WHEN looking for employment, most, if not all of the time, we choose to go for something that either promises a fat paycheck or a job that might not pay so well but guarantees great satisfaction.
So which would you go for and what is the preferred choice?
According to a recent survey by JobsCentral Malaysia, the average urban Malaysian employee considers his or her salary to be the most important aspect of their working life, even beyond career advancement opportunities and intellectually-stimulating work.
The survey, titled The JobsCentral 2012 Work Happiness Survey, questioned 3,194 employed citizens of the Klang Valley to rank factors of working life by perceived importance, and how satisfied they were with each of these factors in their current jobs.
According to the survey results, 26.5% of respondents ranked salary as the most important determinant of satisfaction in their current workplace. “This places salary as the most important factor of a job to urban Malaysian workers in 2012, giving it a ranking of 3.72 on a scale of one (most important) to 10 (least important).
“By contrast, when questioned on how important advancement opportunities and interesting work were in the workplace, only 12.7% of respondents indicated that they considered these factors the most important aspects of their job.
“The survey results show that advancement opportunities and interesting work were ranked as the second and third most important workplace factors after monthly income,” the survey said.
The survey, however, added that when asked to rate their degree of satisfaction with their current salaries, respondents only gave an average satisfaction score of 5.81 (out of a maximum score of 11), placing this factor among the bottom two workplace attributes that they are least satisfied with.
By contrast, older employees in senior and top management positions who responded to the survey indicated that they were most satisfied with their jobs, suggesting a growing income disparity between working Malaysians in the Klang Valley.
What matters more?
According to Leaderonomics chief executive officer Roshan Thiran, there are four key areas for employee satisfaction.
“The elements are as follows money, learning, fun and purpose. From all the research that we have done, we find that different people are motivated in different degrees by one of these four areas.”
Roshan says “purpose” ranks the most for the Gen Y employees.
“Purpose and fun can sometimes be misunderstood as job satisfaction. In reality, job satisfaction encompasses all four areas. Having your role aligned to your personal purpose is very important. If the organisational purpose is a powerful, noble purpose, you will also get significant satisfaction and feel a sense of satisfaction personally.
“Learning is very important. This is personal growth and development. It is a key part of why people stay in jobs and why they feel contented and engaged. Fun is a big part of being fulfilled. Organisations with fun culture tend to keep employees. Money is a motivator but as research has pointed out, is not the most important element for most people.”
Heera Training and Management Consultancy principal consultant, Heera Singh, says that in the initial stages of a career and also for those at the lower end of the employment market (labourers, drivers, salesmen etc), salary is usually most important.
“For them, a job is simply a way to make ends meet. These people are willing to take any job they can find, if that job can financially support them. They don't care about whether they actually like that job or whether they will be able to be good at it. All they care about is having a steady paycheck to be able to support themselves and their family.
“Most will move if they can earn RM100 elsewhere, even if they do not like their jobs. For those at the middle and upper end of the employment market, the salary index will go down and the job satisfaction index will go up, generally. How high it goes up and how low it goes down depends a lot on the individual.
Peoplelogy group founder and chief executive officer Allen Lee believes that in today's world, job satisfaction plays a more important consideration when it comes to finding a job, especially for the Gen Y working adults in Malaysia.
“You can say that Gen Y working adults are quite lucky when it comes to money. Most of their parents have already saved up some money to support themselves. Gen Y working adults do not need to carry a burden to support their families in a way.”
Malaysian Employers Federation executive director Shamsuddin Bardan what matters most money or job satisfaction depends very much on the generation.
“For the younger generation, especially those below five years of service after their graduation, they tend to (change) jobs.
“Sometimes, based on just RM50 to RM100 difference, they will switch.
“Once they have been in an organisation for five years and feel more comfortable and stable with their jobs, then they less likely to leave.”
Shamsuddin says the first five years of employment is considered the “restless period.”
“The general attrition rate is 2% a month, or 24% per year, which is quite normal in the first five years.
“Still, at the end of the day, job satisfaction is more critical. If you have money but not happy with your job, you will move.”
Best of both worlds?
Is it wishful thinking to hope to find a job that offers the best of both world? Heera believes that this can be difficult.
“This is difficult to do. However, the trend today is for companies to try to offer more benefits to employees in order for them to enjoy more job satisfaction. They cannot offer too high salaries but do try to make the work environment a little better.
“For example, many companies in Malaysia now offer benefits which were unheard of 10 years ago, such as gymnasiums, life style cafeterias and transportation to and from work. The objective is for employees to get indirect job satisfaction. Obviously, if you offer all these but they have a job that they do not like or a boss they cannot get along with, then all those benefits will not have any effect at all. “
Roshan, meanwhile, is more optimistic about people finding the perfect job that offers both job satisfaction and a high-paying salary.
“Yes, almost definitely. Again, if the choice is between money and purpose, some would opt for money while some would opt for purpose. However, if it's between fun, purpose and learning versus money, almost everyone would opt for fun, purpose and money.”
Lee, meanwhile, believes that it's up to the individual to find a balance.
“There is always a certain basic level of salary needed to keep a person comfortable in a job, anything less than that will cause dissatisfaction. Nevertheless, it is possible to achieve the right balance between both.
“Each one of us have different ways to achieve the right balance. The right way to balance both elements is to achieve a comfortable salary based on their values, priorities, family obligations and their spending habits.”