Workers are quitting in droves and they’re done with the current system. But you still need them. What can you do as an employer to bridge the chasm of discontent?
Looking for insights on the Great Discontent in the US as well? We've got that covered too. Check it out.
We’re in a strange age right now. We’ve seen a volatile exit of the UK from the European Union in the form of Brexit, combined with a terrifying virus, both of which have shaken our society at the foundation – leading to economic and social upheaval at home and in the workplace.
What’s also happening – and something you’re likely noticing as an employer – is a mass talent exodus in the country, with one study by Workable partner Personio finding that four out of 10 UK employees will leave their job in the next 12 months.
This puts the onus on you, the employer, to take action, and quickly, says Personio CEO Hanno Renner:
“As businesses look to emerge from the crisis in a position of strength and turn the tide on the costs of a potential talent exodus, they now need to come up with a long-term people strategy. By prioritising their people and taking a more strategic approach to people management, employers can prevent an impending talent drain and drive their business performance as well as the wider economy.”
“The Great Resignation” is no longer a prediction; it’s a current reality, and it’s evolved to a Great Discontent. It’s becoming more challenging to motivate people to stay in their jobs, and harder to attract candidates to new roles. Data from the Workable network confirms this as well.
We see this, and we want to help you – the employer – overcome this challenge. After all, you need your people.
So we surveyed 500 people in the UK – some employed, some self-employed, some unemployed, all generally employable – to understand the most important factors influencing their career priorities. And now, we have results.
Major takeaways include the following:
Despite all the new workplace developments, salary, perks and benefits are still top of mind in a job. People want – and need – more of it when working.
Flexible work arrangements are important to many workers – and especially more so for women – but it’s not as high of a priority for their employers.
No matter the kind of work involved, people are at the heart of it all. When people feel connected to their colleagues and leadership, they’ll stay and they’ll thrive.
Integrating personal and professional lives is very important for people – it’s the top reason why those not working aren’t working and the top benefit of flexible work.
We hope you find our survey results to be useful and interesting to you both professionally and personally. Any thoughts or questions, please feel free to share them with us via Twitter, LinkedIn, or by direct email.
Lead author: Keith MacKenzie
Data analysis: Dimosthenis Giannigiotis
Design: Rennie Abraham, Danae Panopoulou
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— Minorities are looking
— Younger people are looking
— All in all, people are looking
— Money above all
— But not everyone thinks the same
— Why is all this stuff important?
— Remote work
— Flexible schedules
— Why is all this stuff important?
— The value of workplace community
— The value of employee experience
— But not everyone thinks the same
— Relationships at home are huge as well
— Why is all this stuff important?
In such a volatile time, it’s crucial to establish a clear baseline when conducting such a comprehensive survey, and especially, before getting into the details around job motivators and employer attractors in the working environment. So, right off the bat, we asked questions to learn the current professional situation of our respondents.
Most of our respondents say they’re working full-time (60.1%), and another fifth (22.2%) working part time. Just one in 10 (10.4%) say they’re not working right now.
Another 7.4% of respondents say they’re working for themselves, whether that means they’re a contractor, freelancing, or running their own business.
One in 10 respondents (10.4%) say they’re not working right now.
But when we looked at the responses by gender, the numbers were more striking. Those identifying as females are far more likely to be not working (14.5% vs. 6.1%) or working part-time (31.3% vs. 13%) than males.
Females working for themselves also represented a much higher percentage than their male counterparts (10.8% vs. 4%).
On the flip side, more than three quarters of males (76.9%) are working full-time, compared with just 43.4% of females, a significant difference of 33.5 percentage points.
Of those not working, nearly two out of five (38.5%) have not worked in more than five years.
Three out of 10 (30.7%) say they last worked within the last year, with 19.2% saying they have not been working for less than six months.
And now, the important part for you, the employer: a vast majority (74.6%) say they are either actively (29.6%) or passively (45.1%) looking for work.
That’s three quarters of all respondents who might leave you at any time – meaning when you look at your current workforce, just one in four are pretty settled in their current working capacity.
