Serious about increasing employee engagement? It’s simple: Pay them well.  

That’s one conclusion that can be drawn from recent research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). After enduring years of frozen wages or small pay increases, U.S. employees are now tying compensation to how happy they are at work, according to Job Satisfaction and Engagement: The Road to Economic Recovery.

When asked what was very important to them, 60% of employees said compensation/pay, making it the biggest contributor to job satisfaction, said the survey, which was conducted in 2013. The last time compensation/pay was the top contributor to overall job satisfaction was the pre-recession period of 2006 and 2007.

Since the recession, compensation/pay has fluctuated among lower rankings — possibly because people were just glad to keep their jobs.

“Incomes have grown slowly since the recession, and that undoubtedly is having an impact on workers’ priorities and one explanation for the leap to the forefront by compensation,” Evren Esen, director of SHRM’s Survey Research Center, said in a press release.

Four generations agree

The survey asked respondents about the importance of 35 different contributors to job satisfaction. Four generations of employees ranked compensation/pay as either the top or second-ranked aspect of job satisfaction. Employees at all job levels — with the exception of executives — ranked it as one of the top three contributors to overall job satisfaction.

The survey noted that  more than one-half (56%) of employees reported receiving a raise in the last year, a six percentage point increase from 2012. But a much smaller portion (36%) of employees received a bonus in the last 12 months, a three point decrease from the previous year.

Opportunities to use skills and abilities, the top factor cited by employees in 2012, tied with job security (59% each) as the second-biggest factor influencing job satisfaction.

Overall, satisfaction’s stable

The survey showed that 81% of U.S. employees were satisfied overall with their current job, unchanged from 2012. It was the first time in eight years that employee job satisfaction has not changed from the previous year.

Other survey results:

  • Seventy-three percent of employees said they were satisfied with their relationships with co-workers, and 70 percent were satisfied with their relationship with their immediate supervisor.
  • Sixty-eight percent of employees thought their work was interesting, challenging and exciting and were satisfied with it, a drop from 76 percent in 2011.
  • Seventy-nine percent of employees said they were determined to accomplish their work goals and confident that they could meet them, making it the top factor measuring employee engagement.
  • Less than two-thirds (62 percent) of employees said they had passion and excitement about their work.



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