I Can’t Get No SATISFACTION: A Tale of Employee Satisfaction in Zambia

This article was originally published in Issue 39 of Nkwazi Magazine.

As I sipped on my well-deserved glass of wine during our weekly wind down, I cackled at a story one of my friends recounted in this week’s episode of ‘you’ll never believe what happened at work.’ I knew this would go on for another hour with each friend taking turns to recount their own organisational horror stories. Even as I laughed, I couldn’t help but think “we get to see each other once a week, why in the world would we spend it trash talking our jobs?”

The majority of a person’s waking hours are consumed by work, thus how they perceive it matters. Employee satisfaction is simply how content individuals are with their job. HITC reports that a staggering 48% of individuals worldwide are not satisfied with their current employment. This is a travesty of epic proportions as employee satisfaction influences numerous important job facets such as employee engagement, employee turnover, company productivity and revenue.   

HITC cites numerous reasons for the low satisfaction rates, including an aging workforce, the pressure of knowledge work, fewer bonuses & benefits and the unpredictability of macroeconomic factors. Reflecting on the numerous conversations I’ve had, I wondered if Zambia’s employee dissatisfaction could be so high and if it could be choked down to macroeconomic issues and an aging population. Thus, in my search for relevant knowledge I asked over 300 Zambians, “are you satisfied with your current job?”

This sample captured individuals from a variety of cohorts.  The largest number of respondents where from the Finance & ICT sector (21%) and the lowest from Television & Media (0.4%). Numerous generations were also captured, ranging from Generation Z (Gen Z), (age 18 – 24) to Baby Boomers (age 55+).  These also varied in regards to standing on the cooperate ladder, from entry level to management.

Akin to the global study earlier cited by HITC, 50% of the participants reported that they were satisfied with their current employment. The devil however, is in the detail. Of the 50% reported to be satisfied, 60% stated that they were only moderately satisfied with their jobs. Gen Z & the second Generation of Millennials (age 18 – 29), showed the least amount of job satisfaction, accounting for less than 25% of overall satisfaction, despite accounting for 40% of the respondents. Conversely, Generation X and Baby Boomers (age 40 – 55+) recorded the highest rate of job satisfaction. The difference between the sexes was minimal, with females recording 0.8% higher job satisfaction than men.

In regards to job tenure, the highest levels of satisfaction where recorded by individuals who had been with an organisation for more than 4 years, with the highest levels of dissatisfaction coming from those who had been with organisations for less than 3 years, 55% of this cohort comprised of Millennials & Gen Z.  

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

The narrative however gets a tad bit bleak after this and it all starts when we begin to talk about money. 82% of the individuals who stated they were dissatisfied with their jobs recorded dissatisfaction with their remuneration as well. Of the total sample, only 40% stated that they were satisfied with their pay & benefits, with 58% not being of the view that their job was in line with their job and organisational pay structure. When this is then coupled with 69% 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, an astonishing 62% of individuals did not see themselves working for the same organisation in two years.

In 2018, Glassdoor found that the 20 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 weakest link in getting higher ratings of satisfaction. I would like to be able to say that once you increase everyone’s salary & 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 policy, 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 separated from their current organisation in search of greener pastures. Organisations may want to revise and in certain cases create employee retention policies. It is also quite apparent that the 10 years of information on how to lead young people has fallen on deaf ears as Millennials & Gen Z record the highest amount of dissatisfaction, thus leadership teams should take on the challenge, again.

It’s another weekly wind down session, the wine is flowing and I can tell that we are about to get to the job trash talking segment of the evening. As my friend begins to say, “You’ll never believe what my boss did today…” I instead ask “what 5 things you would alter about your workplace to change that narrative?”




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