And many are actually just starting to look for other opportunities right now. Of those actively looking or passively open to new work, 56.6% started looking within the last half year (26.7% just started now, 29.9% in the last half year).
Employers take note: this means a majority of your people are looking to leave or they’re open to that possibility. On the flip side, if you’re looking to hire or build teams, you have a wealth of available talent to tap into here.
This requires a deeper understanding of who these people are and why they’re looking so you can evolve your recruitment and people strategy, as Personio’s CEO recommends. Let’s dig in.
One of the demographic questions we asked in the survey was; “Do you identify as a member of a minority group (be it race, ethnicity, language, religion, country of origin, sexual orientation, gender, or another characteristic)?”. Three out of 10 (30.9%) say they do, compared with 66.1% who say they don’t, and 3% prefer not to say.
So we looked at responses based on those answers. Those identifying as minorities are also much more likely to be actively looking (41.3% vs. 24.2%) than those not identifying as minorities. And nearly twice as many non-minorities say they’re not looking for new opportunities than minorities (29% vs. 15.5%).
Those in the “actively looking” category are more significantly represented by younger cohorts. More than two out of five (41.7%) of those aged 21-29 say they’re outright looking for new opportunities, with that number skewing sharply downwards when looking at higher age groups.
When combined, the numbers are striking: a staggering 79.8% of those aged 21-29 and a significantly higher 85.1% of those aged 31-39 are either actively looking for or passively open to new work right now. This means just one in five of those aged 21 to 29 and less than 15% of those aged 30 to 39 can be seen as quite settled in their current roles.
Interestingly, the top age group passively open to new opportunities is 50-59 (54.1%).
We know that tenures are usually shorter for younger people. Also younger people tend to be more in rank-and-file positions than managerial/upper-crust positions, and those roles tend to see higher turnover.
But it also indicates younger generations in the UK expect more from their employers and are less willing to put up with the current reality in the workplace.
Again, the message is clear: three quarters of your employees at your company have one foot out of the door at any given time. Your talent is ready to jump ship as soon as they find something better. That’s particularly if they’re younger or if they identify as a minority.
But looking at it from another perspective, this also means a huge talent market that you can tap into when hiring. That raises a new question – how do you attract them to your company?
So, let’s look at how you can best retain your existing people – and especially, attract new talent.
At the very core of the traditional worker-employer relationship is compensation. And unsurprisingly, our survey results verify this.
The only real ‘surprise’, if there’s one, is that there are studies showing that other job attractors have grown in value – such as the willingness to take less salary in order to remain remote according to HR software provider CIPHR, and the value of perks over salary as a motivator, according to MetLife UK. Our own dataset, however, finds that compensation remains a leading motivator when looking at career opportunities.
As stated above, a vast majority of respondents are open to new opportunities, whether they’re passively open or actively looking. When we asked those respondents to choose from a list of top reasons why they’re open to new opportunities, more than half (53.5%) selected “I need to make more money”.
Closely following in second place is “I need a fresh challenge”, with 43.9% citing that as a reason. The need for more meaning in work is a distant third, at 21.9%.
We also asked respondents what would lure them from their present job to a new one, again choosing from a list of popular attractors. Again, compensation tops the list, with 70.1% of respondents citing that as a leading motivator when deciding to move to a new company.
Work flexibility (43.5%) and job security (39.5%) are the second and third-most popular attractors in a new opportunity.
“The company pays less as we are touted as 'independent contractors', they can seemingly bend the rules.”
We know there are nuanced differences between what someone might be hoping to get in terms of a new job at a different company, and what they might want to see improved in their current capacity. It’s the difference between being ready to leave and being satisfied with one’s current workplace.
So we asked that question separately: what could be improved in your current job for a better employee experience?
Compensation, again, is the number-one area where their current employer can improve, with 60.7% picking that as a top area in need of improvement.
