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Money more important than job satisfaction, CIPD research shows

A desire to ‘increase pay and benefits’ has become the number one reason why employees want to change jobs, overtaking ‘improving job satisfaction’ in the CIPD Employee Outlook survey, as the economic downturn continues to erode people’s standard of living.

The survey of 2,000 employees, published today, found more than half of workers (54%) say their top reason for wanting to change jobs is to increase their salary and benefits, with improving job satisfaction cited second most commonly (42%).

This is a reversal from last year, when 61% cited job satisfaction and 48% said improving pay and benefits. The trends are uniform across all sectors.

Other findings show 36% of employees report their standard of living had worsened over the previous six months, compared to 29% saying this was the case in summer 2010. Just 7% report an improvement in living standards, a fall from 10% a year ago.

Almost a fifth (18%) of employees say they run out of money at the end of the week or month either always or most of the time and one in five (18%) say keeping up with bills and financial commitments is a constant struggle, while one in 10 (8%) are falling behind with bills or credit commitments.

Ben Willmott, senior public policy adviser at the CIPD, said: "The survey shows the impact of the economic downturn in the workplace. Employees are feeling the squeeze as a result of pay freezes or low pay settlements that fail to keep up with inflation.

"Besides being more likely to want to leave for more pay elsewhere, workers with financial difficulties are also more likely to report being under stress at work and are typically less satisfied with their jobs. Prolonged exposure to stress is associated with absence from work, higher levels of accidents and higher incidence of mental ill health.

"It is, therefore, in employers' interests to support employees in tough times through ensuring line managers are equipped with effective people-management skills and by providing advice and support on debt management and financial planning. The Government's Money Advice Service can provide support for employers in this respect.

"Employers should also focus on communicating the value of their total reward package to employees. For example, public sector employers should highlight the enduring advantages of remaining in the public sector, such as better pensions, greater flexible working opportunities, better occupational sick pay and access to occupational health services."

The survey finds that job satisfaction, which is calculated through subtracting those that are dissatisfied from those that are satisfied is broadly similar to last quarter (+35 from +34 last quarter). Job satisfaction in the public sector has fallen to +30 from +38 and in the voluntary sector to +39 from +44. There has been a slight increase in job satisfaction in the private sector to +34 from +33.

The survey provides a new overall 'employee engagement' score, calculated by clustering a number of wider measures of engagement together (including job satisfaction, understanding of organisational purpose, willingness to go the extra mile).

At +10 this more rounded score is unsurprisingly lower than that of job satisfaction and provides a good measure of individuals' engagement with organisations. Against this measure, public sector workers are by far the most disengaged (-12), with voluntary sector workers by far the most engaged (+33), followed by private sector employees (+13).

Low levels of job satisfaction and engagement in the public sector are likely to be influenced by rising levels of job insecurity, with over a third of public sector employees (35%) thinking it likely they could lose their jobs, compared to 30% last quarter. Voluntary sector workers are marginally more pessimistic about their job security, with 28% saying it is likely they could lose their jobs, up from 27%. In all, 19% of private sector employees think it likely they could lose their jobs, unchanged from last quarter.

Willmott added: "The heightened level of uncertainty around job security in this economic climate puts an even greater importance on the extent to which employers communicate and consult with staff. There is no such thing as over-communicating and employers can help prevent rumour and anxiety by providing regular updates on business challenges or proposed changes that will impact on employees. Just as importantly, consultation with staff needs to be genuine, which means taking account of employees' views before and not after decisions are made."