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Many workers who quit their jobs during pandemic era now say they regret it

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Workers who changed jobs since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic and during the great resignation are reporting more job dissatisfaction than those who stayed in their roles, according to a May 6 report from The Conference Board.

The biggest satisfaction gaps between the job switchers and job stayers occurred with “people issues,” such as leadership and culture. Compensation remained important as well, and although many job switchers changed jobs for higher wages, they’re now less satisfied with wages, potentially due to the effects of inflation, according to the report.

“After more than a decade trending upwards, overall U.S. worker job satisfaction may have finally plateaued,” Allan Schweyer, principal researcher of human capital at The Conference Board, said in a statement. “To avoid declining job satisfaction, leaders should maintain or improve key drivers such as flexible work arrangements and career development opportunities while ensuring that wages and core benefits remain competitive.”

Overall, job satisfaction remained nearly unchanged from the previous year, inching up .4 points to 62.7%. However, all 26 individual drivers of job satisfaction declined, with the largest declines seen in financial-related areas such as bonuses, hard base benefits, wages and promotions.

In particular, job satisfaction among job switchers dropped dramatically by 5.6 points. Dissatisfaction was largely driven by leadership quality, communications, co-workers, job security and interest in the work, according to the survey.

Job satisfaction also varied across different groups. Newer employees appeared to be the least satisfied, with the lowest scores showing up among those who worked in their current role between six months and three years. In fact, about half of those who said they intended to leave their job in the next six months were in their role for fewer than three years. They cited major dissatisfaction with bonuses, promotions, performance reviews, recognition and training.

By work schedule, fully on-site workers reported the lowest satisfaction, while hybrid workers had the highest scores and remote workers followed closely behind. 

By gender, women reported significantly lower satisfaction scores across nearly all 26 survey components for the sixth year in a row. The largest gaps between men and women were related to wages, bonuses, potential for growth, health benefits, mental health policies and retirement plans.

In a previous survey by The Conference Board, the majority of pandemic job switchers said they received pay increases but expressed concerns about their wages keeping up with inflation. They also changed jobs due to career advancement, flexibility and disappointment with their current roles.

In May 2023, more than half of workers said they were looking for a career change, according to a FlexJobs report. Hopeful job switchers said they were considering a change for priorities such as remote work, higher pay, better work-life balance and more meaning or fulfillment at work.

To retain top talent in 2024, HR professionals should listen to employees, regularly check in with managers and provide mentorship opportunities, according to Elizabeth Rieveley, chief people officer at MeridianLink. Retention ultimately focuses on creating a positive and supportive work environment for people to thrive, she said.

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