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“At 23:56 on 23rd October 1963, Zambians rose in reverence of the Union Jack, the de facto national flag of the United Kingdom, for the last time as it lowered, signifying the end of British rule in Zambia.”

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A Tale of Employee Satisfaction in Zambia

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The majority of a person’s waking hours are consumed by work, therefore, how they perceive it matters. Employee satisfaction is simply how happy individuals are with their job. A global survey by leading workforce management consultancy, Kelly Services, reveals that a staggering 48 percent of individuals worldwide are not satisfied with their current employment. This is a major cause for concern as employee satisfaction influences employee engagement, employee turnover, company productivity and revenue, among other things.   

Kelly Services cites numerous reasons for the low satisfaction rates, including an ageing workforce, the pressure of knowledge work, fewer bonuses and benefits and the unpredictability of macroeconomic factors. Reflecting on the countless conversations I’ve had with friends dissatisfied with their jobs, I wondered if Zambia’s employee dissatisfaction rates could be as high as the global average and if it could be attributed to some of the same reasons discovered in the global survey. Thus, in my search for relevant data I conducted a survey with 250 Zambians, seeking to find an answer to the question of whether they are satisfied with their jobs.

This sample captured individuals from a variety of sectors. The largest number of respondents were from the finance and ICT sectors (21 percent) and the lowest from television and media (0.4 percent). Other sectors include sales and marketing, agriculture, mining, engineering and construction, manufacturing, health, hospitality, administration and development. Several generations were captured, ranging from Generation Z (ages 18 – 24) to Baby Boomers (ages 55+). Participants varied with regards to standing on the corporate ladder, from entry level to management.

Akin to the global study earlier cited by Kelly Services, 50 percent of the participants reported that they were satisfied with their current employment. The devil, however, is in the detail. Of the 50 percent reported to be satisfied, 60 percent stated that they were only moderately satisfied with their jobs. Gen Z and the second Generation of Millennials (ages 18 – 29), showed the least amount of job satisfaction, accounting for less than 25 percent of overall satisfaction, despite accounting for 40 percent of the respondents. Conversely, Generation X and respondents aged 40 and above recorded the highest rate of job satisfaction. 67.2 percent of respondents were male and 32.2 were female. The difference  between the sexes was marginal, with females recording 0.8 percent higher job satisfaction than men.

With regards to job tenure, the highest levels of satisfaction where recorded by individuals who had been with an organisation for more than four years, with the highest levels of dissatisfaction coming from those who had been with organisations for less than three years; 55 percent of this cohort comprised of Millennials and Gen Z. 

Individuals, including those who recorded overall dissatisfaction, appeared to be most satisfied with particular factors of their jobs. 74 percent recorded that members of their teams were willing to not only listen to but also assist with job related difficulties. 72 percent stated that they were happy with the support their leadership showed them, 70 percent were happy with their working hours and 68 percent were of the view that the amount of work expected of them was reasonable.

However, the narrative is bleaker when it comes to money. 82 percent of the individuals who stated they were dissatisfied with their jobs recorded dissatisfaction with their remuneration as well. Of the total sample, only 40 percent stated that they were satisfied with their pay and benefits. 58 percent of those surveyed were of the view that they deserved more for the amount and type of work they were engaged in. There was also a general sense that respondents felt their pay didn’t compare well with the pay for other jobs in their organisations. When this is then coupled with 69 percent of the participants perceiving their organisations as being prosperous, it might be inferred that individuals did not believe that their organisations prosperity was benefitting them. When the entire sample was asked about their future in their various organisations, a remarkable 62 percent of individuals did not see themselves working for the same organisation in two years time.

In 2018, Glassdoor found that companies where employees are happiest have great teams, competitive compensation, flexible work time, challenging projects and a positive work-life balance. Of the numerous factors explored, compensation appears to be the weakest link in getting higher rates of satisfaction.

I would like to be able to say that once you increase everyone’s salary and benefits this entire survey will turn around, but you are probably as sceptical as I am about that. Individuals might however, benefit from transparent and fair remuneration structures and policies, this would ensure that they know where they stand and why they stand there. Furthermore, a retention crisis might be looming with about two-thirds of the total sample seeing themselves leaving their current organisation in search of greener pastures. Organisations may want to revise, and in certain cases, create employee retention policies. Overall, millennials and Gen Z record the highest levels of job dissatisfaction. It is clear that managers require a new approach to leadership when it comes to dealing with these generations.

I often come into contact with many people who like to discuss and dwell upon what is wrong with their jobs and workplaces. However, it may be more useful to ask what five things we would alter to change our workplace narrative for the better.

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