American workers are more content than ever, according to The Conference Board Job Satisfaction 2023. The report finds improved satisfaction across nearly all 26 components—with gains in non-compensation factors like work-life balance outpacing even those from improved pay and benefits.
Overall, 62.3 percent of US workers were satisfied in 2022—up from 60.2 percent in 2021. That’s the highest level recorded since the survey began in 1987. Satisfaction has now surged for two consecutive years—rising 3.4 ppts in 2021 and 2.1 ppts in 2022. These post-pandemic gains continue a long-term trend: Job satisfaction has been rising steadily for over a decade, after hitting an all-time low of 42.6 percent in 2010 following the Great Recession.
“With unemployment at record lows, it’s a sellers’ market for labor—US workers are reaping the rewards,” said Eren Selcuk, Senior Economist at The Conference Board. “Job satisfaction was up across the board in 2022—and especially high for workers who switched jobs. While a mild recession in 2023 is likely to ease labor shortages and reduce labor mobility, the impact on job satisfaction may be brief and minor: Demographic trends suggest tight labor markets are here to stay, putting the onus on employers to compete for talent.”
“With the labor market remaining tight for the foreseeable future, a focus on worker retention is that much more important,” said Allan Schweyer, Principal Researcher of Human Capital at The Conference Board. “These results reveal that once workers are paid competitively, a strong workplace culture is the most important factor for keeping workers. Leaders gain the most by offering flexible, hybrid work arrangements, and by emphasizing work experience and culture factors such as interesting work, reasonable workloads, and opportunities for career growth.”
Key findings include:
“Experience of work” factors lead the way in rising satisfaction.
- Compared to 2021, non-compensation components saw the largest improvements in job satisfaction:
- Work/life balance: +5.8 ppts (to 60.1 percent satisfied)
- Workload: +4.5 ppts (55.5 percent)
- Performance review process: +4.3 ppts (52.6 percent)
Satisfaction with compensation components also improved.
- In 2022, 57.6 percent of workers were satisfied with their wages—a 2.2 ppt increase over the previous year. Larger gains were seen in other compensation components:
- Health plans: +4.2 ppts (to 58.7 percent satisfied)
- Bonus plans: +4.1 ppts (47.0 percent)
- Education/job training programs: +3.7 ppts (48.3 percent)
Satisfaction was highest among job-switchers.
- Workers who voluntarily switched jobs since the pandemic began report higher satisfaction in almost all aspects of their jobs. Their overall satisfaction stood at 65.7 percent—3.6 ppts higher than the those who didn’t change jobs. The largest gaps were seen in:
- Training programs: +16.4 ppts
- Bonus plans: +15.8 ppts
- Mental health benefit policy: +13.5 ppts
- Promotion policy: +13.1 ppts
Flexible work arrangements drive higher satisfaction.
- Across the majority of 26 factors surveyed, employees with hybrid work arrangements report the greatest satisfaction compared to fully remote or fully on-premises workers.
- Though hybrid workers are slightly less satisfied with job security than fully on-premises workers (66.4 percent vs. 68.3 percent), they are much more satisfied in terms of pay, benefits, and access to training opportunities.
- Fully remote and hybrid workers are also significantly more satisfied than fully on-premises workers across the four elements that drive higher retention and satisfaction overall: quality of leadership, organizational culture, potential for future growth, and interest in work.
There is a large gender gap in satisfaction.
- Women are less satisfied than men across all 26 job satisfaction categories. Their overall satisfaction stood at 60.1 percent—3.9 ppts lower than men. The largest gaps were seen in:
- Sick day policy: 9.4 ppts
- Bonus plan: 8.2 ppts
- Mental health benefit policy: 8.1 ppts
- Communication channels: 7.7 ppts
- Promotion policy: 7.6 ppts
Apart from competitive pay, the factors that most influence employee retention center around work experience and culture.
- Organizational culture, quality of leadership, and work-life balance are the factors that most influence employee retention.
- These factors intersect with the top predictors of overall job satisfaction—organizational culture, quality of leadership, potential for future growth, and interest in work—suggesting that leaders should prioritize the cultural aspects of work to drive both employee retention and job satisfaction.