The Great Discontent: 2021 Worker Survey (US)

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 UK as well? We've got that covered too. Check it out.


We’re in a strange age right now. We’ve seen a volatile transition from one presidential administration to another. We’ve seen the increased awareness of issues in the form of Black Lives Matter, Stop Asian Hate, and other socially dynamic movements. We’re still navigating a terrifying virus. We’re experiencing an upheaval of the way we operate as a society – both at home and in the workplace.

What’s also happening – and something you’re likely noticing as an employer – is unprecedentedly high levels in job quit rates in the United States, coupled with equally striking levels in job openings. People in the United States aren’t merely changing jobs. They’re bowing out of the traditional workforce altogether. It signals a discontent unseen in our history.

“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 750 people in the US – some employed, some self-employed, some unemployed, all more or less employable – to understand the most important factors influencing their career priorities. And now, we have results.

Major takeaways include the following:

  • Want to attract people? Increase the salary, and build up the perks and benefits. 63.4% say it’s the reason why they’re looking for other opportunities, and 62.2% say salary, perks and benefits represent the top factor influencing their decision whether to accept a new job.
  • Build strong teams with people who work well together. Relationships with colleagues is the number-one most attractive factor about a potential new employer (37.1%), and a major area for improvement at their current employer (31.3%).
  • Make it worthwhile for your workers to stay. Seven out of 10 (70.7%) respondents say they are either actively or passively looking for work, and 54% started looking just in the last half year.
  • Pay attention to your younger workers. More than two out of five (42.8%) of those aged 21-29 say they’re actively looking for a new job, compared with just one quarter (24.7%) of those aged 50-59.
  • Establish remote work and especially flexible schedules as a permanent policy. Both are highly valued by workers, with 58.2% saying flexible schedules are important to them – particularly because it’s easier to integrate personal and professional lives.
  • Keep an eye on the potential disconnect between you and your employees in the importance of flexible work. Nearly half think their employer will ultimately return to in-office (44.7%) and set schedules (46.8%).
  • Support your employees’ home lives as well as their work lives – especially if they’re women. Females are more than twice as likely as males to cite family priorities as the reason why they’re not working (39.4% vs. 19.3%).

We identified four major themes in the dataset:

Money still talks

Despite all the new workplace developments, salary, perks and benefits are still top of mind. People want – and need – more of it when working.

Flexy is sexy

Flexible work arrangements are important to many workers – and much more for women than men – but it’s not as high of a priority for their employers.

The power of connectivity

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.

There’s no place like home

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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Head of People and Culture, Moodle


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Table of contents


Current work situation

—  Minorities are looking

—  Younger people are looking

—  All in all, people are looking


The value of compensation

—  Money above all

—  But not everyone thinks the same

—  Why is all this stuff important?


Work-life integration is paramount

—  Remote work

—  Flexible schedules

—  Why is all this stuff important?


People are more important than brands

—  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?





Current work situation

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 (55.3%), with an additional 13.5% working part-time.

One in 10 respondents (10.4%) say they’re working for themselves, whether that means they’re a contractor, freelancing, or running their own business.

One fifth of respondents (20.8%) say they’re not working right now.

Work status

Working status (by gender)

Those identifying as females are far more likely to be not working (26% vs. 15.3%) or working part-time (17.7% vs. 8.6%) than males.

We also found an equally striking gender imbalance in those who are working. Those identifying as male are resoundingly more likely to be working full-time (68.4% vs. 46.3%, a 22.1 difference in percentage points). And for part-time workers, the opposite is true – 17.7% of those identifying as female are working part-time compared with 8.6% of males.

Working status

Of those not working, more than a third (34.4%) have not worked in more than five years.

More than a fifth (21.9%) say their current status not working began just in the last six months, with an additional 13.8% saying it’s been half a year to one year since they had been working.

If you’re not working,
how long have you not been working?

Regardless of whether you’re working or not, are you:

And now, the important part for you, the employer: seven out of 10 (70.7%) say they are either actively (33.4%) or passively (37.3%) looking for work.

This means that when you look at your existing workforce, just three out of every 10 aren’t looking for work at this time.

US workers actively looking

And many are actually just starting to look at other opportunities. Of those either actively looking or passively open to other work, 54% started within the last half year (28.1% just started now, 25.7% in the last half year).