Support from their employer, whether it’s in the actual day-to-day work or moral/emotional support are at the bottom of both lists – indicating that the traditional core elements of having a job (i.e. compensation, career opportunities, job security) remain important to workers. The motivators are clear – the working population in the UK want and need to make more money. Full stop.
As for work flexibility – which ranks highly in these lists – we’ll take a deep dive into that in the next chapter.
Of course, people are not all the same. While compensation remains first and foremost across all groups, the numbers differ in terms of how much value is placed on that and on other job attractors.
Females want more flexibility
First, we found differences by gender identity. Those identifying as male lean to factors around longevity and ascension, such as job security (43.7% vs. 36.1%) and career growth opportunities (30.8% vs. 26.1%), when thinking about what would lure them to a new opportunity.
Those identifying as female highlighted factors not necessarily about the actual job or career path, but rather about the supportive aspects of working life. These include work flexibility (47% vs. 39.3%) and moral / emotional support from the company (13.7% vs. 9.3%). Day-to-day work support also is preferred more by females – 11.2% choose this attractor compared with 8.1% of males.
The priority of compensation doesn’t differ all that much – both genders ranked it equally high (71.7% for males, 69.5% for females).
This is not to suggest that career growth and job security aren’t important to those identifying as female – rather, these responses indicate that there are other needs that have to be met in order to make their working arrangement feasible and better aligned with their personal needs and priorities.
Minorities want more support
We also found significant differences in minority status when asking about top attractors to a new job. Those identifying as a minority placed less priority on the most popular items than their non-minority peers, particularly compensation (58.7%% vs. 75.2%). We also found significant differences in work flexibility (36.8% vs, 46.8%) and job security (35.5% vs. 41.7%).
So, what’s more important in a new job opportunity for someone who identifies as a minority? Career growth opportunities (35.5% vs. 25.7%) is a big one, followed by training & development (25.2% vs. 21.1%). Although not a popular overall item, moral / emotional support from their company (14.8% vs. 6.9%) is still a much higher priority for minority respondents than for non-minority respondents.
Likewise, when asked about what their current employer could do to improve employee experience, minorities are twice as likely to want more clarity of job role and responsibilities (28% vs. 13.3%), and more likely to want better career growth opportunities (39.2% vs. 27.6%).
Again, this doesn’t mean that salary isn’t important for those identifying as minorities. In fact, it’s actually more so. When asked to choose just one reason why they’re looking for – or open to – new opportunities, three out of five (59.5%) picked compensation, compared with half (50.6%) of non-minorities.
“I need more meaning in my work” is also a more popular reason for minorities than non-minorities (26% vs. 20%), and “I need more support in my work” is likewise a higher priority (13.7% vs. 6.4%).
On the flip side, non-minorities are more likely to say they don’t feel valued in their present capacity (15.3% vs. 10.7%).
This suggests that minorities are more likely to want support from their employer in other areas in addition to compensation. There’s also a need to find more meaning in work, something that can also be delivered by a thoughtful and supportive employer who values its people.
Compensation grows with age
Likewise, we found differences across ages. Salary is more valued in older generations, whereas career growth opportunities are more valued by younger generations. Those in the combined 21-39 age bracket ranked salary less than those in the 40-59 age brackets did (66.9%-67.9% vs. 71.5%-77.6%).
Career growth opportunities trends sharply in the opposite direction, with those in the 21-29 age bracket valuing that significantly higher than those in the combined 40-59 age bracket (39.3% vs. 24.3%-24.7%).
Younger generations also lean to training and development whereas their older peers are more aligned with the need for job security.
This makes sense, as those in older generations will tend to be past the peak of their career development and starting to migrate out of the workforce – perhaps increasing the need to build up their financial support base as they prepare for retirement. Younger generations, on the other hand, are heavily inclined towards progressing in their career with training & development being a logical ingredient in that.
Let’s face facts. Money makes the world go around. It’s also a powerful measuring stick when showing the value you place on what someone brings to your company. Also, the correlation between money and happiness has been strongly established, including in a comprehensive survey carried out in 2016.
