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Supply & Demand > Talent Acquisition > Workforce Data

Salary Doesn’t Equal Satisfaction: How to Hire and Retain Employees in Critical Positions

BIn general, employees in high paying positions enjoy a high level job satisfaction; however, there are a number of well-paid positions that make employees miserable. For example, the average salary for a senior product manager is $112,000, but their job satisfaction ratings puts them at the same level as employees who have a $76,864 salary. In other words, their level of job satisfaction is about 30 percent lower than it should be, based on their compensation. Interestingly enough, senior products managers are also hard to recruit, as shown by CareerBuilder’s Supply & Demand Portal.

Hiring Indicator_project managers

According to the portal’s Hiring Indicator, only 35 percent of job positions are harder to fill than senior product manager positions.

So what can you do to attract, engage and retain employees in critical, high-paying positions with low levels of job satisfaction? The following tips can help you attract and retain these in-demand professionals and reduce turnover at your organization.

Increase compensation.

My work with my colleague Ronald Wolthoff shows that offering a higher compensation attracts more and better applicants. Compensation, however, does significantly contribute to job satisfaction – especially for men – so you should consider other ways to attract and retain great employees.

See: Five Great Perks for Retaining Your Employees

Design your job to engage employees.

A recent survey of employees across the country found that the main determinant of job satisfaction is not compensation but having an interesting job. Therefore, when recruiting for high-paying, low-satisfaction job titles, it is worth considering how you can structure the job to increase employee engagement. For example, increasing their level of autonomy and initiative may be a good idea since the ability to work independently is also an important determinant of job satisfaction.

See: Beyond Free Food: 15 Little Employee Perks That Go a Long Way

Improve management. 

After interest in the job, the most important determinant of job satisfaction is good relationships with management. Therefore, a key to making an employee happy is to improve the quality of management. But what is a good manager? According to Google’s research, a good manager

  1. Is a good coach.
  2. Empowers the team and does not micromanage.
  3. Expresses interest in and concern for team members’ success and personal well-being.
  4. Is productive and results-oriented.
  5. Is a good communicator—listens and shares information.
  6. Helps with career development.
  7. Has a clear vision and strategy for the team.
  8. Has key technical skills that help him or her advise the team.

Good managers are golden: they increase job satisfaction by making the job more interesting AND having better relationships with their team members.

See: How NOT to Motivate Employees: 10 Management Habits to Break Now

What do you think? How do you deal with high-pay, low-job-satisfaction employees?

Ioana Marinescu

About Ioana Marinescu

Ioana Marinescu is an assistant professor in economics at the University of Chicago Harris School of Public Policy. Her research focuses on understanding labor markets. She has been collaborating on data and research projects with CareerBuilder and she is especially interested in how to get the right people to work in the right jobs. You can follow her on twitter @mioana and check out her research on her website,


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