Employers take note: 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 merits a deeper understanding of who these people are and why they’re looking so you can evolve your recruitment and people strategy. Let’s dig in.

How long have you been looking for – or open to – new opportunities? (of those passively or actively looking)

Minorities are looking

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)?”. A full third (33%) say they do, compared with 61.6% who say they don’t, and 5.3% prefer not to say.

So we looked at responses based on those answers. Those identifying as minorities are much more likely to be actively looking (42.9% vs. 29.3%) than those not identifying as minorities.

Regardless of whether you’re working or not, are you: (by minority/non-minority status)

Younger people are looking

While the “passively looking” category is equally represented across age groups from 21 to 49 years of age, it’s the “actively looking” category that is significantly represented by younger cohorts, with 42.8% of those aged 21-29 saying they’re outright looking for new opportunities.

And when combined, the numbers are striking: a staggering 80% of those aged 21-29, 74.9% of those aged 31-39, and 75% of those aged 40-49 are either actively looking for or passively open to work right now.

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 tend to see higher turnover.

But it also means younger generations in the United States expect more from their employers and are less willing to put up with the current reality in the workplace.

Regardless of whether you’re working or not, are you: (by age group)

All in all, people are looking

Again, this points to a clear message: seven out of 10 employees at your company have one foot out of the door at any given time. Your talent is ready to leave as soon as they find something better. That’s particularly if they’re younger or if they identify as a minority.

But again, this is a huge talent market right here that you can tap into when hiring. Which 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.



The value of compensation

Compensation sits at the very core of the worker-employer relationship. And our survey results verify this.

The only real ‘surprise’, if there’s one, is that other studies show a growth in value placed on job attractors besides compensation – such as the willingness to take less salary in order to remain remote according to a TeamBlind survey, and the value of perks over salary as a motivator according to Staples. Our dataset, however, clearly indicates that compensation remains the number-one driver in career opportunities.


“Employees will go where the money is. And where they're treated respectfully and valued. But, mostly, it's the money.”

Money above all

As stated above, a full seven out of 10 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, nearly two-thirds (63.4%) selected “I need to make more money”. That’s more than double the next-most popular reason, which is “I need a fresh challenge” (24.6%).

Work flexibility (20.8%), meaningfulness in work (19.3%) and career advancement (also 19.3%) are other leading factors prompting the drive to explore new job opportunities.


Why are you looking for – or open to – new opportunities?
(of those passively or actively looking)

In regards to a job itself, what would attract you to a new opportunity? Please select up to three items from the list below.

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 remains the top attractor, with 62.2% of respondents citing that as a top factor in deciding to move to a new company.

Again, other major attractors here are similar to the previous question, with career opportunities (38.1%), work flexibility (37.5%) and job security (32.1%) being reasons why someone would jump to a new job.


“If someone pays me more than I make running my own company, I'll do it!”

Ideally, what could be improved in your current job for a better employee experience?

We know there are nuanced differences between what an individual might want 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?

The answers are still very much the same. Compensation, again, is the number-one area where their current employer can improve, with 57.4% picking that as a top area for 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 (compensation, career opportunities, job security) continue to be top of mind. The motivators are clear – workers in the United States want and need to make more money. Full stop.

As for work flexibility – which ranks highly in all these lists – we’ll go deep into that area in the next chapter.


“As a business owner, I understand that you can not cave to every whim your employees have, but instead of prioritizing balloon money bombs for executive persons, make the wealth of the company available to the people that make it happen. Smaller executive bonuses in favor of increased bonuses/benefits/perks for the workers/moving parts of a successful company.”

But not everyone thinks the same

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 when asking about top attractors for a new opportunity. Those identifying as male are attracted to more job-specific factors including compensation (67.3% vs. 61.8%), clarity of job role (23.3% vs. 19.1%) and especially job security (39.4% vs. 25.5%).

Those identifying as female pointed to factors not necessarily about the actual day-to-day job itself, but rather about the supportive aspects of working life. These include work flexibility (44% vs. 31.6%) and moral / emotional support from the company (13.6% vs. 9.4%).

This is not to suggest that job-specific factors are not 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.