And the reason why, says study author Matthew Killingsworth of Penn’s Wharton School, who carried out a similar study in the US:
“When you have more money, you have more choices about how to live your life. You can likely see this in the pandemic. People living paycheque to paycheque who lose their job might need to take the first available job to stay afloat, even if it’s one they dislike. People with a financial cushion can wait for one that’s a better fit. Across decisions big and small, having more money gives a person more choices and a greater sense of autonomy.”
More choices, more autonomy, more command over all aspects of life. Remember this as we move into our next chapter.
According to our New World of Work survey in August 2020, the advent of flexible work is one of the biggest workplace changes coming out of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to that survey, 71.1% cited remote work and 35.7% cited flexible / staggered schedules as paradigm shifts in the new world of work.
Because of that seismic change, we included flexible work in our survey. Flexible work, however, is more complex than it sounds – it consists of two distinct areas of flexibility including location and time. They are two very different things.
For instance, some jobs can be performed remotely but require fixed timelines, such as a customer support role during business hours or a position requiring synchronous collaboration with others such as in software engineering.
Other jobs can’t be performed remotely but can be carried out at any time, such as stocking positions which tend to be more deadline-intensive (do this by X day) rather than timeline-intensive (you’re working from X to Y hours), or a restaurant with multiple shifts that can be distributed to employees.
Flexible schedules can also mean one employee arriving at work at 10:30 a.m. and leaving at 6:30 p.m., with another starting at 5:30 in the morning in order to wrap things up shortly after lunch – again, all so long as the work gets done. Knowledge workers are especially familiar with this kind of schedule.
So the difference warrants separate questions for each. And we have interesting findings for you.
“Whilst financial recompense is an important factor in talent migration, I think other factors such as greater opportunities for agile working and flexible working are becoming increasingly important for career decisions.”
Are they doing it?
We asked respondents if they’re currently working remotely or in a hybrid setup. The result was quite evenly split, with 54.6% saying they’re currently working remotely or in a hybrid setup, and the remaining 45.4% saying they aren’t.
While those numbers show that remote work is still common in the UK, it’s still a significant shift from the early days of the pandemic in 2020. The aforementioned New World of Work survey found that a staggering 94.9% of businesses – predominantly in the UK and the US – said they moved some or all operations to a remote environment as a result of the pandemic.
While the survey respondents are different this time – the employable population rather than employers themselves – the data still shows a shift back to some kind of normalcy in the UK, pandemic spikes notwithstanding.
But that’s not to say remote work isn’t still happening. It’s very much a reality – and even a new standard. Let’s look at what our respondents say about the feasibility of it.
Can they do it?
So, can people work remotely, regardless of whether they want to or whether they’re actually able to? We asked respondents to rate their response on a scale of 1 (“not at all”) to 5 (“completely”).
The responses are relatively polarized, with one quarter (25.3%) choosing 1 and nearly half (48.3%) picking 4 or 5.
If there’s anything definitive here, it’s that a good portion of respondents are clear that their job can’t be done in a remote environment (25.3%). Reasons can vary – perhaps it’s the employee themselves and that they feel unable to do so, or the job is literally required on location – for instance, jobs in the hospitality, food service, or manufacturing sectors.
“Not everyone works in an office. Some of us have to swing off big steam valves. And you would be screwed if we didn't because there'd be no electricity.”
How important is it?
We also asked respondents how important working remotely is. What impressed us is that respondents don’t consider remote work as important to them as flexible schedules – not that it isn’t important; it’s just not as strongly indicated.
When asked to choose from 1 to 5 the personal importance of remote or hybrid work, 42% picked 4 or 5, whereas 22.4% picked 1 – in other words, “not at all”.
The dominant choice for nearly a quarter (24%) of respondents is 3 – suggesting no strong feelings either way.
Perhaps the remote work trend is more a pandemic-driven rather than paradigm shift in the end, and now that people have become comfortable in remote work, they realize it’s not as important as they once felt.
