Employee satisfaction has declined steadily since 2020, according to a dataset from BambooHR, an HR software company.
The largest dips were also the most recent, according to the Aug. 29 report: Overall satisfaction scores fell 11% from June 2022 to June 2023, declining nearly 15 times faster than the previous two years combined.
Based on month-over-month changes, employee happiness faces an ongoing downward trend with less volatility over time. In fact, happiness is worse now than during the height of the pandemic, according to the report, perhaps signaling the end of the Great Resignation and the rise of the “Great Gloom” as workers struggle with remote options, job choices and record inflation.
“The new norm of ‘unprecedented times’ is causing enormous stress,” Brad Rencher, CEO of BambooHR, said in a statement.
“Today’s complex problems will require leaders to be proactive, adaptive and data-informed to beat back the Great Gloom,” Rencher said. “To succeed in a rapidly evolving world, businesses will need to prioritize employee experience in real, meaningful ways like never before.”
BambooHR’s analyzed employee satisfaction based on an employee net promoter score — essentially, how likely employees are to recommend their organization as a place to work — from more than 57,000 global workers across eight key industries.
The unhappiest workers were in the healthcare and education industries, which were heavily affected by the pandemic. Healthcare employee happiness dropped 32% between June 2020 to June 2023, with half of that drop occurring in 2023 alone. In education, happiness fell 5% between June 2022 to June 2023, or twice as fast as in the previous two years.
In the nonprofit and travel/hospitality industries, happiness increased slightly this year but still ranks low overall. Restaurant, food and beverage happiness scores have fallen 31% since June 2020, with few signs of recovery.
The technology industry has seen a dramatic decline in happiness scores, dropping about 3.5 times faster this year than in previous years. The finance industry has seen a less dramatic decline but higher volatility as workers react to layoffs, bank closures and less available capital.
The construction industry appears to be the happiest at the moment, as high demand creates job stability and higher wages. Average happiness scores have remained steady throughout 2023.
As employee engagement continues to trend downward, HR professionals can help by working with leaders and managers to discuss clear goals, provide recognition and have weekly meaningful conversations with employees.
Despite a growing divide between senior executives and employees on engagement issues, the most resilient companies (which have better productivity and profits) appear to be focusing on workforce agility; workforce capability; and diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, a report from earlier this year concluded. They’re also more likely to listen to employees’ views, pay a living wage, offer flexible work arrangements and provide training and career development programs.
Ultimately, employers may need to rethink what employee engagement means, HR consultants have indicated. Strategies that emphasize employee strengths and goals tend to be more effective than “perks” aimed at happiness, such as awards and free food.