In regards to a job itself, what would attract you to a new opportunity?
Please select up to three from the list below. (by gender)


“With more moms in the workforce than ever, there is flexibility lacking in schedules to accommodate children related needs. Child care is astronomical and salaries are not reflecting that.”

Minorities want more support

We also found significant differences in minority status, particularly that compensation is more important for non-minorities than it is for minorities (67.9% vs. 55.1%).

So, what’s more important in a new job opportunity for someone who identifies as a minority? Training & development (18.9% vs. 13.5%) and moral / emotional support from their company (11.4% vs. 6.1%) top the list in terms of how much they differ from non-minority answers.

In regards to a job itself, what would attract you to a new opportunity? Please select up to three items from the list below. (by minority/non-minority status)

Ideally, what could be improved in your current job for a better employee experience? Please select up to three items from the list below. (by minority/non-minority status)

Why are you looking for – or open to – new opportunities? (by minority/non-minority status)

Likewise, when asked about what their current employer could do to improve employee experience, minorities pointed to career growth (38.7% vs. 28.5%), work flexibility (32.3% vs. 23.5%) and day-to-day work support (21.5% vs. 14.9%) as areas in need of improvement.

Of those who are open to other opportunities, those identifying as a minority are much more likely to pick “I need more meaning in my work” (23.8% vs. 16%) as a reason for doing so.

This isn’t to suggest that compensation isn’t important for someone who identifies as a minority – it, as said above, remains the top factor across all groups. It’s also important to note that the question  of “Why are you looking for – or open to – new opportunities?” asked respondents to pick just one reason from a list, whereas for the other questions, they could choose up to three items. So if they must choose one priority and disregard all others, compensation will generally top the list.

Compensation aside, these results indicate that minorities are more likely to want support from their employer in other areas than non-minorities. Plus, there’s a clear need to feel more engaged in their work – likewise something that can be delivered by a thoughtful and empathetic employer as much as the role itself. The overall amplification of voices highlighting DEI in society may be a factor in all that.

Compensation grows with age

Likewise, we found differences across ages. Salary is more valued in older generations, whereas career growth opportunities tend to be more valued by younger generations. Those in the 21-29 age bracket ranked salary significantly less than those in the 40-49 and 50-59 age brackets (51% vs. 67.9% and 69.9% respectively).

Career growth opportunities trends the opposite direction, with those in the 21-29 and 30-39 age brackets valuing that higher than those in the 50-59 age bracket (40.7% vs. 33.1%).

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, while those in younger generations may see the opportunity to grow in a career as having much stronger long-term benefit than straight-up compensation. Plus, younger generations tend to have fewer financial obligations than their older, more settled counterparts – and therefore can be more flexible in what they need in a job. 

In regards to a job itself, what would attract you to a new opportunity?
Please select up to three from the list below. (by age group)

Why is all this stuff important?

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 established in studies, including a widely cited one by Matthew Killingsworth of Penn’s Wharton School in Philadelphia.

And the reason why, says Killingsworth:

“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 paycheck to paycheck 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. Keep that thought in mind as we move into our next chapter.



Work-life integration is paramount

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. But we don’t want to group remote work and flexible schedules into one all-inclusive category. They’re very different things.

For instance, some jobs can be performed remotely but require set schedules, such as a customer support role or a position requiring synchronous collaboration with others such as software engineering.

Other jobs can’t be performed remotely but can be carried out on a flexible or staggered schedule, such as warehouse stocking positions where duties can be done at any time provided it’s completed by a specific deadline, or a restaurant with multiple shifts that can be assigned to accommodate an employee’s own schedule.

Flexible schedules can also mean one employee arriving at work at 10:30 in the morning and leaving at 6:30 in the evening, with another starting at the crack of dawn in order to wrap things up shortly after lunch – again, all so long as the work gets done.

So the difference calls for separate questions for each type of flexibility. And we have interesting findings for you.

Are you working remotely right now?

Remote work

Are they doing it?

We asked respondents if they’re currently working remotely or in a hybrid setup. More than half (55.6%) say they aren’t – but that still leaves a significant portion (44.4%) who are working remotely or in a hybrid arrangement.

While those numbers show that remote work is still a very common trend, 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% (62.6% fully, 32.3% partially) of businesses moved to a remote environment as a result of the pandemic.

