Sense of direction is critical to employee satisfaction

BY KEN TYSIAC
August 20, 2012

People like to know where they are going—and how they are going to get there.

This sense of direction, path, and destination is just as important for employees in the workplace as it is for travelers on a journey, according to a new survey from temporary accounting, finance, and bookkeeping staffing service Accountemps.

Asked how important knowing their potential career path is to their overall job satisfaction, 54% of workers surveyed responded “very important” and an additional 31% said “somewhat important.”

Just 14% said knowing their career path is not important to their job satisfaction.

“Employees want to know how to get to that next rung on the career ladder,” Accountemps Chairman Max Messmer said in a news release. “Managers should ensure their staff see their potential to advance.”

A comprehensive survey performed by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) also demonstrated the impact that satisfaction with career direction can have on employees’ satisfaction with their jobs.

Sixty-two percent of employees in the SHRM’s 2011 Employee Job Satisfaction and Engagement survey rated opportunities to use their skills and abilities at work as very important to their job satisfaction. That was the highest rating given to this category since it was added to the yearly survey in 2004; only job security, which was very important to 63% of respondents, rated higher among 26 characteristics measured.

In that survey, career advancement opportunities were identified as important or very important by 78% of respondents.

This career-minded attitude is evident even in candidates as they are searching for jobs.

Ryan Sutton, a senior vice president for executive staffing firm Robert Half, said in a recent interview that job candidates surveyed are rating companies’ training and development programs much more highly now than they were five years ago.

“Candidates realize that they need to be developed,” Sutton said. “I think candidates are much more realistic about what you need to do to succeed in the long haul.”

Accountemps advises employees who have an eye on career advancement to ask five questions of their managers:

  • Where do you see me going in the organization?
  • What additional development and education do I need?
  • Who should I be networking with internally and externally?
  • Is a mentor available?
  • Are there new projects I can take on to expand my skill set?


Messmer said employees should also ask their managers what steps it will take to reach the next level of the organization.

Ken Tysiac ( ktysiac@aicpa.org ) is a JofA senior editor.

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