 

Helping people alongside the opportunity to work in a fast-paced and exciting field makes this a rewarding job. FutureLearn has several nursing courses to get you started in this field, such as our introduction to nursing course, and courses to explore the role of nursing.

Software developer 

Many HR experts say that software developers are going to be in high demand for the foreseeable future. This career can be very lucrative, especially if you study rare programming languages.

Additionally, many software developers can work from home. Remote work can help you find the right work-life balance, especially if you have children or pets. Of course, there’s a lot to learn, from Software Development Fundamentals to specialised skills in languages such as Python or JavaScript, but much of this can be learnt through online courses.

Construction worker 

Construction is a great career for people who like working on projects that keep them on their feet. Many find construction to be a well-paid field, depending on their specialisations or expertise, and there is a huge satisfaction to be had from making something from scratch while getting paid well.

There are plenty of construction courses to help you get into the field, from stepping into construction to learning about sustainable construction and development.

Psychologist 

Psychology is a broad field, and it involves everything from helping people overcome or live with mental health conditions, to conducting experiments and carrying out research. Within this, there are numerous specialisations – almost as many as there are mental health conditions.

This can be an incredibly rewarding field for many. It’s also a highly skilled field, with the potential to progress into senior clinical psychology or research-based practice. However, it does usually take a doctoral degree to become a psychologist.

Final thoughts

The broad range of jobs listed shows how personal job satisfaction is – while one person might be most satisfied sitting in an office writing code for an advanced PC program, another might find satisfaction in helping build the infrastructure that we use on a day-to-day basis. 

It can be hard to figure out how to achieve job satisfaction, or how to help inspire job satisfaction in those around you, but the rewards in happiness and productivity make it worthwhile.

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