Employees want pay cheques to recover along with economy

After years of enduring pay cuts and salary freezes because of the recession, employees are ready for the slow recovery to extend to their pay cheques.

Compensation and pay was rated as more important than any other aspect of job satisfaction in a 2013 survey of 600 U.S. employees, according to the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) annual report on employee job satisfaction and engagement.

Sixty per cent of employees said compensation and pay is very important to their job satisfaction. Opportunities to use skills and abilities (very important to 59%) and job security (also 59%) remain key factors in job satisfaction.

But compensation rose to the top of the list after being ranked sixth in 2010 behind job security, benefits, opportunities to use skills and abilities, organisational financial stability, and the work itself.

The importance of compensation and pay dipped during and immediately after the recession after being ranked as the top factor in job satisfaction in 2006 and 2007.

“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 news release.

Income was rated as highly important regardless of the age of the employees, ranking either first or second in importance for all four generations in the US workforce.

It appears as though employers are getting the message, at least somewhat. Fifty-six per cent of employees reported receiving a raise in the past year, a six percentage-point increase from 2012. But the portion of employees who reported receiving a bonus in the past year dropped to 36% from 39%.

Overall job satisfaction remained unchanged from 2012, with more than four in five (81%) expressing satisfaction. Although compensation and pay emerged as the top factor in job satisfaction, employees reported being satisfied with some other key factors in employee engagement.

Employees reported being most pleased with their relationships with their co-workers. Seventy-three per cent reported being somewhat or very satisfied with these peer relationships.

In addition, 70% reported some level of satisfaction with their opportunities to use their skills and abilities, and 70% were satisfied with their relationship with their immediate supervisor.

“While many employees emphasise compensation/pay when considering how happy they are in their jobs, a significant proportion also place importance on relationships with co-workers and supervisors,” Alex Alonso, SHRM’s vice president of research, said in a news release. “Fostering an environment that treats all employees equally and encourages communication among all levels of workers can be an effective way for employers to earn trust from employees and increase their satisfaction with their jobs.”

Ken Tysiac ( is a CGMA Magazine senior editor.