Employee happiness just hit a new low. Why?

It’s no surprise that ongoing economic and social uncertainty may be affecting employee happiness; however, new research points to just how pervasive the “Great Gloom” is that has settled over American workplaces, suggesting it could be dramatically dragging down engagement.

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BambooHR’s most recent Employee Happiness Index—which examines eNPS (employee Net Promoter Scores®) from more than 1.6 billion self-reported scores—found that in September, the employee satisfaction/happiness reached a new three-year low; the average eNPS in Q3 was also a full point lower than it was in Q2.

Employee happiness has been in freefall since the beginning of this year, with the research suggesting a strong correlation between worsening economic conditions and lowering employee happiness and engagement. Job security and income stability are essential factors affecting micro job satisfaction—as are macro consumer confidence and economic growth, researchers wrote.

“We’ve transitioned from the Great Resignation to the Great Gloom,” says Anita Grantham, head of HR software provider BambooHR, adding that recent layoffs, strikes and ongoing high inflation have contributed to this downward trend in employee happiness. “While macroeconomic challenges impact some industries more than others, it’s clear that there’s an impact nonetheless across all industries.”

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In terms of market segments, the news wasn’t all bad. Despite a small slip from Q2 to Q3 and from 2022 to 2023, construction reigned as the happiest industry. Healthcare rebounded with a five-point increase in eNPS from Q2 to Q3, reflecting a 17% improvement since June; the report suggests this upward trend could continue through Q4. Education also rebounded in Q3, with an 18% increase in eNPS since June, amounting to a full point higher than last September’s score.

However, the technology, finance, and restaurant, food and beverage industries all hit three-year lows in Q3.

Target engagement from the start

While macroeconomic conditions are out of employers’ sphere of influence, there are steps leadership can take to improve employee happiness and engagement. Grantham advises that employers start by increasing their investment in the onboarding process. In a related piece of BambooHR research, 62% of employees said their impressions of their company from the first day at work are still accurate.

Anita Grantham
Anita Grantham

“When you invest in your onboarding process, you’ll curate an environment that embraces new hires and encourages them to be involved in the company and its culture,” she says, noting that nearly all new hires want onboarding to go deeper than administrative paperwork: Ninety-six percent of those surveyed want the experience to include an introduction to the company’s mission and values (96%).

She also suggests connecting more tenured workers with newcomers from the jump so the former can help the latter group feel more invested in the workplace culture. Also, Grantham says, employers must be open with employees, proactively creating a culture of openness and transparency.

“HR should be tailoring and adjusting its strategies over time, keeping employees involved as needed,” she says. “Almost two-thirds of employees [60%] find companies more attractive when they’re honest about their strengths and weaknesses, so HR and business leaders in general should keep this in mind to help employees feel happier and more secure.”

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Tom Starner
Tom Starner is a freelance writer based in Philadelphia who has been covering the human resource space and all of its component processes for over two decades. He can be reached at [email protected].