Respondents aren’t even very convinced that the capability to work remotely opens up new opportunities for them, with 26% picking 1 (“not at all”) and 15.8% picking 5 (“completely”). A resounding 28.4% picked 3, again showing little alignment in either direction. (Chart is not displayed.)
“I enjoy working from home but would like to return to the office at least 1 day per week.”
And what makes it important?
Nevertheless, remote work has got to be important in one way or another. So, we asked what benefits are associated with it. The top answer is that “it lowers pandemic health risks” (41.5%), but other top benefits are that it’s easier to integrate personal and professional lives (also 41.5%) and it frees up time during the day (41.3%).
Freeing up time during the day is a pretty obvious benefit, considering that UK residents spend an average of 59 minutes per day on the commute to and from work – 79 minutes per day for Londoners – according to Work Wise UK.
Says Phil Flaxton, CEO of Work Wise:
“There are many ways of avoiding the misery of commuting during the dark mornings and evenings, which millions of people endure as they struggle to get to and from work. These include implementing flexitime, staggered working hours and working from home. … Clearly the government, public transport providers and employers must do more in order to address the major negative impact on the UK’s economy, lost productivity and the environment.”
Another major benefit of remote work is that it’s cheaper all around. The costs associated with commuting, parking fees, takeaway lunches, and other expenses can be mitigated and even eliminated when working remotely.
Meanwhile, “I have fewer distractions” (17.6%) and “I’m more productive” (20.6%) do not rank as highly in the list of most popular benefits for those in the UK. Since distraction is regularly cited as a major factor and inhibitor to productivity, we’re surprised that these don’t rank as highly as we thought they would.
Likewise, the freedom to choose where to live is far down the list, with just 13.2% citing that as a major benefit of remote work. Again, we thought this would rank higher given the ability given by remote work to avoid the high costs of living in dense urban centres such as London where most jobs exist.
So what does this indicate? Health benefits aside, the holistic benefit of integrating work and home lives as a whole, combined with the tangible benefits of lower cost and more hours in a day are huge factors in why people like remote work.
“Love working from home, less travel costs and stress and I can dress and eat as I want.”
Are they doing it?
In his quote above, Work Wise’s CEO mentioned ‘flexitime’ and staggered working hours. So, let’s dive into that now.
As it happens, the majority of respondents (55.2%) are working on flexible schedules right now.
This isn’t too different from the percentage of respondents working in a remote or hybrid environment (54.6%). Obviously, there’s some (or a lot of) overlap, since those working remotely are likely to be also working on their own schedules, and vice versa.
Can they do it?
Similarly to our questions on remote work, we wanted to understand what respondents thought about the real-life feasibility of flexible schedules in their own job. The results were striking, with 29.6% picking 5 (“completely”), and 14.6% picking 1 (“not at all”).
Combine the numbers and you have a convincing 53.8% picking 4 or 5 to say yes, their work can reasonably be performed on a flexible schedule, compared with just 23.8% picking 1 or 2.
The message is clear: flexible schedules are very doable for a good portion of our respondents.
“More organizations need to apply a shift system so more persons can get jobs and workers are not overworked.”
How important is it?
Again, flexible schedules showed a much stronger trend than remote work in terms of how important it is for respondents. Nearly a third (32.9%) picked 5 (“completely”), and another quarter of respondents (24.8%) rated 4 out of 5 – that means 57.7% altogether.
On the flip side, only a combined 19% picked 1 (“not at all”) or 2, meaning flexible hours are very important to many of our respondents – and more important than remote work.
And what makes it important?
IIt’s clear that flexible working schedules are doable, and they’re important. But why? We asked that too.
The number-one benefit by and far is that “it’s easier to balance personal and professional priorities”, with 57.3% of respondents choosing that benefit as one of their top three. “I find it less stressful” (37.9%) and “I’m more productive at specific times” (36.5%) are also popular benefits.
Common sources of stress for a fixed schedule may include needing to be at work on time, the guilt of leaving work early to pick up kids, and even feeling like they have to be productive at specific periods during the day.
