PayScale recently released a report investigating job meaning among U.S. workers. Between 2014 and 2016, the company asked 467,883 workers to choose one of the following responses to the question, "Does your work make the world a better place?":
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- Very much so
- A little
- My job may make the world a worse place
Fifty-four percent of workers reported high job meaning, with 16 percent responding "Very much so" and 38 percent responding "Yes." Only 1 percent of workers said their job "may make the world a worse place."
Of the workers reporting high job meaning, 85 percent stated they were satisfied with their work, whereas only 29 percent of employees reporting low job meaning were satisfied with theirs. 80 percent of those workers who believe their jobs make the world a worse place plan to actively seek employment elsewhere in the next six months.
"How meaningful a worker finds their job has a significant impact on both their job satisfaction and intent to stay with their current employer," says Lydia Frank, vice president of content strategy at PayScale. "While it's not terribly surprising, it's an important reminder to employers that how employees feel about their job and its impact on the world is critical when thinking about employee retention efforts."
PayScale also examined job meaning in relationship to job satisfaction and job title. The specific job titles with the highest percentage of workers who feel their job negatively affects the world are fast food workers (10.1 percent); associate director, creative services (6.7 percent); and online marketing data analysts (6.3 percent).
Among the top 30 jobs with poor job meaning, associate director, creative services, is the only one that has a six-figure median salary. Only five other jobs on this list reported a median pay of at least $50,000: lead web developer ($84,800); demand planner ($62,400); real estate analyst ($59,400); eCommerce manager ($50,400); and online marketing data analyst ($50,100).
Interestingly, workers who responded "Yes" to "Does your work make the world a better place?" had the highest median pay at $50,600, followed by those who said "Very much so" at $49,700. The median pay for the one percent of U.S. workers who feel that their work makes the world a worse place is the lowest among all groups at $40,600.
"There's only so much that compensation can do to offset a lack of job meaning," says Frank. "Without some sense of purpose, employees tend to become disengaged. Competitive compensation and benefits can't be the only component of your employee retention strategy."
For the one percent of workers who feel their jobs may cause worldly damage, it is not enough for employers to offer compensation and benefits; what a job means in the world will affects workers' satisfaction with their job and their willingness to stay in their role.
"Employers should ensure they're defining a shared vision and purpose that the company is collectively working toward," states Frank.
Without such a direction, companies may find themselves repeatedly turning over dissatisfied workers.
Top 10 Jobs That 'May Make the World a Worse Place'
1. Tobacco Manufacturing
- Job Makes the World Worse: 11.9 percent
- Median Pay: $63,700
- Job Makes the World Worse: 10.9 percent
- Median Pay: $67,500
3. Pesticides Manufacturing
- Job Makes the World Worse: 9.4 percent
- Median Pay: $59,000
4. Mortgage Brokers
- Job Makes the World Worse: 9.3 percent
- Median Pay: $44,800
5. Small Arms Manufacturing
- Job Makes the World Worse: 9.1 percent
- Median Pay: $49,600
6. Motion Picture Distribution
- Job Makes the World Worse: 8.3 percent
- Median Pay: $82,800
7. Beer, Wine, and Liquor Stores
- Job Makes the World Worse: 5.9 percent
- Median Pay: $36,400
8. Clothing Accessories Stores
- Job Makes the World Worse: 5.5 percent
- Median Pay: $35,700
9. Paper Bag Manufacturing
- Job Makes the World Worse: 5.5 percent
- Median Pay: $49,400
10. Drinking Places
- Job Makes the World Worse: 5.3 percent
- Median Pay: $31,000