Workers want higher pay, more flexibility, and support from employers, according to ADP’s People at Work 2023 survey. HR professionals can compare the results with their own responses in the most recent HR Exchange Network State of HR report.
Specifically, more than 40% of employees said they are underpaid. The most satisfied employees were those with a hybrid schedule, and the least satisfied were those who worked exclusively in-person. About 47% of respondents said that their work is suffering because of their poor mental health, and about 65% said stress impacts their work.
Recently, ADP Chief Economist Nela Richardson sat down with HR Exchange Network to provide insight into worker’s needs during this fraught time in history, when organizations are simultaneously facing a labor shortage and a possible looming recession.
Important Takeaways about What Employees Want
HREN: What are the biggest takeaways from your study?
I think there are a couple of really good takeaways. We’ve been asking people [questions] for this work study for three years, and we’ve seen some amazingly impactful results from the pandemic.
The first takeaway is that the trends we’re seeing are starting to stabilize. When we first did this research after the pandemic, the global workforce was really shaken up. You had one-quarter of folks who had lost their jobs or were furloughed, people taking pay cuts, they saw their hours reduced, they saw their friends leave the company, they were given more responsibilities than they had before just to fill in those gaps.
Many of them reported that they took on more responsibilities without an increase in pay. Add on top of that the fact that there’s a global pandemic happening, and it is affecting your friends, your family and yourself. Still, they were optimistic, according to the first survey in 2021. They said that they thought that there could be a silver lining in the pandemic in terms of flexibility, and the chance for career progression.
Let’s fast forward three years, and that’s where we are. The global workforce is really focused on career progression. In the United States, the need for flexibility has stabilized and has been cemented. It’s what people want here. In the rest of the world, we saw progression dominate flexibility. Last year, we saw flexibility dominating career progression globally. In the United States, flexibility is still a big, big deal.
We found in the survey that the happiest workers are the ones who can get that hybrid schedule. It’s not that people want to be fully remote. They really care about flexibility and hours. And they care more about that than flexibility of where they work. That was true last year; it’s true this year.
We’re also seeing people want a caring workforce still. There was a lot of movement in the corporate sector in response to the murder of George Floyd that everyone watched. That seems so long ago, but it had an impact on corporate response, a bigger impact than any singular event people can point to. Much of that response was tied to diversity and inclusion. What the global workforce says is that they don’t want those things to disappear.
Now that the labor market is stabilizing, they want that stuff. Oh, and yeah, they want to get paid like they got paid last year. Many families are battling inflation. They earned about a 6.3% raise in the United States last year. They’re thinking about having about the same raise this year, so the expectations are high in 2023.
Future of Work
HREN: What do you think all this means for the future of work? What’s coming next?
There’s some good news. I think we are experiencing the stabilization of worker priorities. Last year, we were talking a lot about the Great Resignation. That is starting to stabilize but stabilized doesn’t mean go back to normal. Stabilize means reset at a different rate.
The expectation, even as we’re heading into a softer economy, is that peak workers are more likely to come and go than before. With remote and hybrid options, it’s easier to change jobs, it’s also easier to come back to jobs. You should negotiate that exit interview, so it does not feel quite so permanent. How do you engage people who may come back to you in two to three years? That should be the mindset of the HR manager these days. It’s a revolving door, not an exit door.
With these expectations around pay so high, there are creative things that companies are going to do in the future. Maybe people will be willing to pay for vacation days to get more flexibility. Or they will take a pay cut if it means that they have a little more autonomy in their schedule. There are other things that caring corporate culture can do in lieu of pay to get an engaged workforce. The great thing about the pandemic is it forced innovation. It’s important to keep innovating, keep evolving, and keep learning from your workforce and incorporating that in your process.
If people are starting to lean more into career progression, how do companies meet that need, especially when you think about the other trends that are going on like AI and tech? What are the skills needed for the future? Those in the workforce think that they just need people management skills. The workforce isn’t always spot on. We have to make sure that the workforce is aligned with corporate objectives, too.
What comes out of our study is that when people look at future-proof industries, they look to tech. If used correctly, AI can be inclusive. It can actually expand and it has. If you think about the way we’re communicating now, it expands your ability to interact with others, and it could get some sideline workers back into the labor market during a period of labor shortage. It doesn’t require the physical demands that keep people on the sidelines. There’s a way to be inclusive with all these technologies, and it’s really the corporate sector that can set the tone for how they’re used.
By Francesca Di Meglio
Originally posted on HR Exchange Network