Regarding productivity, that ties into the third-most popular item on the list, which is “more productive at specific times in the day”. We are all different – some of us like to start work early in the day, others peak in the mid-afternoon, others still like to burn the midnight oil and work deep into the night.
“My company is unlikely to allow any home workers when restrictions end and it gives me great concern. I want to be able to work flexibly and from home at least occasionally.”
Take another look at the answers in the first chapter highlighting compensation as the top priority for respondents. Work flexibility, whether that’s remote work or flexible schedules or both, is the second-most popular benefit if an employer wants to attract new hires from another company, with 43.5% of respondents picking that as one of their top three attractors.
It’s also the third-most popular item in need of improvement at their current place of employment (27.4%).
It’s not just that flexible work has benefits – it’s a highly desired, and in many cases, much-needed component of work. If you, as an employer, can realistically offer this option – especially flexible schedules – your profile as a desired place to work will grow in the eyes of people looking for new work.
And if you don’t offer flexible work, especially if you could, the consequences could be considerable. Consider the backlash against Apple in their initial drive to move back to an in-person working environment. Employees left in droves for other options, and the media coverage was fierce and uncompromising. This can’t reflect well on Apple’s reputation as an employer.
And for workers, brand reputation doesn’t even matter that much (more on that below). Rather, people simply want the option to work flexibly.
We’re going to see more of this kind of situation – a misalignment of priorities between employees and their employers – going forward. When we asked respondents about the current situation in regards to remote/hybrid work at their place of employment, 44.7% say their employer introduced it during the pandemic and will (or probably will) return to on-location work once things stabilize.
The same goes for flexible work schedules, with 46.8% saying flexible work schedules were introduced during the pandemic and will (or probably will) go back to set schedules when things return to ‘normal’.
“I think most office workers are able to work as productively, if not more so, than in an office environment. Bosses, who usually aren't very good, don't think that's possible.”
There’s a clear disconnect between employees and employers here. Many employees like remote work and especially love flexible schedules. Many even need one or both. And a good portion of employers aren’t adapting to that new reality – the stigma against flexible work doesn’t help much, either.
With such a resounding voice in our dataset valuing flexible work, consider establishing it as a permanent strategy where possible if you want to attract new talent and retain your existing employee base. Your success as a company may depend on it.
Since we spend significant chunks of our waking hours at work, it’s natural that friendships, partnerships and teamsmanship should develop. Even the most rudimentary and menial of work roles involve people. We’re not machines, after all.
Our survey results show the ‘community’ of the workplace is very important – more so than the externally facing aspects of a company such as their reputation and even their contribution to society at large. Let’s dig in:
When we asked what aspects about an employer would attract respondents to a new opportunity, the most popular attractor picked by respondents is their relationship with colleagues and teammates (47.3%) with overall company culture (34.7%) lagging behind in second.
Responsiveness of the company to individual employees is next up at 28.3%, while management and executive leadership, company mission / vision / values, brand reputation, and company transparency were more or less evenly represented down the list.
Lingering at the very bottom of the list is social / environmental / DEI engagement and action, with just 13.4% of respondents picking that as something that would attract them to a new employer.
The lower value placed on those more strategically driven aspects of a business shows that people aren’t as intrinsically attracted to those elements of a prospective new employer as they are to relationships with others in the workplace – be they colleagues or management.
We think this makes sense, especially since respondents were asked to choose only three from this list. It shows what they prioritize in an employer. It’s very important to workers in the UK that they work well with others – and to have a thriving, healthy working culture.
“Managers should do 1-to-1 with staff; staff can share more ideas and problems.”
The same rings true when asking the question about what employees would like to see improved for a better employee experience in their current capacity, with some additional insights.
Again, working relationships top the list, with 31.8% of respondents picking that as one of the three areas for improvement at their current employer. Respondents also want to see better responsiveness of the company to individual needs (30.1%), and improved management and executive leadership (27.2%).
