— 80% of employees surveyed want flexibility in when and where they work
— 29% are actively looking for a new job with a different company
— 51% are not actively looking for a new job but would still consider a switch if the opportunity arose
— 21% left a job and started a new one in the last 12 months
— 43% cite personal debt as their greatest stressor, while 22% cite mental health
CHICAGO — Grant Thornton LLP, one of America’s largest audit, tax and advisory firms, has released a survey exploring the latest trends in employee attitudes and desires. The firm’s second State of Work in America survey engaged more than 5,000 full-time employees of U.S. companies, and its new findings highlight what employees most covet and how organizations can retain their people.
According to the survey, 29% of full-time employees are actively looking for a new job at a different company. While that figure is down from 33% in the firm’s 2021 State of Work in America survey, such a decrease is to be expected: 21% of people switched jobs in the last 12 months, according to the latest data.
Moreover, Grant Thornton’s new State of Work in America survey reveals that over half (51%) of employees are not actively looking for a new job but would consider a switch if the opportunity arose. Among employees who earn an annual salary of $100,000 or more, that figure jumped to 58%.
There’s also evidence that employees are unsure if their company is taking care of them: 24% of the survey respondents either completely disagreed, disagreed, or slightly disagreed when asked if they’re paid fairly for their contributions to their employer’s success. What’s more, only about half (51%) believe the benefits and rewards they receive are distinctive from what they could receive from another employer.
“Resignations have showed signs of slowing in the last month, but now is not the time for employers to let their foot off the gas,” said Tim Glowa, a principal and leader of Grant Thornton’s employee listening and human capital services offerings. “American workers have found their voice during the pandemic, and they are perhaps keener than ever to ask for what they want — or find it elsewhere.”
Drivers of resignations
Grant Thornton’s latest State of Work in America survey arrives roughly a year into the phenomenon that’s been dubbed “the Great Resignation.” A total of 68.9 million workers left their jobs in 2021, with nearly 70% doing so voluntarily — a one-year record. November and December were particularly volatile, with nearly 10 million workers leaving their jobs at year’s end. The drivers behind these resignations vary, but Grant Thornton’s survey revealed some key trends.
The top reasons workers took a new job were base pay, work-life balance, opportunities for advancement, benefits and greater autonomy. For instance, over one-third (34%) said their new job offered a better ability to balance work and personal commitments — while 40% said they left their job for a company that offered them a raise of 10% or greater. Within that group, 13% said they received a salary increase of 20% or more.
There’s also evidence that the employees resigning in droves have had options: Almost 60% of the respondents who recently took new jobs had two or more competing offers. When asked why they declined other offers, 42% said base pay did not meet their needs, while 33% said other companies took too long to make an offer. Another 33% said the benefits did not meet their needs, while 27% cited a company’s reputation and 21% said the values of the company they turned down did not align with their personal beliefs.
These reasons — as well as the prevalent desire for more autonomy and greater work-life balance — reveal the value of a workplace tailored to employees’ needs. It’s also apparent that the freedom to work from home has quickly become table stakes.
According to the survey, the vast majority (80%) of respondents said they want flexibility in when and where they work. Additionally, 25% said they would ideally never work on-site — a 10% jump from Grant Thornton’s survey in 2021. Meanwhile, the percentage of people looking forward to physically returning to an office dipped from 56% to just 38%.
“Flexibility in where you work, and sometimes when you work, is no longer viewed as an extra benefit,” said Angela Nalwa, a managing director and HR Transformation practice leader at Grant Thornton. “In fact, flexibility is now a minimum requirement as job-seekers look for their next career opportunity. The companies who insist on a mandatory return-to-office for all employees must find a differentiator that separates their organization from the pack.”
Drivers of stress
The latest State of Work in America survey also unveils the top five drivers of stress affecting U.S. employees, and the new data highlights a group of employees who are surprisingly at risk of resigning.
When asked to rate the three attributes causing the most stress in their lives, 43% of those surveyed cited personal debt as their greatest stressor. The next four most common stressors were, in order, medical issues, mental health, daily inconveniences such as a long to-do list, and work-life balance. In addition to the concerning level of stress tied to mental health, over one-fourth (27%) of employees surveyed said their emotional well-being has worsened in the past 12 months.
“Most benefits plans only address two of the top five stressors: medical issues and ability to retire,” added Glowa. “The goal for companies should be to create a total rewards program that is meaningful to employees, that addresses their particular drivers of stress, and that differentiates a company from its competitors.”
Grant Thornton’s survey also identifies a clear pathway for employers concerned about both retention and their peoples’ well-being: Identify what your people care about, then address it. For example, the survey asked: “Assume your company addressed your top-ranked stressor and took the related stress away. How likely would you be to stay at your organization?” Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they were either “likely” or “extremely likely” to stay. Further, over half (52%) of respondents said they feel like their voice is heard at work — a 13% increase from Grant Thornton’s previous State of Work in America survey.
Interestingly, there’s a group of people of which 71% are actively looking for a new job — and it’s not the kind of employee most companies may expect.
These employees are generally positive: They said they have a great manager; they believe their voice is heard at work; and they have a strong work-life balance. According to the State of Work in America survey, these people are also largely millennials (65%), mostly male (also 65%), and 62% of this group have been with their company between three and nine years. Additionally, 82% of this group serve in customer-facing roles, and 60% earn an annual salary of $100,000 or more.
Glowa compares this group to a “sleeping giant” that may foretell a sea change in the ongoing war for talent. In other words, even as resignations slow, employees are still mindful of the power they have. Many are just waiting for the right opportunity.
“We may be entering a new phase of the war for talent, but employers must remain vigilant,” Glowa concluded. “If you don’t have full, unimpeachable knowledge of what your employees truly value, it’s past time to find out.”
To see additional findings from Grant Thornton’s latest State of Work in America survey, visit www.gt.com/stateofwork.
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