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How is Salary related to Job Satisfaction?

Salaries are to jobs as chargers are to phones. Without them, we are essentially talking about dead weights. There was a time when people could buy things in exchange for chicken and goat, but one would be hard pressed to imagine how many one would barter for the latest iPhone 7. Two chickens, a goat and half of your soul perhaps!

Our paycheck is the obvious motivating factor behind our daily ritual of willing, and sometimes unwilling, servitude to the overlord employers. It is why we love the time of the year our bonuses roll in, our performance reviews garner a raise and we are finally able to put a down payment on a house, a car, an Xbox or take that trip to the beach with the family.

So there is no doubt that salary and compensation are super important to keep the smile hovering about on an employee’s face. Decent pays, with ample benefits, have almost always managed to keep workers whistling a happy tune.
But as logical as the question of salaries, and its sufficiency may sound, a mind boggling fact is that that is not all that needs to meet ones’ job satisfaction criteria. Money may bring that smile, the first of every month, but it is not what sustains that grin!

And companies need to be aware of this fact. More so because each time a disgruntled employee walks out of the main door, companies lose a bit of their pocket weight. It brings about costs of hiring a new staff, training and bringing him up to speed, getting him to go beyond the initial training to full on learning and development, and finally the cost to fit him into the previous Cinderella’s shoes. As per a study published on LinkedIn, a single employee’s goodbye may cost the company upwards of 1.5-2X of his annual salary to just start afresh.

It is probably imperative to know, then, what is it that keeps an employee going on and moving ahead, within the company, rather than in the neighboring one. What constitutes job satisfaction? Can someone be made to like a job by tempting him with a wad of cash? Is money really that important or is salary only one of the many things that brings about employee retention?

Is a high salary enough to make a job satisfactory?

Glassdoor’s study, based on employee reviews, rated companies in a top n list of most desirable places to work, in 2017. With nearly all five star ratings, Bain & Company, Facebook, Google and LinkedIn were among the top 10 to receive the best employer crowns.

The ratings were based on a combination of five different categories of company evaluations.

  • Its culture and values
  • The work life balance of its employees
  • The career opportunities and growth areas that it has to offer to its workers
  • The kind of Senior Management, and leaders, it has
  • And finally the compensation and benefits that it has to offer

The pie chart below shows the correlations of the individual parameters with the overall ratings, for the top ten best companies, in Glassdoor’s study. What is clear is that the beacon of employee satisfaction is clearly not carried solely by the Comp and Benefits slice. The ultimate determinant is a combination of all the good practices which add up to create an environment of trust, development, respect and recognition of employees as valuable assets.

(Source: Review Trends from Correlation of individual rating factors with the overall rating of companies, on Glassdoor)

The Right Management Group did a survey, in 2015, to assess Global Career Aspirations, looking for answers to questions like what employees aspire from their jobs. Their survey revealed that when asked What would make your job successful,the answer was led by 26% voting for workplace enjoyment, and happiness, 19% weighing it on salary, 18% on the kind of work, 15% on recognition and finally 10% on performance.
Yet another 2016 study by Adobe, showed that 47% American, 48% British and finally, 48% Indian employees are likely to leave their current job for an Ideal job, even with less pay.

And finally, Gallup performed a research on the value of Engagement at Work, studying its effect on employee performance during tough economic times. They conducted this research in 2012, examining 49,928 business or work places, involving about 1.4 million employees in 192 organizations, and across 49 countries.

Their key findings showed that employee engagement has a direct relation to organizational success. The research, post the recession of 2007-2009, tried to assess the importance of employee engagement even when layoffs, and other financial strains, were clouding the thoughts of many workers, all over the world. And even in those harsh times, the good quality of employee work environment was the root of lower absenteeism, low employee turnover, less staff shrinkage, fewer safety or quality incidents, higher productivity and definitely higher profitability.

Though the correlation between the contribution of compensation, to job happiness, is not quite evident from this study, it does manage to suggest that while employers were probably struggling to meet financial ends, perhaps even having to strain employee raises and benefits during an economic downturn, employees still managed to find satisfaction in other engagement opportunities.

The subsequent Gallup study that was was able to assert the above inference showed that engaged employees were eager to continue working at their happy job even if they were offered a $10 million lottery win. 63% of engaged, and satisfied, employees would gladly continue taking the train to work even with millions reaping in massive interests in their overflowing bank accounts!

Clearly, fat paychecks cannot buy happiness. Of course, there is no denying the content of a comfortable livelihood. But if you want a persistent feeling of gladness, you better find more things to like about your job than the salary package.

After all, what good would a high salary do if you end up spending half of it in work related therapy!

So the next time you are offered a new job, make sure you get a chance to talk to existing, and past, employees. Chances are, their frowns may give away way more than the seemingly generous pay.
And for some light to heavy reading,

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Rakhi Acharyya
About Rakhi Acharyya
Rakhi is a freelance writer, a Physics PhD from Michigan State University, an ex-teacher and a former employee of Corporate America. Follow her on Twitter.

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