Again, the externally facing and brand-related elements rank at the bottom of what employers can do to better the working lives of their employees – especially brand reputation (7%).
No one likes to work in a vacuum. People like to work with people, and they want that to be a good relationship. And we like to be listened to; if our voices are heard, and in turn, acted on, that makes for a very powerful and positive employee experience.
“If an employer shows that employees are valued, rewarded for loyalty and good welfare is in place then employees will be attracted or stay.”
Of course, as stated before, not all people feel the same way. We’re not a single monolith. So, let’s look at how the values of specific segments of the population differ.
Males like culture, leadership and transparency
First, when looking at answers by gender, those identifying as male are more interested in company culture (38.9% vs. 30.9%), management / executive leadership (25.9% vs. 20.9%), and company transparency (24.3% vs. 18.9%) than their female counterparts.
On the flip side, we found that those identifying as female strongly leaned more to social / environmental / DEI engagement and action (19.7% vs. 7.3%) than their male peers.
We stated above that compensation reigned supreme in the minds of all respondents, even when slicing the data by male versus female – the conclusion, rather, is that those identifying as female are more likely to emphasize social and community values in their own list of top priorities in addition to compensation.
Minorities like transparency
Those identifying as minorities are especially more likely to point to company transparency (27.7% vs. 17.8%) as a valued feature of a potential new job. Meanwhile, they’re less likely to emphasize overall company culture (31.6% vs. 36.9%), company mission / vision / values (18.1% vs. 24.8%) and brand reputation (16.8% vs. 24.5%) than their non-minority peers.
What lessons can an employer pick up from this insight? Company transparency can be interpreted in many different ways, but ultimately indicates how clear a company is about their operations, policies, motives, etc. with their employees. Internal company communications can fall under that umbrella.
Here’s a more nuanced interpretation: when someone identifies as a minority, regardless of race, gender, background, etc., this suggests that they don’t feel that they are part of the majority or mainstream status quo. Their emphasis on company transparency suggests that they appreciate being included in communications – which highlights the power of inclusion in the workplace.
Middle generations like culture, leadership and transparency
The age of a potential candidate is a significant determining factor in what would attract them to a new role. The younger a candidate is, the more likely they’ll value social / environmental / DEI engagement and action than their older counterparts (15.5% in the 21-29 age group vs. 5.9% for 50-59).
But numbers were most striking in the so-called “middle” generations – those aged 30 to 49. The value placed on overall company culture (an increase of 9.8 percentage points), management and executive leadership (7.6 percentage points), and company mission / vision / values (6.6 percentage points) grows significantly as workers move from the 21-29 age bracket to the 30-39 age bracket. (Note: The 60-65 age group was excluded in this chart due to inconclusive data.)
Similarly, when looking at where their present employer could do better, those in the 21-29 age group overwhelmingly pointed to their relationships with fellow workers (42.5%), with that number dropping sharply in older age groups – including just 32.3% for those aged 30-39, and 21.5% for those aged 50-59.
The opposite rings true for management and executive leadership – just one in five (20.5%) of those aged 21-29 pointed to that as an area for improvement, compared with close to 30% for older groups.
The rise in awareness of social and environmental issues since May 2020 – particularly sparked by the police murder of George Floyd in the United States – resulted in a louder call for action particularly from younger generations and this is clear in our dataset. And, for younger generations, employers are not exempt from that discussion – engagement and action in these areas are not merely something to be appreciated; it’s something workers expect as a new status quo.
Plus, the need for better working relationships by younger employees in their existing jobs points to a desire for connectivity and teamwork at the start of a career. Maybe it’s about establishing a strong professional network, or maybe it’s simply that people want to work well with others. One way or another, establishing a sense of professional camaraderie can go a long way if employers want to retain their most promising young workers.
“Most companies just need to support their staff. We really don’t ask for much.”
It’s clear that the “human” aspect of the workplace is highly valued across all respondents – and even more so among women, minorities and younger generations – based on the popularity of relationships with colleagues and company culture in the workplace.