While the survey respondents are different this time – i.e. the employable population rather than employers themselves – the data still indicates a shift to some kind of normalcy.

But that’s not to say remote work isn’t still happening. It’s very much a reality. Let’s look at the feasibility of it in the eyes of our respondents.

Can they do it?

So, can people work remotely, regardless of whether they want to or are able to? We asked respondents to rate their response on a scale of 1 to 5 (from “not at all” to “completely”). The responses are varied, with nearly one-third (31.8%) choosing 1 (“not at all”) and a quarter of responses picking 5 (“completely”).

If there’s anything definitive here, it’s that a good portion of respondents (31.6%) are clear that their job can’t be done in a remote environment. Reasons can vary – perhaps it’s the employee themselves and they feel unable to do so, or it’s a literal requirement of the job to be on location – for instance, jobs in the hospitality or manufacturing sectors.

Remote Work

My work can be performed remotely
(1=not at all, 5=completely):

Having remote / hybrid work is important to me
(1=not at all, 5=completely):

How important is it?

We also asked how important working remotely is. What stood out is that respondents don’t consider remote work as important as flexible schedules. 

When asked to choose from 1 to 5 the importance of remote or hybrid work, only 17.8% picked 5 – “completely” – whereas 26.1% picked 1 – “not at all”. Nearly a third (32.6%) of respondents picked 3 – suggesting no strong feelings either way. 

Perhaps the remote work trend is more a pandemic-driven rather than paradigm shift, and now that people have settled into remote work, it’s not as important as they once felt.

They aren’t even convinced that the ability to work remotely opens up new opportunities, with 28.8% picking 1 (“not at all”) and 16.9% picking 5 (“completely”). (Chart is not displayed.)

And what makes it important?

But sure, remote work has to be important in some ways. So, we asked what benefits can be gained from it. One understandably popular answer is that “it lowers pandemic health risks” (39.4%). Other top benefits are that it’s easier to integrate personal and professional lives (tops at 39.7%) and it’s cheaper than the alternative (36.8%).

Another major benefit is the extra hours in the day gained from not commuting (33.5%) – understandable, considering a US Census reportshowing the average American commute to be approaching half an hour each way, longer if in larger metro regions.

Meanwhile, “I have fewer distractions” (17.9%) and “I’m more productive” (20.1%) do not rank as highly in the list of most popular benefits for US respondents. Since distraction is regularly cited as a major factor and inhibitor to productivity, we were surprised that these didn’t rank as highly.

Likewise, the freedom to choose where to live is far down the list, with just 13.8% citing that as a major benefit of remote work – again, something we thought would rank higher.

So what does this indicate? Health during the pandemic aside, the holistic benefit of integrating work and home ives 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.

From the following list, please select up to three
major benefits of remote / hybrid work for you.

Major benefit of remote work

Work/life balance is important for everyone at all levels. Work has become a part of my life vs. working to live. I get back 3 hours of my day but by not having to commute and I feel like my productivity has increased.

Are you working on a flexible schedule right now?

Flexible schedules

Are they doing it?

In contrast to the numbers of those working remotely, the majority of respondents (57.9%) are indeed working on flexible schedules.

While working remotely can blur the lines between home and work – and naturally make way for a more flexible schedule as a result – the fact that flexible schedules are more common indicates more of a paradigm shift beyond COVID-19 for flexible work hours than for remote work.

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 32.1% picking 5 (“completely”), and 19.4% picking 1 (“not at all”).

Combine the numbers and you have 57.1% picking 4 or 5 to say yes, their work can reasonably be performed on a flexible schedule, compared with 31.5% picking 1 or 2.

The message is clear: flexible schedules are more doable than remote work in the minds of our respondents (with just 37.8% picking 4 or 5 for remote). Maybe that means there’s some value in on-location work after all – more on that in the next chapter.

My work can be performed on a flexible schedule
(1=not at all, 5=completely):


“Unfortunately, I work for a niche market in healthcare so my ability to up and move is difficult unless a job opportunity happens to arise. Being a medical provider also limits the flexibility of my work schedule.”

How important is it?

Again, flexible schedules showed a much stronger trend than remote work in terms of how important it is for respondents. More than a third (34.3%) picked 5 (“completely”), and nearly another quarter of respondents (23.9%) rated 4 out of 5.

