What is the potential for job satisfaction

Study on job satisfaction in Germany 2017

"In the future, work must be based on people's lives, otherwise it won't work," says Ralph Bruder, head of the Institute for Ergonomics at the TU Darmstadt. So it is a good time to think about "happiness at work" and ask people how their work should be directed towards them. In a population-representative survey by AVANTGARDE Experts, over 1,000 employees were asked, for the second time after 2016, how satisfied they are and what is important to them at work.

1. Job satisfaction: How satisfied are German employees compared to 2016?


How satisfied are german employees compared to 2016?

Overall, two thirds of those surveyed are satisfied with their current working conditions and only around eight percent are currently dissatisfied with them. In particular, the interviewed employees from Stuttgart and Dortmund are characterized by a high level of satisfaction in this regard.

This result coincides with the assessment of the interviewed executives as employer representatives. When asked how they currently rate the satisfaction of their workforce, the personnel decision-makers answered almost congruently between 5 and 8, ie from "neither nor" to "satisfied". A very realistic assessment, as can be seen here:






Broken down to the twelve largest metropolises in Germany, Stuttgart is the city with the most satisfied employees, followed by Dortmund and Chemnitz. In fourth place, Dresden and Cologne follow in fifth place. The cities with the highest quality of life do not stand out in terms of job satisfaction. Munich is in 6th place in the midfield and Düsseldorf even brings up the rear in 12th place.


Salary remains the most important factor in job satisfaction

As already postulated in 2016, the fact remains: work is a means to an end. Employees want to make money so that they can afford a fulfilling private life. Salary is and will remain by far the most important satisfaction factor in the workplace for Germans - and therefore more important than personal self-fulfillment. Even self-determination and the often invoked work-life balance cannot keep up here. Well over a third (37%) of the respondents stated that if they had to choose one of the possible answers, the salary is decisive for job satisfaction. This refutes the oft-quoted thesis that most Germans have to realize themselves at work in order to be satisfied. Work-life balance only comes in second place, then come the colleagues and behind them the work content. Potential bonuses, the design of the workplace or development opportunities are more likely to be seen as "nice to have".

On the employer's side, salary is also seen as a basic need that needs to be satisfied. Only then are soft factors mentioned, such as the so-called trust-based working time or development opportunities. Employers also think little of monetary one-time rewards. In the interviews it was said that these would fizzle out too quickly and would not be useful as a long-term vehicle for sustainable job satisfaction.

2. Preferences in professional life: When employees can choose


If the employee had to make a decision, the picture is clear: For some questions, as in the 2016 comparative study, the participants could only decide on one of two points. AVANTGARDE Experts wanted to know: "Which of the two options would make you happier?" The results show an astonishing sense of value.

More Germans want more flexible working hours

When deciding between “self-determination” or “money”, there is a significant shift in the direction of self-determination. If in 2016 75 percent would have decided on more money, in 2017 it is only 62.1. Flexible working hours and thus a bit more self-determination on the other hand, only 25 percent of those surveyed in 2016 wanted. In 2017 it was almost half more at 37.9 percent. The desire for flexible working hours is even slightly higher among men (39.7%). In the top 5 in a city comparison, the east is strongly represented when it comes to the desire for higher salaries: Leipzig in first place with 75.5 percent and Chemnitz in second place with 68.8 percent. Despite high job satisfaction, the desire for flexible working hours is greatest in Stuttgart (52%). Followed by Düsseldorf (47%), Dortmund (44%), Munich (43%) and Essen (38%).

Instead of wages, most employers consider flexible working hours to be a more important factor in job satisfaction. At this point, as in 2016, most HR decision-makers in companies are wrong, but the trend shows that both (employer and employee) are converging on this point.

Salary is much more important to the respondents than better training opportunities

The role that money plays becomes particularly clear when it comes to deciding between “higher salary” and “further training opportunities”. The overwhelming majority of 78.6 percent would opt out of further training and have more money on their payroll.

Here, too, personnel decision-makers attach greater importance to further training opportunities than an improvement in salary. One of the reasons for this is that HR departments assume that the salary as a hygiene factor - as a prerequisite, so to speak - has to be right.




Flexible working hours remain more important than home offices

There was hardly any change to the previous year in terms of flexible working hours and home office. A distinction was made between time and place within the self-determination value. With almost 77 percent, the Germans rated flexible working hours higher than the possibility of being able to work from home. The home office is still not as attractive as flexibility in terms of time.

Employers correctly assess this ratio. Flexible working hours, as a factor for job satisfaction, are also more important to companies than the home office or the flexible place of work. What is surprising, however, is the statement that the so-called “trust-based working time” - i.e. no time recording - is not readily accepted by parts of the workforce. Flexitime with meticulous time recording is even preferred. One reason for this could be that you can enjoy free working days with a clearer conscience if you have a full overtime account.




German employees are becoming a little more willing to take risks

Compared to 2016, when 68 percent of those surveyed preferred job security to development opportunities, in 2017 only 62 percent opted for a secure job. In a gender comparison, men show a little more willingness to take risks than women and, with 39.3 percent, would opt for “more development opportunities”. For women, on the other hand, it is only 35.8 percent who decide against a secure job and a job with higher development opportunities. In a city comparison, the capital Berlin is the one with the most risk-taking workers. In Dresden, on the other hand, 70 percent would rather choose the sparrow in hand than the pigeon on the roof.