To expand in that direction, we asked unemployed respondents why they’re currently not working – with the option here to choose just one answer. The top answer is “family priorities”, with 30.8% of respondents ticking that box, significantly higher than any other reason in the list outside of health priorities (26.9%).
When looking at these answers by gender, the difference is almost shocking. Those identifying as female are more than six times as likely as males to cite family priorities as the reason why they’re not working (41.7% vs. 6.7%). They’re also nearly five times as likely to say their skills aren’t in demand at the moment (13.3% vs. 2.8%).
Equally striking is the difference in those who picked “I’m receiving government benefits” – 26.7% of males picked that as their reason for not working, compared with just 11.1% of females.
So, especially for females, it’s not just about community in the workplace. It’s about community at home as well. People don’t change their values or perspectives when they cross that invisible line between home and work. And now, that line is increasingly blurred – especially since the onset of the pandemic – and may be erased altogether.
“Most companies, you’re just a number and no matter how hard you work you will not be recognised or appreciated for your efforts because your manager will take all the credit for it and try to push you more than you can physically do.”
When you combine the importance of family at home with the need for connectivity and community in the workplace, the message is abundantly clear: relationships and community represent the number-one most important factor in life for people everywhere. More so than branding and strategy and outward engagement.
“Someone's life is worth more than lots of money. Maybe there is a great talent migration because companies don't care for or invest in their employees like they did years ago. Where are the jobs for life? Companies need to start caring for, working with and investing in their employees, be nicer to work for, pay a decent wage, let employees have a good work/life balance, then maybe they would stay."
As an employer, you know all about work-life balance. While there’s certainly merit in that, this may actually add stress to the employee experience in the attempt to balance the demands of work with the necessities of personal life.
Putting more weight at one end draws attention away from the other – leading to a situation where compromises often need to be made at both ends. This actually limits a person’s full potential both at home and at work.
And we’re seeing a response in the high numbers of employees willing to leave their jobs for a better setup – whether that’s another job or something else entirely. It indicates that the tide is turning in terms of candidate and employee engagement. “Rebellion” is a strong word – but there’s definitely a call for something different, and perhaps better.
When our survey finds the top-cited priorities in a job are better compensation and healthier relationships with colleagues, and the top-cited benefit of flexible work is that it’s easier to integrate personal and professional lives, this suggests a starting point in how employers can play a role in this change.
“The COVID-19 lockdowns have accelerated a revolution in traditional workplace operation and culture.”
Our interpretation is this: the rules of the game are changing. There’s a reluctance to return to the way things were pre-pandemic. It’s a very real and foundational redevelopment of the way we do things, and it’s likely permanent. Yet, there’s a disconnect between employees and employers here.
We’re still in the middle of a very historic time, so having a clear-cut answer would be presumptuous. The real perspective will be in hindsight. But at the moment, one thing’s for sure: change isn’t necessarily a bad thing – as Josh Bersin told us earlier this year; “We’re entering an effervescent time.”
So, in that spirit, this is an opportunity to evolve your employee value proposition. It’s an opportunity to support people to bring their full selves to both their personal and professional lives. Happier, healthier employees who feel valued, appreciated and supported are more motivated, and can bring so much more to your business.
Bridge that chasm between the employer and the employee, and heal the great discontent. You will be a much more attractive employer.
We received 501 complete responses to our survey, primarily in the 1-499 FTE size range (55.4%), often local-based (30.5%) or nationally based (27.5%), and mostly entry-level (23.4%), individual contributors (30.7%), and managers / directors (28.7%) working in service / suport (16.8%), operations (16.2%), sales (12.6%), and office administration (10.4%).
On a personal level, 30.9% self-identified as a minority, and gender self-identification was mostly equally represented between male and female, with .6% identifying as intersex. Most respondents are in the 21-59 age brackets (93.4% combined), with 59.4% aged 30-49.
The survey was live during the period of June 28 to July 1, 2021. It was distributed via SurveyMonkey. It included a total of 32 questions.