Combined, that makes 58.2% clearly stating that the ability to work flexible schedules is important to some degree.


The ability to work flexible hours is important to me
(1=not at all, 5=completely)

From the following list, please select up to three
major benefits of flexible work for you.

And what makes it important?

It’s clear that flexible working schedules are doable, and they’re important to people. But why? We asked that too.

The most popular benefit is that “it’s easier to balance personal and professional priorities”, with 55.8% of respondents choosing that as one of their top three. “I find it less stressful” (44.4%) and “I’m more productive at specific times” (39.4%) are also popular benefits of flexible work.

Common sources of stress for a fixed schedule could 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 times 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 thrive in the mid-afternoon, others still like to work deep into the night.

Flexible work schedule

“I think it's great to be able to
work flexibly from home.”

Why is all this stuff important?

Take a look at the answers in the first chapter highlighting compensation as the top priority for respondents in terms of working. In those results, work flexibility (whether remote work or flexible schedules) is the third-most popular benefit (37.5%) an employer can offer if they want to attract a new hire from another company.

It’s also the fourth-most popular item in need of improvement (26.6%) at respondents’ current places of employment.

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 their 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, 52.8% 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 43.8% saying flexible work schedules were introduced during the pandemic and will (or probably will) go back to set schedules when things return to ‘normal’.


Which situation best describes your employer?

Which situation best describes your employer?


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.



People are more
important than brands

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:

In regards to employers, what would attract you to a new opportunity? (select three from the list below)

The value of workplace community

When we asked what factors about an employer would attract respondents to a new opportunity, the number-one factor picked by respondents is their relationship with colleagues and teammates (37.1%) followed by overall company culture (34.7%).

Following very closely are management and executive leadership (33.1%) and responsiveness to individual employees (31.3%). At the bottom of that list are social / environmental / DEI engagement at just 13% and brand reputation at 16.4%. Respondents are even lukewarm when it comes to a company’s mission / vision / values (25.3%).

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 employer as they are by their relationships with others in the workplace – be they colleagues or management.

This makes sense, especially since respondents were asked to choose three from this list. It shows what they prioritize in an employer. People want to work well with others, and they want to work in a healthy company culture with capable leaders and managers. 


“The work place I'm in has a great foundation of workers; we all contribute and support each other and have nothing but encouraging words to say to each other.”

The value of employee experience

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.

Management and executive leadership tops the list (38.7%) followed by responsiveness of a company to individual employees (37%). 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.

This indicates that it’s not just about relationships and commonality in the workplace – it’s also the sense of feeling like you’re an important part of the company. We all like to turn to our leaders for guidance and inspiration; it’s a common facet of human life. And we like to be listened to; if our voices are heard, and in turn, acted on, that is a very powerful thing.

Ideally, what could your employer improve for a better employee experience? Please select up to three items from the list below.


“Yes. Strong leaders have strong teams. Never start somewhere that's already, or constantly in disarray. You can't jump on a sinking ship to save them.”

But not everyone thinks the same

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 and leadership

First, when looking at answers by gender, those identifying as male are more interested in company culture (41.3% vs. 30.5%) and management / executive leadership (38.3% vs. 28.8%) than their female counterparts. On the flip side, we found that those identifying as female lean more to social / environmental / DEI engagement and action (15.2% vs. 10.5%) 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 here is that those identifying as female are more likely to value other elements that don’t directly impact their day-to-day work.

In regards to employers, what would attract you to a new opportunity?
Please select up to three items from the list below. (by gender)

Minorities like transparency

Those identifying as minorities are significantly more likely to point to company transparency (23.6% vs. 15.8%) as a valued feature of a potential new job. They’re also more interested in relationships with colleagues (41.3% vs. 34.4%) and company responsiveness to individual employees (34.6% vs. 30.2%).

Think about it like this: when someone identifies as a minority, regardless of race, gender, background, etc., it indicates that they don’t feel that they are part of the majority status quo. The higher value placed on the latter two attractors of responsiveness and relationships is a clear sign that those identifying as minorities want to work in a place where they do feel that they belong – and that they are heard and understood by those who employ them.

