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Dave Olson, Published February 27 2012

Poll ranks North Dakota’s workers as happiest in US

FARGO – Johnny Paycheck’s song “Take This Job and Shove It” won’t find many sympathetic ears in North Dakota.

A recent survey shows that if you work in North Dakota, you get more satisfaction from your job than those who work anywhere else in the United States.

The Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index ranked North Dakota tops in the nation for work environment in 2011.

The index is based on surveys of more than 350,000 people across the country.

It’s unknown how many of those respondents may work for Microsoft, a major employer in Fargo, but company spokeswoman Katie Hasbargen said Microsoft places a premium on employee satisfaction.

“It’s not limited to our North Dakota location,” Hasbargen said. “It’s a corporatewide initiative to make sure employees feel like Microsoft is a good place to work.”

Hasbargen said Microsoft regularly surveys employees to find out how they feel about their job, their boss and their career path.

“Then we really manage to those results through the rest of the year to make sure we’re addressing any issues it (the survey) might reveal and also to make sure we keep doing things people really like,” she said.

Like game rooms?

“We have game rooms in each of our buildings,” Hasbargen said. “We want to make sure people have the ability to blow off some steam while they’re working during the day, that people take some time to relax and socialize among their fellow employees.”

She said ping pong is big.

“Our ping pong table actually has its own calendar so you can check it out,” she said. “There was some dispute over people feeling like they weren’t getting enough time on the ping pong table.”

Besides work environment, the Well-Being Index evaluated the 50 states and the District of Columbia in five other categories: life evaluation, emotional health, physical health, healthy behavior and basic access to things such as food, shelter and health care.

In the work environment category, respondents were asked whether they felt satisfied with the work they do and whether their supervisor acted more like a boss or a partner.

The fact that many North Dakotans liked their jobs didn’t come as a surprise to Adam Broers, past president of the Fargo-Moorhead Human Resources Association.

Broers said the state’s unemployment rate, the lowest in the nation, speaks for itself.

He added that employees are typically so happy with where they are working it’s sometimes difficult for employers in this part of the country to find candidates for jobs.

Work ethic

Daphne Meyers, for one, doesn’t plan to go anywhere anytime soon.

She said her marketing position with Advanced Engineering and Environmental Services, also known as AE2S, in Fargo is the best job she has had since working for Great Plains Software in Fargo many years ago.

“They truly do value their employees,” Meyers said of AE2S, a civil engineering company that was founded in Grand Forks and has its headquarters there.

“I lived in Philadelphia for about six years and it’s a different world than here,” Meyers said, adding that employee/employer relations in this part of the country are often predicated on a shared work ethic.

Meyers said she sees that work ethic in the students who attend a class she teaches at Minnesota State University Moorhead.

“It comes from how we were raised,” she said. “We all were expected to work.”

Overall, Hawaii led the national Well-Being Index with 70.2 points out of a possible 100, followed by North Dakota with 70 points and Minnesota with 69.2 points.

In addition to its overall third-place ranking, Minnesota was first in the physical health category.

The Well-Being Index gave the entire United States a score of 66.2 in 2011, which was down from 66.8 in 2010 and the lowest score since Gallup and Healthways began to track numbers in 2008.

Hawaii’s scores in the emotional health and healthy behaviors categories helped the state retain its top spot over all.

Good eating and exercise habits, along with lower smoking rates, earned Hawaiians the distinction of having the best healthy behaviors in the country.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555