Family remains more important than career

When the going gets tough, most of those surveyed choose to go with their families, as they did in 2016. For the comparative question "Would you rather choose family or career", 73 percent of those questioned logged the value family in. In contrast, only 27 percent are careerists. Chemnitz is a little more career-oriented with first place in the comparison of the cities and Dusseldorf and Berlin in second and third. Most family people, on the other hand, live in Dortmund, Hamburg and Frankfurt.

The fact that the family is a high priority has not just reached employees since yesterday. All of the companies surveyed offer family-friendly working time models such as flextime or part-time and invest in day care.




Colleagues remain more important than family friendliness in the company

Despite the fact that the family is preferred to a career, the immediate environment in the workplace is more important to most employees than a family-friendly company. If the respondents had to make a decision, they would prefer a pleasant social environment to a family-friendly company. With 66.1 percent, almost unchanged from 2016, a two-thirds majority decided in favor of nice colleagues and thus against the family-friendly company. One reason for this could be that family-friendly working time models such as flexible working hours and home office have long been standard at many companies and therefore most employees do not feel a shortage in this area.


78 percent of those questioned would like more private life than career

When comparing private life and career, the soft factor wins with an overwhelming majority: 78 percent would rather opt for “more private life” than for “more career”. Although this is 5 percent less than in the previous year, it is still a very high level. This is probably why the salary ranks so high within job satisfaction: If private life has such a much higher priority, then work is only a means to an end - and not a purpose in life.

In a national comparison, the desire for more private life is highest in Dresden, Essen, Hamburg, Stuttgart and Chemnitz. The cities with the most careerists are Leipzig, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Munich and Frankfurt. The difference between the sexes is only marginal, but with 80 percent women are more likely to opt for more private life than men with 76.3 percent.



30 percent of employees would like a 4-day week

When asked about the ideal work week, 50.3 percent of the participants would stick with their current 5-day week. Compared to the previous year it was 55 percent. The shift is in favor of the 4-day week. Almost 30 percent (2016: 26 percent) of those surveyed would forego money for a 4-day week - 80 percent of their salary would be enough for them. Few people want to work more for more money: Only 13 percent (2016: 13.8%) of the participants would go on a 6-day week for 120 percent of their salary. A small minority of 5 percent (2016: 3%) would enjoy a 3-day week with a 60 percent salary.


Recognition is more important than variety

If the respondents have to choose between variety and recognition, the majority of 57.4 percent opts for recognition. This is especially true for women. Here, 61.5 percent more praise a varied activity. In terms of cities, workers in Chemnitz, Leipzig, Essen, Dresden and Munich in particular lack recognition at work.

The lack of recognition - judging by the guided interviews - has reached the boardrooms. All of the companies surveyed are actively working on so-called incentive programs or are realigning their mission statement and focusing on the topic of appreciative communication and recognition. Recognition in the company can have very different characteristics: from “leading with goals”, fixed target agreement discussions, more salary or just constructive feedback to an open error culture.


3. Working conditions: What are the optimal working conditions?


In the relevant human resource management literature, it can be read that a slight excessive demand is beneficial for work performance. Not as many bosses take this maxim to heart as they did in 2016.

Because when asked how much the job demands of the respondents, more people still stated that they were more likely to be overwhelmed than underchallenged. However, the number of those who are balanced increases sharply. At 24.5 percent (2016: 35%), only a quarter of those surveyed are more likely to be overwhelmed in their job situation. The majority, 53 percent, feel slightly to severely overwhelmed. The majority, 58.3 percent, feel more or less in balance. Only 17.3 percent (2016: 21%) feel that their tasks are slightly to severely under-challenged.

When asked to HR managers in companies how much they assess the workforce as being challenged, a very similar result came to fruition. On average, a slight overburden was predicted. The response from over 1,000 employees shows that this fact is not simply due to knowledge of the specialist literature. Overall, the interviewed HR managers can attest to a very realistic picture of the emotional state of their workforce.


For more than half, the desired salary improves the work situation significantly

When asked which factors would improve working life, as in the 2016 survey, noble ideals such as equality or social commitment land in the middle or even lower ranks. The first three places continue to go to the desired salary, flexible working hours and more vacation. The front runners in terms of desired salary in a city comparison are Hamburg, Berlin and Chemnitz.

Most employer representatives are clearly mistaken at this point. Almost all respondents said promising perspectives, lower workload and better development opportunities were the first to be mentioned. It never occurred to any personnel decision-maker that a desired salary, more vacation or flexible working hours could make the average employee more satisfied right away.

Due to the balance, more potential lies dormant in the workforce.

AVANTGARDE Experts asked the employees: “In addition to your regular function and task, how could you support your company?” Almost half, namely 46 percent (2016: 48%), chose the option “Pass my experience on to career starters”. A third could also imagine working on certain projects outside their area of ​​responsibility, as a consultant or as a long-term mentor for a younger colleague. A quarter of the respondents are also tempted to oversee projects abroad. There are hardly any changes here compared to the survey in the previous year.

If you ask those responsible in companies the same question, there is more talk of creative think tanks, idea management and time for innovations. Exaggerated, employers apparently dream of “moon shot” ideas à la Google and employees of the selfless transfer of knowledge and contact with the new generation. Projects that do both would be interesting. Creative think tanks, so to speak, as a meeting place for experienced specialists and the next generation with the aim of creating innovations.

4. Change of job: How strong is the desire of Germans to change jobs?



When asked whether they would like to change, over half answered that a change in the next six months is rather unlikely. After all, for a fifth of those surveyed, a new job is conceivable in the next six months. 27.3 percent are currently undecided.