In regards to employers, what would attract you to a new opportunity?
Please select up to three items from the list below. (by minority/non-minority status)

Younger generations like relationships and activism

The age of a potential candidate is also a significant determining factor in what would attract them to a new role. The younger a candidate is, the more likely they’ll value relationships with colleagues (43.1%-44.1% of those aged 21-39 vs. 32.1%-33.8% of 40-59) and social / environmental / DEI engagement and action (15.8-16.6% for those aged 21-39 vs. 9%-9.1% for 40-59) than their older counterparts.

Likewise, the older a candidate is, the more likely they’ll value management and executive leadership (37%-39.2% vs. 29%-30.6%) and overall company culture (39%-40.1% vs. 32.4%-33.5%) than their younger peers.

In regards to employers, what would attract you to a new opportunity?
Please select up to three items from the list below. (by age group)

Similarly, when looking at their present employer, younger generations point to company transparency (22.9%-27% for 21-39), brand reputation (16.5% for 21-29 vs. 9%-9.1% for 50 and above), and particularly social / environmental / DEI engagement (18.3% for 21%-29 year olds vs. 10%-11.3% for 30-59) as areas where they think their employers can improve in terms of employee experience. (Note: The 60-65 age group was excluded in this chart due to inconclusive data.) 

The opposite is true for overall company culture, with those aged 40 and above placing more value on that than those aged 21-29 (27%-27.3% vs. 19.3%).

The rise in awareness of social and environmental issues since May 2020 – particularly in the United States sparked by the police murder of George Floyd – resulted in a louder call for action particularly from younger generations in the United States. And, for younger workers, employers are not exempt from that discussion – engagement and action in these areas are not merely something to be appreciated; it’s something they expect of their employers.

Plus, the value on company transparency shows that younger employees appreciate more insight into the inner workings of a company – again indicating the need to feel like they’re an important part of what’s going on at the decision-making level.

Ideally, what could your employer improve for a better employee experience? - Age - US


“Management needs to be more open with lower-level employees and include them with more decisions. The employees need to feel valued, respected, and appreciated more.”

Relationships at home
are huge as well

It’s clear that the “human” aspect of the workplace is highly valued across all respondents – and even more so among women and minorities – based on the popularity of relationships with colleagues, management leadership, and company responsiveness to individual employees 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% of respondents ticking that box, significantly higher than any other reason in the list.

If you’re not working, why not?

If you're not working, why not? (by gender)

This is resoundingly more so for those who identify as female. Females are more than twice as likely as males to cite family priorities as a reason why they’re not working (39.4% vs. 19.3%).

And interestingly, males are much more likely to cite government benefits as the reason why they’re not working (22.8% vs. 12.8%).


Those identifying as minorities are also more likely to select family priorities as a reason than those identifying as non-minorities (41.7% vs. 30.2%).

Interestingly, on the side, 8.3% of minorities said their skills are in demand but there’s too much competition out there for work compared with 2.8% of non-minorities – perhaps indicating that those who identify as minority are experiencing bias in the recruitment process that makes it more difficult for them to land a position.

Back to the main point: 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.

If you're not working, why not? (by minority/non-minority status)

Why is all this stuff important?

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 brands and strategy and outward engagement.




“Workers are not commodities, nor should they be treated as expendable. Just ask the restaurant industry that I used to work for, since so many of us aren't going back. Bet they wish they would have re-thought that now that they are experiencing the repercussions. Too bad, so sad.”

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 appeal of a new job should offer great pay, growth, friendly open work environment and lower stress levels.”

Throw out the old rulebook

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.

Methodology and Firmographics

We received 770 complete responses to our survey, primarily in the 1-499 FTE size range (50.2%), often local-based (37%), and mostly entry-level (22.2%), individual contributors (22.6%), and managers / directors (25.1%) working in sales (10.5%), operations (15.2%) or service/support (17.9%).

On a personal level, 33% self-identified as a minority, and gender self-identification was mostly equally represented between male and female, with 3.1% identifying as intersex. Most respondents are in the 21-59 age brackets (93.5% combined), with 54.6% 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.

How many full-time employees work in your company?

Which of the following best describes your company’s primary industry?

Is your company:

What best describes your primary job function?

Which best describes your current career level?

Select the option that you identify with:

Which category below includes your age?

Do you identify as a member of a minority group (be it race, ethnicity, language, religion, country of origin, or another characteristic)?