Managing Employees

The Secret to Happiness at Work Is the Right Job for Enough Money

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Job fit is important. Employees generally say that enjoying their job is more important than salary, as evidenced by higher rankings of satisfaction compared to salary in job satisfaction surveys. According to the 2008 GMAC study, conducted right in the middle of the financial crisis, MBA alumni ranked job fit as more important than salary for employee retention.

Obviously, salary is important up to a point. People will endure a lot to make ends meet but, according to a study conducted by Daniel Kahneman, professor emeritus of psychology at Princeton University, once people earn enough, money does nothing for happiness. No matter how much you make, it is better to be happy at work than to suffer.

Related: Improve Your Employees' Job Satisfaction

But how do you know if you will be happy at a job? Unfortunately, college students and recent graduates typically do not know what a particular job is really like because they have not worked in the field yet. They also are not typically aware of their own personality traits, work styles, motivations or how they match the demands of the careers they’ve chosen.

Students often choose their careers because of financial reasons, academic interests, aptitudes and/or parental guidance. What they might fail to consider is the “fit” component of personality, motivation, work style and so on. The cost of being dissatisfied with a career and having to change can be very high financially and psychologically. Sometimes it’s better to not take the job than to take it.

What’s worse, the reason people tend to fail at a new job is because of lack of fit, particularly with the company culture. Not only is this bad for the employee, but the employer also incurs great cost when an employee fails. In fact, Dr. Pierre Mornell’s rule of thumb from his book is that it costs as much as 2.5 times a person’s salary to replace them. According to the Social Security Administration, national average wage index for 2012 was $44,321.67. That means it can cost an average of over $100,000 for a bad hire.

There are several things employers can do to encourage job fit.

  • Encourage colleges to include quality career assessments in their career services offerings.
  • Give realistic job previews to candidates. Help candidates self select for jobs by giving them an honest flavor of what they will be doing during the interview process. Job task summaries, a tour of the facility where people are doing their job, interviewers who tell them what a typical day is like and shadowing opportunities are ways to inform candidates what work is really like.
  • Offer internships for people to try out or be exposed to different types of jobs. Even a short internship is better than none. It is also a way to assess potential job candidates. An internship program could easily pay for itself if you find good hires from it and avoid bad ones.
  • Offer career fit assessments to employees through Human Resources. It is a small cost that may help a bad hire discover the door on their own.
  • Offer the flexibility for employees to switch jobs within the company. Performance problems may arise from lack of fit rather than lack of ability. It is usually much less costly to have someone switch roles than to have to fire them.  

Related: Culture That Counts -- 5 Ways to Dramatically Boost Employee Satisfaction

Colleges can help students find a good career fit by providing students with career assessment and counseling before they make their career choices, rather than letting students, parents and employers pay the costs after. There are many career assessment tools out there. Starting early, in college, before a major is declared, is ideal. Undergoing a career assessment upon graduation, before selecting a job, is also good. No matter how or when a career assessment is employed, a person can learn a lot about what types of jobs, environments, working conditions and cultures are the best fit for them instead of suffering through a job day-to-day.

Some colleges do more than others in the area of career assessment. Whether or not it is offered through school or work, it is worth the investment of time and money to do it. The cost of changing a job, not to mention an entire career, far outweighs the cost of taking a career assessment.

Related: Data Reveal the 7 Factors for Optimal Employee Retention